This little YouTube gem is a 1950s time capsule in more ways than I can count, and surely in still more ways that I’m missing; but in particular, I feel it is the distilled essence of a certain generation’s negative view of cities and urban life. I don’t mean this disdainfully, and, of course, to impute any opinion to an entire generation of people is to grossly over-generalize and over-simplify. Subject to those caveats, I think anyone who’s been to lots of public events relating to transit or urbanism will have observed the same rough correlation between age and opinions on such matters as I have.

It’s easy for those of us who live in dense, walkable, clean, almost absurdly safe neighborhoods, to forget that cities in the decades prior to this film were in fact dirty, dangerous, cacophonous, claustrophobic places where I, for one, would not have wanted to live; and so there is much truth in this cartoon. Mass media reflects and amplifies popular opinion, itself grounded in commonplace experiences of life, here boiled down to cartoon form, but it also shapes opinion. Did the people who designed and built freeways in the 1950s and 60s regard this film as an indictment of urban life, or a cautionary tale about urban sprawl destroying the bucolic idyll it sets out to make available to the masses?

I’m fascinated by this intersection of policy and culture. People my age and younger grew up in youth culture where the “thoughtful” content was (and is) steeped in a rejection of the reigning oil- and plastic-based throw-away consumerism. Films like Wall·E* and The Lorax are virtually undisguised send-ups of those aspects of contemporary society, boiled down to a seemingly-innocuous cartoon form. How will those films affect the beliefs of the people who grow up watching them? Is the widespread abandonment of walkable urban life a historical aberration, or is it the new normal (at least until we are forced by external constraints to abandon the abandonment)? What will be the strange zeitgeist artefact, the Little House, of 2072?

This is an open thread.

* Funnily enough, I saw Wall·E in a drive-in theater.

111 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The Little House”

  1. It’s also a reflection of how much Disney has shaped public opinion. From the glorification of suburbia, to the princess trend.

    The original book wasn’t quite this hard on the city, and was actually a good lesson on how transit is built (first they build a road, then there are buses, then a street car, then an elevated train, then a subway).

    1. Yeah but have you seen Disney’s Motormania film from this time period? It nails windshield mentality perfectly.

    2. Humorously, I also saw WALL-E at a drive-in. (Operating continuously every summer since 1948!) I only watch movies at drive-ins now because the other theaters turn the volume up WAY too loud. It’s not worth it to go to a movie with earplugs in.

    3. Evil Uncle Waly always had a thing for propagandists:

      “For her Hollywood stay Riefenstahl booked a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Despite a hostile press and the billboard equivalent of “Leni Go Home!,” the world’s most famous (or infamous) female director gained an audience with Walt Disney, although he did refuse her offer of a private showing of Olympia. He was just too afraid of a possible boycott of Disney films. Other studio heads treated her like the pariah she had become, refusing to see her at all. An invitation to meet with Gary Cooper was suddenly and “regretfully” cancelled. Even Disney would later make the unconvincing claim that he hadn’t known who Riefenstahl really was.”

  2. Have they ever proposed or run a U District-Ballard express bus? Everyone’s always complaining about how bad east-west service is in this city, and our best crosstown route is the 44, which ends up being very slow. I could see a U District to Downtown Ballard express route via 50th doing very well. It could stop a couple times, maybe at Stone Way and Phinney, but other than that go straight through.

    1. 50th gets just as packed with I-5 traffic as 45th does. Besides, 50th dead-ends just before Market Street, and you can’t turn left on to Phinney from westbound 50th. So the bus would be stuck in the left-turn lane at the hellacious Greenlake Way/Stone Way/50th intersection.

      1. And Metro will delete that route in the fall, due to low ridership, along with the 45X, a UW-Queen Anne express.

    2. There just isn’t really a fast route from Ballard to the U-District. 50th is no panacea; the light at Stone Way is a disaster and the rest aren’t well coordinated. The 46 uses 39th/40th, and doesn’t attract a lot of riders compared to the 44. The solution for that corridor would be a subway, if only we had a money fairy.

      1. The 46 fails because it’s two separate routes, each with a terrible schedule. If it ran with the 44’s frequency it might be one of the best-used routes in the city.

      2. I doubt it. The 44 is so heavily used because it connects *so* many big destinations: Market/24, Market/15, 46/Fremont, 46/Stone, central Wallingford, 45/Roosevelt, the central U-district, and UW Hospital. Among destinations that major, the 46 only connects Market/24, Leary/15, and the central U-district, and passes two long, very steep blocks away from central Fremont (where the people are better served by the 30/31/32). A major part of the reason it’s so much faster from Ballard to the U-district is because so many fewer people ride it. In the old days, there used to be some off-peak service on it, but no one rode it.

      3. An all-day 46 would presumably go via downtown Fremont, basically combining the routes of the useless mid-day 46 and the 30.

        Slightly slower than the 39th bypass, but exponentially more useful and still far less clog-prone than 45th.

      4. That said, the only reason any UW-to-Ballard commuters suffer the 44 at rush hour is because they don’t know about the 46.

        Which is what happens when something only runs 6 times a day.

      5. (My hypothesizing is all moot, of course, when the 75/46/17 combine into the “new 18” in the fall. But all things being equal, this city would be better served by an unbroken “north lake” corridor than by yet another convoluted west-south-east-south one-seat.)

      6. I agree with d.p. on this one. The 46 is a model for how not to do a bus route. Of 11 westbound daily buses three just go from Downtown Ballard to Seaview, four run from Downtown Fremont to Seaview, and the other four go from the U District to Seaview (via 38th And Bridge Way – not Downtown Fremont). Of the 10 eastbound buses three go from Seaview to the U District (again via 38th and Bridge Way instead of Downtown Fremont) while four do the Seaview-Downtown Fremont leg and the last three just going from Seaview to Ballard. The Fremont-U District portion isn’t much faster than the 30 or 31 and the schedule time from Ballard to the U District is actually slower than on the 44.

      7. Having used it, though, it’s actually a good 15-20 minutes faster than the 44… when it runs.

      8. The issue is not so much the lower current ridership as the lower potential ridership. No matter how effective the 46 gets, it can only capture high numbers of passengers riding between central Ballard and the southern U-District, with a few more stragglers from Fremont and south Wallingford. The 44 walkshed just has enormously more residents *and* destinations in it.

        I remember that a few years ago there was a proposal to change the 31 to use Leary Way instead of Nickerson. For whatever reason (probably SPU in light of Bruce’s comments on my 2X/62 question), that proposal was shot down.

      9. I get what you’re saying, and I have in fact argued in the past that an east-west subway would achieve a better cost-benefit ratio following the current 44 alignment than diverting to Lower Fremont.

        But as surface corridors, the fact remains that one is more clogged than the other, that a huge portion of 44 ridership is headed between Ballard and the various parts of the U-District that both the 44 and 46 serve, that Fremont is as major a destination as Wallingford, and that the “north lake” east-west corridor is terribly served.

        The potential of an all-day 46 is there, and completely untapped.

      10. Besides its mere handful of trips each day, the 46 fails in legibility: Even I, a seasoned Metro rider, can’t make heads or tails of the 46’s schedule and map. The schedule suggests that the 46 could be split into 3 routes: Shilshole to Ballard*, Shilsole to Ballard to Fremont, and Shilshole to Ballard to Fremont to the UW (but skipping the core of Fremont that would otherwise be the route terminus). And don’t forget the reverse of each of these routes.

        *Does Metro really operate an 8-minute, standalone route segment between Ballard and Shilshole? What kind of market is there for such a short yet infrequent route?

      11. “What kind of market is there for such a short yet infrequent route?”

        Virtually none. I’m told (unofficially, of course) that Metro was leaned on politically to serve that area. Demand on Shilshole is close to nonexistent at any time.

        That said, the 8 minute “standalone” trip is just putting a bus into service that would otherwise deadhead. If you look at the schedule carefully, you can see those trips turn right around and head east as “non-standalone” trips.

      12. 1. A subway ought to stop somewhere near the Wallingford commercial district, somewhere near lower Fremont, and probably somewhere in between, too. I don’t know Ballard well enough to know precisely where.

        2. One of the weird problems the 46 has is that it doesn’t really interline with the routes it parallels at key points. It runs with the 44 in Ballard, and along the 30/31 in lower Wallingford. But if you’re at UW and want to head west you have to chose. NB 15th for the 44, Campus Parkway for the 30/31, or SB 15th for the 46. Even with its wacky schedule, the 46 might do better if Ballard-bound people could wait near UWMC along with the 44, or if Fremont-bound people could wait on Campus Parkway along with the 30/31.

    3. I’ve been wanting an all-day crosstown express for years. An underground Link line is our only hope because 45th is so congested and there’s little hope of replacing the parking lanes with transit lanes.

      Although, 40th has gotten very popular and the 30/31 have repeatedly expanded. I almost think they should redirect the 30 or 31 to Ballard, or add a route there. It’s not that much faster than the 44 but the lesser congestion gives peace of mind. (There is some congestion at Fremont of course, but not along the entire line like the 44.) The other thing I would do is electrify this route so that you don’t have to choose between a smooth trolleybus -or- less congestion. But of course, first we need to electrify the 8, 11, and 48 before electrifying other routes.

      1. There is congestion at Wallingford and Stone along 40th all day long. It’s less obvious because there are so few lights on 40th, but it can be a two-light wait through either intersection at any time of day, presumably based on UW scheduling.

      2. I don’t agree that those lines should be electrified. I understand the environmental stance but from a transit rider perspective – nothing could be worse. Electrification ruins reliability – I was a 7 rider for 2 years and one of the major reasons I moved north was how awful the 7 was…they would get stuck behind each other, 2 or 3 at a time…Diesel(or hydrogen preferably or some other less polluting energy source) allows for passing skip/stop style – allows them to trade off who has to pick up the back up on the route.

      3. Electrification is an interesting question.

        On the one hand, there is no question in my mind (as a former Metro driver who spent about 1/3 of his 5 years driving trolleys) that trolleys have worse speed and reliability on most routes. They have to slow down for special work (10 mph) and even gentle curves (20 mph), they top out at about 35 mph, and they can’t leapfrog when they bunch up.

        On the other hand, they are quiet, and they handle steep hills *much* more gracefully than diesel buses. They also don’t emit exhaust, although bus exhaust isn’t nasty the way it used to be before DPF technology.

        On balance, I favor electrification only on central routes where there are steep hills and no speed limits over 30. Under this definition, the only routes that should realistically be electrified are the north half of the 8 (which should be split in half anyway) and the 11. I think there’s a good argument to be made that the 7 and the 44 should be dieselized.

      4. Why does the 43 run diesel on the weekends? It seems like a mile’s worth of electricity would be way cheaper than the equivalent amount of diesel. When I hop on a diesel 43 it’s always so disappointing…a trolleybus at least hints at fixed guideway/non-fossil fueled elegance.

      5. shotsix …

        Metro de-energizes the OCS on weekends for any number of reasons … usually they are doing some sort of work

        there is also the issue of the reliability of the Breda ETBs … they need a lot of work to stay running at this point … keeping them at the base on weekends lets them catch up.

      6. @David L. – Thanks for your perspective. It helps me to know what I want to advocate for/against.

      7. David and Doug,

        I haven’t driven buses, but as a rider and city-dweller, here’s why I prefer trolleys:

        – Diesel buses are noisy and smelly. That’s a fact. I used to live at 46th and Greenwood, and the difference in noise between weekdays (when most buses were trolleys) and weekends (when most buses were diesels) was huge.

        – I find the ride on trolleys to be much smoother. I get motion sick on many vehicles, and the extra jerkiness of diesels (plus the smell) is much worse for me.

        – In Seattle, hydroelectric power means that our electricity is as green as it gets. It’s also cheap as dirt. We should be capitalizing on this, not moving away from it.

        – Trolleys bring a sense of permanence to bus lines. This can be bad — there’s no question that routes like the 12 (on 19th Ave) and the 14 would have been euthanized long ago, if not for the trolley wire — but it can be good, since it’s a clear commitment that transit service will be maintained on that corridor for a long time. When it comes to TOD, the flexibility of bus service is also its downfall.

    4. The 48 does have express service between Loyal Heights [North Ballard] and the U-District. True, not from downtown Ballard, and very infrequent (AM to U-District and PM to Loyal Heights) but the express bus does “fly” between the two–with limited stops–in less than a half hour.

  3. “cities in the decades prior to this film were in fact dirty, dangerous, cacophonous, claustrophobic places where I, for one, would not have wanted to live;”

    Sounds like Capitol Hill, Belltown, or the U. District.

    1. Norman, You’ve missed the point of the video.
      Move all SFH’s to Northbend.
      Live happily ever after.

      1. I was not commenting on the video. I was commenting on the comments by Bruce Nourish.


    “A new paper in the journal Nature Climate Change assesses which human factors are the most important drivers of greenhouse gas emissions.

    “The authors note know that for every 1 percent increase in human population, greenhouse gas emissions go up by slightly more than 1 percent.

    “From the paper, important factors affecting greenhouse gas emissions:

    “■The number of households seems to be more important than numbers of people.”

    So, high-rise neighborhoods with lots of single people living alone in little apartments might be worse for the environment than single-family housr neighborhoods with many people living in each single-family home.

    “■Cities generate substantial demand for goods and services that induce emissions in distant places—a process called “metabolic rift”—which therefore may not truly reduce their emissions, as some studies suggest.”

    So, cities may not be helpful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    1. What a load of crap. Put single people in single family homes, and they’re still single people.

      I can’t think of a single condo dweller I know that consumes a fraction of what a suburban family does.

      1. (clicks link) ah, globally. I can definitely see people consuming far more in cities than remote villages in 3rd world countries. Are you arguing in favor of poor rural villages?

      2. Self-sufficient farming communities have pretty decent environmental profiles. Suburbia, in contrast, has all the transportation disadvantages of cities, and all the household disadvantages.

      3. REad the articel: ““■The number of households seems to be more important than numbers of people.”

        Does not seem that complicated to me.

      4. It also depends on the construction of the condo and where its built. I can tell you from direct first hand experience that it is possible to consume and pay for more energy in a condo than an relatively efficient SFH. If the condo is built with its own independent heating and cooling unit, it may not be more efficient than other living modes. If it was built in a era with poor insulation, and large glass windows with high pass through rates, you’ll see energy wasted and high monthly heating and cooling bills.

        What would make a condo building more efficient is if the HVAC was common throughout the building. You also have to account for things like elevators in high rise buildings.

      5. It’s an open thread, so I can ask. Why do you bother responding to Norman? Nothing you say will convince him, and nothing he says will mean anything to the vast majority of people who post here.

      6. [Aleks] It’s a weakness. Usually, it’s because what he’s said is so outrageous I don’t want casual passers-by to take it as unchallanged fact and move on. Though I know, in theory, it’s best to just ignore trolls.

        [Charles] True, there are massive energy-inefficient condos. But there are massive energy-inefficient houses too (much more so). On average, condos and apartments use a fraction of single family homes in energy and resourse use. And it’s more than individual air conditioning – you have to consider both the reduced square footage, and reduced surface area.

      7. single condo dweller I know that consumes a fraction of what a suburban family does.

        Looking at square footages alone, it’s hard to imagine who a condo dweller could.

    2. So do you think it would be better for the environment if all those single people lived in sprawly suburbs and commuted by car? Or is this another way of making the tired old argument that single people are selfish and everyone needs to shack up and have babies as soon as possible for the good of society?

      1. “■The number of households seems to be more important than numbers of people.”

        Is this too complicated for you? A lot of single-person households is bad for the environment. Pretty complicated, eh?

      2. So, in other words, yes, you are making the tired old argument that single people are selfish and everyone needs to shack up and have babies as soon as possible for the good of society.

        Glad we cleared that up.

    3. That’s completely absurd and completely wrong. Most cities when reviewing SEPA applications require submission of a CO2 emissions worksheet to gage the level of increased CO2 from new development. The calculation, while highly complex to create a simple formula, shows that apartment/condo development is ALWAYS less harmful in terms of CO2 than single-family development. Always. Quit cheery picking and use facts, Norman.

    4. Mother Jones is part of the vast left-wing conspiracy that believes in smaller, denser housing and mass transit to mitigate global warming. So no, they are not advocating more detached houses and single-family neighborhoods.

      “So, high-rise neighborhoods with lots of single people living alone in little apartments might be worse for the environment than single-family housr neighborhoods with many people living in each single-family home.”

      Does “many” people mean three or four, or does it mean eight or ten? In the early 1900s it was common for three generations to live together, and for couples to have four or more children. The resulting houses were more like small apartment buildings than a detached bungalow with two parents and one or two kids. As such, the energy use per person was probably lower — especially since cars were less common and air conditioning didn’t exist.

      An apartment building with only one person per unit does have some inefficiencies. But if each person acquires a roommate or spouse and maybe kids, their per-person energy use goes down dramatically, and is much more efficient than a bungalow. They share dishwashing energy, cooking energy, and laundry energy — just like a family in a bungalow. But the unit is probably smaller so it needs less heat, and heat is exchanged with the neighboring units so they need even less. It’s more likely to be on a bus line and to have a supermarket within walking distance, so there go two reasons to need a car. When the city extended electricity and water to it, it went a shorter distance than if each unit were a detached house.

      So what we’re left with is, the two most efficient designs are apartments or a multigenerational house. A single-family house with a 3-person family (or less) in it is less efficient than either.

    5. Don’t forget how the amount of space per person has increased too. In the 1950s it was common for a 4-person family to live in a 600 sq ft house or apartment. Children regularly grew up two to a room. Now everybody his their own room and houses have ballooned to 2000 sq ft or even larger. This switch to large houses coincided with families no longer considering apartments acceptable. So it was a rush to energy inefficiency on all sites.

  5. Random September service change thought of the day.

    When Metro decided to cancel the old all-day 17 and replace service on Westlake with what will now be the 40, that left Nickerson west of Fremont (an area with a significant, although not enormous, walkshed) with no service to downtown. Metro replaced that service during the peak hour with two different routes: in the peak direction with an extension of the 2 Express, and in the off-peak direction with the new 62. Why the 2 Express extension instead of a bidirectional 62? I expect the number of hours required isn’t much different, and the 2 Express is going to be a super-slow way for peak-direction Nickerson riders to get downtown.

    1. The primary purpose of the 62 is to provide a fast reverse commute connection for SPU staff and students transferring through downtown, something they would otherwise have lost altogether in the restructure. (There’s actually a commitment somewhere by Metro to provide timed transfers to and from Sounder). SPU also wanted to maintain a one-seat-ride to and from Ballard.

      By extending the 2X in service to Ballard in that weird configuration, Metro manages to meet the former demand, and partially meet the second demand, at minimal cost in service hours. A bidirectional 62 would require significantly more money, as you’d still be running the 2X in service in the peak direction and deadheading it in the reverse peak. It’s true that the peak one-seat ride for Nickerson residents is rather slower than the current 17, but that wasn’t really the motivation for the route, and Metro was planning to get rid of that one-seat ride altogether anyway.

      1. Do you know whether the focus on SPU is justified by ridership? In my Metro days I did not spend a lot of time in that area except on Sundays. The few times I drove the 17 local during the AM peak, it was busy, but almost all of the riders were going either from central Ballard or from Nickerson to downtown in the peak direction, and to the Ballard industrial areas in the off-peak direction. I don’t remember a lot of ridership to SPU in either direction. I wonder if the focus on SPU at the expense of Nickerson-downtown riders is the tail wagging the dog…

      2. It wouldn’t be the only time in the fall restructure process that a noisy and well organized minority exhibited an outsize influence on Metro, although I do think a lot of the ridership on Nickerson comes from SPU. I think I have old data about the 17 somewhere, I’ll see if I can dig it out.

      3. I’ve always thought of the 13 as the SPU bus too, and I would probably take it because it’s a trolleybus, it has “Seattle Pacific” on the destination, and I have a certain nostalgia for upper Queen Anne from my high school years. But I have never gone to SPU. I suspect that SPU students prefer the 17 because it’s faster. The 13 gets stuck in Seattle Center traffic, and it makes lots of stops on Queen Anne Avenue.

  6. Open Thread Question:

    A friend of mine needed to get to the airport for an early flight. In the past friends have taken the 4:23am southbound train from Beacon Hill station with success, and I confirmed this was still on the published schedule on ST’s website. He walked to the station, bought his ticket, and pushed the elevator button but none would open. He tried to speak to a ST representative (I’m guessing it was security) sitting in a truck, but they wouldn’t open the window.

    He ended up getting nervous about making his flight and called for a taxi. I don’t know exactly what time was attempting to access the elevators, but it was approximately 4:10 or 4:15. What time does Beacon Hill Station officially open?

    1. Interesting. Some Googling tells me that this is, so far, not published information.

      You need to call or write to Sound Transit and ask them what the official opening and closing times for Beacon Hill Station are. And when you find out, publish it here. :-)

      1. Follow-up: I received a reply from Sound Transit and while they didn’t confirm the specific hours of Beacon Hill Station, they did say that it should have been open in time for passengers to catch the 4:23am weekday trip (consistent with my past experience). They were forwarding my email to security to see if there is an explanation.

        d.p. – While this is a completely reasonable option, I live within 3 blocks of Beacon Hill Station. I want to know the official station hours and I want to be able to have faith that myself and any visitors I may have can use the station during those hours.

      2. I chatted with the morning security guy at Beacon Hill this morning about station hours, and while he didn’t give an exact time (it seems as if one isn’t set?), he indicated the station should be open 10-15 minutes before the first train.

    2. I did in fact write Sound Transit the day it happened but have not received a reply. This was on a Monday morning that, as far as I can tell, was not any kind of holiday (6/18, day after Father’s Day).

      Personally I think this was a failure of someone to open the station on time. But I’d appreciate a reply from Sound Transit with some sort of explanation. Otherwise I’m going to stop suggesting to friends they attempt to make that train, and I myself won’t attempt it.

      1. Obviously, it’s most desirable walk up nice, quiet Beacon Ave and then wait for the train in the nice, secure, weather-protected Beacon Hill station bunker.

        But does Mt. Baker even have gates that close? If you can get there, either by being dropped off or by walking (it’s technically equidistant from much of the hill’s east slope), at least you’ll be sure to be standing on the platform when the first train arrives.

  7. The animated “Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius” likewise presented a subliminal suggestion in the “advanced alien civilization” Jimmy discovers somewhere across the galaxy. Its inhabitants devolved into amebic blobs in order to live 24/7 inside their mobility devices, ie, their cars.

    The 20th Century era of industrial and technological change too often left sociological progress behind amidst its legacy of toxic waste. New Urbanism economic theory of mixed-use is the best remedy for restorative progress.

  8. Fast Forward to 2030. ST1/2 completed on schedule. All ridership forecasts for 2030 are being met. Buses have long since departed the tunnel. Life is Good, Yes?
    No, it’s not even at 30% capacity at the PLP (Peak Load Point, or SB between Univ Stn & IDS in the peak PM hour, at 600 riders per 4 car train)
    [see calcs at the end of post]
    If the DSTT is only at 30%, why aren’t we even talking about merging another line in the existing tubes from both Ballard and West Seattle.
    Hold off a minute Ben, and let others speak.
    This is at least a $2 Bil. asset, and could easily accommodate another merge from the North at CPS, just like E.Link will merge at IDS – same signals, same situation. That keeps a station at CPS which serves lower CapHill and SE Lake Union.
    The line to Ballard can be in cut/cover initially, transitioning to elevated going to Seattle Center, where it would likely mimic the cancelled Seattle Monorail Project Green Line/ routing and stations – exclusive ROW and fast.
    A new W. Seattle line could continue out the busway, then switch to the W.Seattle Bridge, again following the monorail route, unless something better is found.
    SF Muni merges six different lines into one before going under Market St on a single track, running 2.13 minute headways, with older equipment, less automation, and far more riders than Link will have.
    WHY NOT HERE? Merging 2 or 3 lines before hitting the DSTT is routinely done around the world. Again, Why has ST said NO?.
    OK Ben, who said it and why? They can’t just pitch 70% of capacity without an explanation.
    [ridership based on all ST projects completed and ALL boardings in the Lynnwood, N.Link and ULink riders proceeding all the way through the DSTT, which is ludicrous, because many riders aren’t going that far, but for capacity I was being overly generous and included them too. Total daily boardings for all of North Segments is 86,000 per day in 2030. Again, for the sake of agruement, I assumed everyone got on going SB. To get PLP, refer to ST IS/AL operation plan Sec. 5.0 – 2008 docs, showing the relationship between total daily boardings and PLP of 15.4
    Theoretical capacity is 2 min headways, 4 car trains, 600 riders per train during the Peak Load Hour of service in the PM, SB (ref. same doc)
    That’s 18,0000 riders per hour, when all of N. Link Segments only account for 5,584 in the PLH SB at Univ Stn – assuming nobody gets off the trains before then and evey boarding went south.]
    I did the same calcs for both E.Link and Central from 200th Stn, but only came up with 79,000 total daily boarding, so it’s less going through the tunnel NB by a little bit.
    This just seems like something that should be part of the discussion.

    1. For the Ballard line, CPS to Seattle Center is going to be difficult and end up being very circuitous (possibly slower than a bus). While we’re dreaming, it would be better to have a new 1st Avenue tunnel exiting north instead of east if we want to serve Ballard with rail.

      For West Seattle, ridership is really marginal to support a train. You have two corridors that, added together, could support a train line: Fauntleroy-California Ave and Burien-White Center-Delridge. But there’s no reasonable way to serve both with a single line, and neither one is big enough by itself. It will take a lot more housing development to make either one viable.

      Personally, I’d like to see more study of a Southcenter-Kent rail line separating from the current line at Rainier Beach, with planning for an extension to Kent East Hill someday. Southcenter would be a great candidate for Northgate-like development. Kent East Hill is badly underserved by the 164/168 and 169 lines, which are packed at all times of day in the portion between East Hill and central Kent despite their relatively good (combined) frequency.

      1. David, it’s only a mile from CPS to the Space Needle, via Terry and John routing (tunnel, then elevated over Boren). That’s less than 3 minutes between stops? Another 2 if you count from Westlake Stn.
        What bus route does it that fast?
        And if you were going to Seattle Center from the East, South or any stops in the CBD, would you really jump off the train to go catch one of those really fast buses on 3rd Ave?

      2. You’re going to have to fit a 140-degree turn in there somewhere. That will take time (in addition to lots of money), because you can’t go through it faster than 10-15 mph. Also, if you’re going to go that direction, people will want at least one stop between CPS and Seattle Center, probably two (Fairview and Westlake). I think that from Westlake to west Seattle Center via CPS would end up being a ten-minute trip, exactly as long as it takes on the 3rd Avenue bus.

      3. It’s only a mile between CPS and Seattle Center. A station at each would be a 1/2 mile walkshed. I’d yeild to an elevated station near the park at Denny, but that’s it. No More. People will walk a 1/2 mile to a rail station, but only a 1/4 mile to a bus stop. That makes the trip 4 minutes.
        And the 1/2/3/4 take how long?

      4. While I still think the Ballard-Wallingford-UW spur would provide far and away the best mobility-for-buck, I’ve been intrigued by the brainstorming over Convention Place, its already-existing junction point, and its easy access to relatively-unobtrusive-to-dig-under Terry Ave.

        While less ideal than a pathway shooting straight to north-northwest from downtown, this Denny Hypotenuse line would at least give us the chance to connect one more section of town to the rapid transit system, and Mic, it would be foolish to blow that opportunity by building zero stops (doubly so if the line is shallow and the stops low-hanging fruit).

        David L.:

        I really don’t understand from where this Seattle conviction that merging takes 5 minutes and stops take 3 minutes each is emanating. Even Link’s slow-by-any-international-standards dwell time is less than 30 seconds. Its journey through the bus-train merge point takes about 60 seconds — that is indeed a criminal drag that shouldn’t need to wait for East Link to be fixed, but it’s nowhere near 5 minutes.

        David, living in Seattle has warped your sense of what “fast” and “slow” mean. Please don’t take offense to that; it happens to the best of us. You remember the Green Line being slow, so now you presume turning and merging and stopping make for 10-minute trips. In fact, you only used to perceive the Green Line as slow and arduous because it couldn’t live up to the Red and Orange Lines.

        10 minutes is how long it takes the Green Line to get from Kenmore to Park Street. Really. That’s 5 stops with two mergers. I realize this every time I go home, and I wonder why I used to complain about the MBTA so much growing up. Metro has so lowered my benchmarks that the Green Line seems like a bullet train by comparison.

        For the record, Metro buses are scheduled for 12 minutes between downtown and LQA, and we both know that, aside from late at night, they achieve this once in a Transit of Venus. The hypothetical train Mic describes would do it in 3 or 4 minutes.


        As I’m sure you know, man-made topography (including, after dark, the Seattle Center itself) disrupts the urban continuity between LQA and SLU to such an extent that few walk between them by choice today. Tunneling beneath SLU with no intermediate stops, as you propose, would be a wasted opportunity to better connect everywhere to everywhere, which should be the goal of any major urban transit initiative.

        You are also thoroughly misunderstanding the relationship between stop spacing and walkshed.

        When you speak of placing stops a mile apart on the basis of a 1/2-mile walkshed, you end up with this: The precise halfway point is walkable to either, but you leave huge coverage gaps in what is (ideally) built-up city on both sides of your subway axis.

        What you really want is this: Now your primary axis has the benefit of sub-maximal walking distance, while your maximal walkshed encompasses a wide corridor rather than just a single line.

        This is why 1/2- to 2/3-mile stop spacing is the successful subway standard the world over, and why default-mile-plus stop spacing like, say, Seattle’s Link system, has encountered problems of limited utility.

      5. d.p. You are right Sir. Somehow my thesis got high-jacked into a stop spacing/merging discussion.
        Stops: CPS to S.Ctr is a mile. An intermediate Elevated Stn at Denny/Terry (near the SLUT) would connect much of S.Lake Union to our rail spine. The Stn at CPS would serve many residents of the area between Westlake Stn and Broadway, which due to the hill warrants another intermediate stop.
        Merge: Yes, the Wye Junction at IDS is a flying one for SB to EB trains, which eliminates the crossover situation during peak hour operations. But remember, E.Link only does this 6 times an hour, with trains from the south going NB. Trains merging still have to merge with one another going NB. Think of it this way. We currently merge Link two car trains with many more buses at the CPS/Stub Wye then would ever have to merge with Ballard Trains doing the same thing. Two minute merges are an eternity for proper Positive Train Control systems.
        I’ve not heard one reason given why we should not use the remaining 70+ percent of capacity in the tunnel for the Green Line from Ballard before trying to convince Seattle voters to dig another tunnel under downtown.
        I suspect they will be ‘Tunnel Weary’ and ‘Tapped Out’ by the end of this decade.

    2. E Link will have a grade-separated merge. Got a proposal for a grade-separated merge on the north side?

      (On the south side it wouldn’t be too hard to add a grade-separated merge. But West Seattle simply isn’t a priority, due to its population and the necessary water crossings.)

      1. And I can’t help but find it funny that the explanatory text says it “runs slower” through these junctions, when it’s going about 4 times faster than Link does when entering I.D. station.

      2. d.p., having lived in Boston, I can tell you that the Green Line at-grade merges are a disaster with the Green Line’s 2-minute headways. If you want to accomplish speed and reliability, you just do whatever the Green Line doesn’t do.

        There are local buses that parallel three of the four Green Line branches. All three local buses are faster than the Green Line.

      3. Nathanael, as currently designed and funded, E.Link and Central Link will merge at the same level (using crossovers). I doubt you could find support to build grade separation between the two line merging at IDS, but hey, go for it if you don’t mind spinning your wheels.

      4. Although I do think the tunnel could handle three lines, at least temporarily, I don’t think that video is a very good example.

      5. mic, are you sure about that? If East Link uses the existing ramps from IDS to the I-90 center roadway, it won’t have to do an at-grade merge.

      6. Well, I was kidding about the “minute and 19 seconds,” but seriously, watch any of the longer shots in that second video and you’ll see multilple trains grade-merging without hesitation and zipping along no more than 10 seconds beind one another.

        How is it a bad example? Because of our hills and our soil?

        Mic, I do believe the current ramps amount to a flying junction at the I.D. Again, nice but not imperative. Better to have at-grade plus a really good signaling system than grade separation plus terrible signaling and 3-mph operations as we seem to have at the tunnel entrance now.

      7. David L.,

        The Green Line could certainly manage some improvements — stop diets and signal priority on the surface in particular — but from my own (recent) observations, 99% CharlieCard adoption has already massively improved its performance over when I was growing up.

        As for the central subway, the jams and back-ups you describe only happen when trains are bunched together at much closer than 2-minute headways, as happens at rush hour and after Sox games. 60-75 seconds is really the breaking point for the Green Line tunnel. And that’s due in part to the 50-year-old signaling system that requires coming to a number of superfluous full stops (between Kenmore and Hynes, between Boylston and Arlington).

        When the trains are running at 90-120 seconds apart, they are absolutely fine!

      8. (Also note in the above link that mid-day and early-evening Green Line service, which encounters almost no problems whatsoever, adds up to about 2-minute headways.)

      9. I did not encounter a lot of problems in the central tunnel on weekdays, but evenings were a different matter. I remember a number of occasions when I waited 5 minutes or more, in the evening, until we passed the E line switch.

        Of course, when I lived there they were still desperately trying to figure out how to use Type 8 trains, so part of that could have been train problems.

        In any case, I will be perfectly happy if I never have to rely on the Green Line again. It was often slower than walking in the central subway.

    3. A real benefit of using the CPS portal would be the ability to design a line with stops that serve the Denny Triangle and South Lake Union.

      1. “It’s not a show stopper for joint lines merging to use crossovers from the CPS and PineSt. Stub”

        Maybe, but I’d rather have an actual engineer make that call based on a real engineering study. You and d.p. saying it’s not a problem is no more speculation than Ben saying it is a problem.

      2. Something that is done the world cannot, by definition, be an insurmountable problem problem. That is not speculation.

        Similarly, Ben’s assertion that 4-minute headways are an operational cap (with or without switching) is so easily refuted by counterexamples and by Link’s own engineering documents that it also ceases to be “speculation”. It’s just wrong.

      3. “Something that is done the world over cannot, by definition, be an insurmountable problem.”

        Sorta like editing!

    4. A real benefit of using the CPS portal would be the ability to design a line that serves the Denny Triangle and South Lake Union.

      1. Well, in my perspective, and I would hope Bens effort, that saving a couple of Billion and having same platform tranfers between lines would be very low lying fruit in making transit to other parts of the city feasable.
        The more the better, and sooner is best. This idea is at least worth a $2 Bil looksee.

    5. It could be the limit of the tunnel is not the train frequency, but passenger throughput on the platform.

      1. Highly unlikely. There are much, much pokier Underground stations out there pushing packed trains through more frequently.

  9. Another week of parking in Seattle can be found here:

    Yesterday I had the most difficult parking challenge yet. It took 15 minutes to find parking last night on Capitol Hill during the height of the Pride festival.

    Current Global Averages:
    Average Cost per Hour: $0.31
    Total Cost for Parking: $35.17
    Average Distance from Destination: 1.11 block(s)
    Average Time spent Searching for Parking: 1.02 minute(s)
    Total number of hours parked: 114.3 hours
    Total number of recorded parkings: 83

  10. Re: The Little House. Haven’t seen the movie but have read the book, (may also be a generational/cultural thing along with attitudes to living space). Not a great fan of Disneyfication anyway.
    This ‘new’ movement into cities is actually anything but. In fact the flight to the suburbs over the last 50 or so years could be considered the abberation as the Industrial Revolution started a drift from the countryside a couple of hundred years ago.
    In my opinion, the move out to the suburbs that started in the 50s was actually a reaction to what today we consider the disgusting and inhumane conditions in Victorian housing, 2 small rooms up 2 rooms down and a tiny yard, often with outside ‘privies’, that surrounded the decaying heavy industries. These overcrowded ‘family’ homes could contain 8 or 10 individuals with obviously no privacy and lack of basic facilities such as running water or sewage system. I spent the first 3 years of my life in such a house, where the rooms were still gaslit, water came from a pump outside and hot water was boiled up on a coal fired stove.
    There was no incentive for landlords to improve things so the only answer was to move out of the urban area to new developments on the fringe. The house we moved to, out in one of the small satellite towns was, according to my mother, like a little piece of heaven, with electricity, a municipal sewage system, running water, a back boiler to the fire, 3 bedrooms and a small garden.
    My generation inherited our parents’ desire to get away from the inner city. Of course, as more of the the ‘upwardly mobile’ leave, then the average income level of those left behind decreases, crime/vandalism tends to increase, people become more desperate to get out, and a spiral of decay sets in, with parents out at work all hours trying to keep a roof of any kind over their heads, kids running around unsupervised, shops closing down and school standards suffering from lack of support. If you can’t get a decent education then you are not going to be able to find anything but a low paying job and you’ll be stuck in grinding poverty etc etc etc.
    As part of the generation who grew up with the increasing problem of urban blight, albeit in the UK, and witnessed the resulting flight to the suburbs, it’s also important to remember just how difficult it was for poorer people living in a city center to actually get out into some open space and fresh air, something perhaps young urban professionals take for granted. This was not just a matter of accessing and/or affording transportation, AND being bound to arbitrary schedules, but also related to the length of the working week (often 60 hrs+ just to keep food on the table).
    Another factor that gets overlooked is the cultural issue that families were larger and so you had to share bedrooms with your siblings.
    This lack of personal space has often been quoted to me by my generation as a reason for wanting a single family home and garden with lots of ‘elbow room’ and personal privacy. Those who have grown up in small families and have always taken for granted that they will have an inviolate ‘room of their own’ probably don’t get how irritating it can be to have to share 24/7.
    Living space in a city has always been expensive so the less wealthy have gravitated into aged, poorly maintained and crowded accomodations, hence the growth of slums that were historically close to heavy, labor intensive industries, as if you are laboring 12 hrs a day 6 days a week you don’t want to be traveling far to work. The owners of these factories, apart from a few enlightened individuals such as Cadbury, generally did not care two hoots for the general welfare of their workforce, building only to the basic minimum and considering open green space for recreation to be wasting money, so that the housing was ultra high density.
    These row housing relics of the industrial revolution are still with us in the UK. Some have been ‘gentrified’ by knocking 2 or 3 houses into one and modernized, and space has been added by flattening every other row to make room for light and air. Now they are desirable residences for the urban returnees. Ditto the urban loft crowd who have taken over disused mills, factories and warehouses, but I think that the new urbanites have absolutly no idea of the living conditions endured 80 to 100 yrs ago.
    And – let us not forget that those heavy urban industries mainly used coal as fuel so that everything around was blighted by smog and soot, now mercifully a thing of the past but another reason to get away to a cleaner place.
    As these industies collapsed and the jobs they provided disappeared overseas, the levels of poverty and general malaise in the inner cities exponentially increased, making them dirty and dangerous no go areas, as noted by Bruce. Efforts to ‘improve’ these areas by flattening the rows and building cheap ‘high rise’ flats were well intentioned but made matters worse, (see Quarry Hill Flats built in Leeds UK). I could go on.
    Is it surprising that getting out and far away from this mess was burned into our psyche?

    1. Agreed, we really can’t imagine just how Hobbesian urban life must have been in the late 19th/early 20th century. I lived in an old row house in Leeds from 2008-2009 ( Its only advantage was its cheapness (a bargain-basement £65 per week). It was single-glazed, drafty, cold, had a shower barely big enough to turn around in, and was just generally unpleasant in every meaningful respect. After living there I understood both the overheated excitement of Leeds’ teardown-and-build-highrises boom and the sense of relief we came to need by traveling into the Yorkshire countryside every weekend.

      1. I have a complicated reaction to talk about cities of an unspecified era past as dirty, dangerous dystopias that scarred the Western psyche.

        That’s not to say that the Industrial Revolution didn’t beget unfathomable soot and grime or inhumane working/living conditions for the serfs upon whose backs the modern world took shape. But it is worth remembering that before suburbanization and white flight, cities were where people rich and poor lived and interacted and tenuously coexisted and participated in the social contract in one way or another. This era gave us our lasting civic monuments, defining urban spaces, our transit infrastructure, and most of our institutions, and it does a disservice to the complexity of history to paint cities of the era simply as incubators of misery from which we rightfully fled.

        The early part of the 20th century — when American cities experienced much of their population growth and expansion (up and out) of their built environment — saw a marked rise in the standard of living for the average urban citizen, as public health became a priority, labor laws finally started to stick, and governments began to heed their citizens’ education and recreational needs.

        Only when the 1950s drained the cities of their wealth and relegated them to prisons for people about whom the powerful didn’t give two shits did they truly become the crumbling wastelands that terrified our parents’ generation.

        This “urban = grit (and nothing else)” shorthand, though only two generations old, continues to resonate in interesting ways with today’s young gentrifiers even as they relish their return to the city. One of my most acute pet peeves is the post-collegiate hipster (of suburban origin) who thinks himself an intrepid pioneer for sharing his environment with chronic junkies and the occasional random shooting. He sees himself as “enlightened” for his laissez-faire and/or bemused attitude toward it all. It is his understanding that this is an inherent part of the urban form, and to declare any of it troublesome (or to lift a finger to change it) would be unacceptably bourgeois!

        Again, none of this is meant to ignore the real troubles brought about by rapid urban grown, whether in 19th-century Leeds or 21st-century Karachi, nor to discount Bruce and Gillian’s thoughtful and elegant musings on the subject. I just hate to see cities described as places where dysfunction is innate and must be suffered or (for the purported first time ever) surmounted. Such a simplification does the definition and the history of the urban form great harm.

      2. I take it you were attending Leeds University? Yes, the old row houses make nice subjects for nostalgic Lowry paintings – and your residence must have been a ‘modernised’ version as it actually had a shower! – but living there could be claustrophobic, (and cold and damp). However, they did historically have a sense of community which was shattered when the high rises were built. People were randomly rehoused miles from old friends and neighbourhoods and discovered that modern conveniences and sweeping city views were insufficient recompense for severed social contacts with their peers. The planning of these new developments lacked forethought or insight into peoples’ practical and social needs. Instead of the corner shops and pubs they could walk to, they had to get on a bus for shopping and social events. This is another factor that doomed the well intentioned high rise experiment.
        Appropos of this transit blog and Seattle’s public transport system, Leeds and other Yorkshire cities had splendid tram services that served not just the city center but also the outskirts, which were ripped up and discarded in the late 50s and early 60s in favor of the internal combustion engine. I can remember occasional showers of sparks from the overhead cables but they were cheap and efficient.

        At that time there was also a terrific rail network, before Beeching took his axe to it and closed most of the local lines the Victorians took such pains to build. The working people could access the countryside this way (that’s how the travel agent Thomas Cook started) but now you really need a car to get to the Yorkshire Dales.

        I don’t know whether you are aware of this, but regarding industrial pollution problems, smoke etc was not the only issue for city dwellers. Armley, a district on the west side of Leeds, was the epicenter of an asbestos scandal. Not only was the workforce exposed but the local children used to play in the drifts of asbestos fiber that piled up on street corners. The health problems are ongoing

  11. Does anyone know how much of the Link expansions’ (North, East, whatever else may happen) timeline is purely a fiscal matter? Or specifically, if we had all the money we needed right now, how quickly could it be completed?

    Would it be a complete political loser to put forth a proposition in order to increase revenue (sales tax, property tax, whatever), the purpose of which would be expediting the completion of the light rail network? It seems to me the benefits of this could be pretty extensive, and since people already know and like light rail–and don’t like the fact that their area won’t be getting it til 2016, 2020, etc.–the case for this would be quite strong. Thoughts?

  12. If true, this is interesting.

    According to this company’s ranking of national traffic congestion, Canada exceeds that of the US by nearly twice!
    (You may have to use the drop downs to find the data…Select World Regions/N. America).

    Anyone who can confirm this…I would have thought Canada is more along the Euro line of transit especially rail in their cities…

    1. Though rail systems in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary all significantly out-perform systems in American cities of comparable size and density, the rest of Canada is highly auto-dependent.

      Also, I’m betting that Inrix’s methodology heavily favors places with very high “free-flow” traffic speeds, i.e. places with lots of highways that are packed some of the time but not others. Canada has famously refused to replicate the U.S.’s highway-building excess; there are no limited-access expressways into the centers of any Canadian cities aside from Montreal and Toronto. A loss for those who drive from the sprawl, but a great gain for the cities themselves.

      (Or perhaps the higher average just results from nearly the entire Canadian population living in a dozen cities, while the U.S. has thousands of smaller, low-traffic cities bringing down the mean.)

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