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This is an open thread.

143 Replies to “News Roundup: Not Immune”

  1. In the Boltbus article, the Times misquoted Amtrak prices, adding seven dollars. The base fare is $32, not $39.

    1. I have had friends complain about Amtrak being too expensive. It’s $50! They say. Yes, everything is more expensive when you buy it last minute. Guess what Alaska charges for a same day flight between Seattle and Portland?

  2. Help me out a little: what is “the same mistake that Link opponents did about faster airport bus service”?

    1. Good question. :) My suspicion is that Sherwin means comfort and reliability. Cascades is already more reliable than the freeway to Portland, and that is only getting better, too.

      1. Well, there’s that. What I’m referring to is the fact that BoltBus is a two-stop express, and goes straight from Seattle to Portland/Vancouver. Amtrak serves far more people by stopping at cities along the way; plus, if I want to go from Seattle to Olympia, I can’t do that on BoltBus.

        People used to argue that the 194 was faster than Link to the airport, but that was because it didn’t serve all the places that Link serves. Now, someone living in the Rainier Valley has fast frequent airport service, whereas that wouldn’t have been possible with the 194. Remember, Link is *not* just an airport-downtown express.

      2. +1 I’d love to see a Seattle-Portland express train. In Europe there’s usually a “milk run” that stops at every station, and an “express” that just hits major cities. Anyone know if there are technical roadblocks for this to happen here?

        Imagine if Alaska Air stopped four times on the way down to Portland.

      3. There was one train that operated as a SEA-PDX red-eye express during the last Thanksgiving holiday. It was actually a deadhead move that they sold tickets for.

      4. Amtrak Cascades is a great niche service, and I ride it several times per year, but until I can be in Portland before 11am or in Seattle before noon, it’s not a practical option for business trips (or pleasure trips on tight schedules). With 2 extra train sets coming soon and one chronically underused (the 510/517 daily RT to Vancouver BC), it’s not a question of fleet availability but rather of getting the ARRA projects (Pt Defiance et al.) done in a timely and non-litigious manner and finding the cash to subsidize the additional runs. Even though farebox recovery has risen to nearly 2/3, in absolute numbers the layout from the state would have to continue to grow in order to add runs.

      5. I thought the stumbling block with express trains to Portland was the same thing it is everywhere: they’re BN’s tracks, and BN doesn’t give a damn about Amtrak. After all, I’ve taken Amtrak to Portland and to Vancouver numerous times, and it isn’t the stops that slow you down; it’s the long stretches of 20 MPH travel (or even slower), and the frequent waits for freights to pass, or BN employees to finish their newspaper, or whatever else they might be doing. Stops at stations are one thing; stops out in the middle of nowhere are quite another. We’ve got those jazzy Talgo cars but not the tracks or the clear rights-of way they need to go fast on them.

        A lot of the time Amtrak shuttles you onto a damn BUS anways, especially if you’re going through to California.

      6. When we have more regular service and when operating speeds are higher, expresses will make a lot of sense for Cascades. For the moment, they don’t make that much sense – maybe you’d save 15 minutes.

      7. @Fnarf: BNSF is actually fairly cooperative with Amtrak. They’re a hell of a lot better than Union Pacific down in California.

        An express train to Portland is pie-in-the-sky, but the ultimate goal for Cascades is 2.5 hours between Seattle and Portland. It will take a lot more improvements to the corridor to get there, though.

      8. Cascades is already more reliable than the freeway to Portland, and that is only getting better, too.

        Not in my experience. I drive to Portland once a month, and sometimes more. I haven’t taken the train all that often, maybe five times in each direction. There are two dimensions to mention right away: travel time, and reliability, i.e., the variation in travel times.

        Travel time favors driving. I drive from a point about 7 miles north of downtown Seattle to a point 8 miles west of Portland. It’s a total of 190 miles.

        On the train, the scheduled time is 3-1/2 or 4 hours southbound, or 4 or 5 hours northbound. But that’s train station to train station. On each end, I’ve cabbed it. Including time for boarding and walking through the station, and a bit of slack, you have to add 45 minutes on each end. So, using the midpoint of the schedule ranges: Seattle to Portland by train is 5-1/4 hours. Coming back is 6 hours.

        Driving is typically 3-1/2 hours, including 15 minutes at a rest stop at the 100-mile mark. Average speed a bit less than 60, including city travel and not counting the rest stop. This makes sense: The speed limit is 60 for a little less than half the way, 70 for half the way, and 50 to 55 for the Portland side of the river. Like most drivers, I usually aim for 5 mph faster.

        Now for reliability.

        Train schedules are somewhat theoretical. In 10 trips, I’d say no more than half were on time, and that’s generous. The typical delay was an hour or so, and sometimes a lot more.

        Driving is susceptible to bottlenecks, jams, accidents, and rush hour. They do happen, but not nearly as often as the car-haters here imagine. Even when traffic is heavy, it tends to move along pretty well. On my last trip, I timed it at exactly 3 hours for a 180-mile stretch from a freeway on-ramp west of Portland to the Mercer off-ramp. I was semi-jammed on the way out of Portland and through Vancouver, and at the JBLM military installation, with brief slowdowns at Olympia and the Tacoma Dome.

        The worst that’s ever happened to me on I-5 was an hour for an accident near the Tacoma Dome. Word to the wise: Any accident near the Tacoma Dome is always caused by an asshole in a pickup truck. The worst on the train was when I stopped counting the hours. They stuck us on buses, and my 6:30 p.m. arrival became nearly midnight.

        As far as rush hours go, that’s a timing issue. I try to leave Portland either before 1 p.m., or as close to 3:15 p.m. as possible, or after 6:30 p.m., to avoid the rush hours along the way and at each end. It works well.

        Finally, there is convenience and comfort.

        Convenience favors the car, because of the speed and flexibility it offers. Comfort is a tie in my book. I don’t particularly enjoy the drive, and at times I hate it. But I find ways to occupy my mind: the radio, my music, sometimes an audio book. The train is somewhat comfortable, but there are always people who bug me, either with loud music, incessant yammering, or (worst of all) undisciplined children whose parents seem to think it’s okay to turn the train into their playground.

        And then, with the train, there’s the hassle at each end. I don’t like cabs, but I like buses even less. Portland’s much hyped light rail doesn’t get close enough to my destination to be realistic, and the Amtrak station is a long walk from light rail. To get to where I go without using a cab, it’d be two buses and light rail. You can easily double the 45 minutes on that end.

        Cost, well, that all depends on how you figure it. The transit propaganda includes the cost of insurance in the trip, but I’d have insurance anyway. The car gets 25 mpg average on the trip, which is 15.2 gallons or about $90 at today’s prices. I don’t know what 380 miles worth of maintenance and tire wear costs. I’ll say 5 bucks, but I bet that’s on the high side.

        Amtrak fares vary all over the map, but I usually pay the maximum because, even though I go every month, I never know when I’ll be going. So it’s $110 vs. $95, which is the same. Bolt Bus? Put it this way: It’s been a long time since I was in college. I’m not that hard up.

      9. Forgot to mention my rush hour strategy out of Seattle: Leave by 2:30 p.m. if possible, or after 6:30 p.m.

        Lately, of course, there’s a big wrinkle out of Seattle, and that’s the viaduct. The construction has jammed it up something fierce. Adds 15 or 20 minutes on the way out. I don’t expect this ever to improve. The tunnel lacks a Western Avenue entrance; the traffic pattern through Mercer will be a permanent disaster; and the car haters of Seattle look like they were f’up Alaska Way forever.

        All of this is relatively new, so I’m still processing it. The likely rule of thumb will be to try to get out of here either before 1 p.m. or after 6:30 p.m. Thanks, city government. I love you even more now. And you too, Transit Blog. Next time I vote against whatever schemes you devise, I’ll cackle a bit more.

      10. Not Fan,
        Actually MAX Yellow and Green lines stop right across the street from the Portland train station. The transfer downtown is a short wait if you need the Red or Blue line rather than the Yellow or Green.

        I haven’t had the experiences you’ve had with delays on the Cascades. Other than one or two occasions the Cascades has been on time or early. Personally I find the ride on Cascades much more pleasant than either driving or flying.

        Then again when I go to Portland I’m typically going downtown or somewhere near MAX, so the train works fairly well for me.

      11. As for the Alaska Way Viaduct replacement project blame WSDOT for the alignment. They weren’t planning any entrances or exits downtown for their elevated highway option either.

        Best bet once the tunnel opens is probably to make your way to Aurora North of the Ship Canal. During construction that doesn’t help much, but traffic was going to be a charlie foxtrot during construction no matter what option was chosen (especially since a replacement viaduct would have required tearing down the old one first and a retrofit would have required long closures).

      12. My suspicion is that “Not Fan” has not ridden the Cascades or just doesn’t pay very close attention. The train trip is 3:30 north OR southbound. The Coast Starlight is 4:25 minutes. And outside of the winter mudslide season it’s gotten very reliable. I haven’t shown up more than 15 minutes off schedule in about a year. As far as the prices go, even buying my tickets 4-5 days out it is still $32 (usually one run is higher).

        Driving costs 50 cents per mile according to the IRS or AAA. Don’t forget that every time you put a mile on your car it’s value has dropped, depreciation is huge. Cost per mile is actually higher in both cases but for easy math we’ll go with 50 cents (and to give driving a bit of a leg up). That means a one way is $90. You can take the train 3 times for the price of driving.

        Let’s not forget that driving to Portland basically sucks. I was driving twice a week for several months and eventually just started taking the train. I haven’t driven it for more than a year until last week and I had forgotten how incredibly boring the drive is. Maybe I have to drive it once a year to remind myself.

      13. “In Europe there’s usually a “milk run” that stops at every station, and an “express” that just hits major cities. Anyone know if there are technical roadblocks for this to happen here?”

        Greyhound has expresses and locals. The expresses are part of the Los Angeles route; the locals terminate in Portland. Greyhound’s long-distance buses are jam-packed and the passengers are sometimes irritating, so the locals give you more space and more peace of mind even though they take longer.

        The main reason Amtrak Cascades doesn’t have expresses is that state has never been interested in it, nor is it willing to put in enough money for additional runs beyond the multi-year expansion it’s doing. If the state really wanted to do it, then it could talk to BNSF about finding space for it. But it would still be a 79 mph speed limit until the track improvements (which are underway) are finished.

      14. reply @ Sherwin
        you forgot about Greyhound itself!
        Greyhound figured there’s enough market share to run regular intercity buses that stops in Tacoma, Olympia, Centralia, Longview before reaching Portland, [while at the same time] running direct express bus to Pdx [Boltbus is owned by Grehound!]

        and BTW for those who takes the train semi-regularly, have you notice it could be $10 or more cheaper if you ride from Tacoma instead (or Everett for the Vancouver BC run), while the ST bus cost only $3.50 for that segment.

      15. WSDOT pinpoints the main cause of Cascades delays as being the single-track tunnels in Tacoma. This is intended to be fixed once and for all with the Point Defiance Bypass.

        As for running expresses, that would probably not be desirable until there were more locals. And more locals requires… the Point Defiance Bypass, plus the trestle replacement (double-tracking) east of Tacoma Dome.

    2. I thought Sherwin was refering to the fact that Cascades doesn’t get stuck in traffic.

      If not that, then Norman’s bad math that doesn’t include average wait time. But then, that doesn’t really apply here.

    3. I wanted to answer the criticism of my earlier posting.

      Some of it was justified. I was in a rush when I wrote it, and there were lots of details to cover. I had to look up some things, and in my haste I made some factual mistakes. They don’t change the conclusion, but I wanted to correct them, and to answer some other things written in response to me.

      It’s been three or four years since I gave Amtrak a try. My recall of details has faded. I never did bother combining Amtrak and Portland MAX for my trips there. This isn’t out of hostility to MAX, but because it ends well short of my destination there. Therefore, when I was experimenting with taking the train, I used cabs on each end.

      My two biggest errors were ones that no one here caught. The first is that I neglected to include the cost of cabs in the train trip. When I tried Amtrak, I recall cabs totaling $40 or $45, but fares have gone up. So I researched that, and today’s cab fares including tips would run $60 for the two ends combined. My second error concerned the cost of gas. I used $6 a gallon instead of $4. As with forgetting to include cab fares, this was a haste-driven brain fart and nothing more. So, gas is $60 not $90 for the round trip. Add $5 or $10 for maintenance, and my cost to drive to Portland and back is $65 or $70, which I’ll call $70.

      Now to Amtrak. The fares vary between $73 and $112 for the degree of advance notice I usually have. I used a mix and came up with $85. Add taxis and the total is $145. I could use buses and/or MAX + bus on the ends and cut $50, but that’s way too much hassle. But even if I did that, it’d still be $95 for the train vs. $70 for the car. And once in Portland, without a car, I’d be spending a lot more on transportation there, almost certainly cabs given where I go and the infrequency of bus service.

      The I.R.S. reimbursement/deduction rate cited by Grant McWilliams is aimed at corporate use of new vehicles. It includes per-mile insurance and depreciation charges that I don’t incur as a consequence of driving to Portland. Train or not, I’d still own the car and would buy insurance. As for depreciation, it’s done for: My car is 17-1/2 years old and has 99,000 miles on the odometer.

      But in light of my other errors, I double-checked by going to Their calculator showed no difference in the value of my car if I didn’t drive to Portland, and it had 94,000 miles on the odometer instead. So: No extra insurance cost for the Portland trips, and no extra depreciation. Thus, my cost of driving to Portland is gas plus wear and tear, period.

      Let’s look at Amtrak. I rechecked their timetables. I am genuinely mystified at how I got the wrong numbers the first time around. I tried to recreate the error and couldn’t. Anyway, I’d need to cut a half-hour off of the original times I cited. The schedule varies from 3:30 to 4:25. (Note: There are two trains that run the route, the Cascade and the chronically late Coast Starlight.)

      I re-thought the times on each end. It’s quicker getting off the train, so I deducted 15 minutes from my original estimate. Add 45 minutes on the embarkation end, and 30 minutes at the destination end, for cabs and station time. Use the midpoint of the Cascade and Coast Starlight timetables, add the station and cab time, and we’re talking an average of about 5-1/2 hours for the train vs. 3-1/2 for the car, house here to house there.

      There are variations with both options; Amtrak can have hellacious delays, and I-5 snarls are a bitch. In both cases, the stress is usually worse than the actual delay. Highway delays seem worse than they really are, and if the train stops or is late you can at least sit and read. But in each case, you do more than a little fuming.

      As for “driving to Portland basically sucks,” I’d be the last to call it fun, but I find it a lot quicker and much more convenient. I’m not a choo-choo buff who’s thrilled by the romance of the rails, so Amtrak’s requirement to bend to their schedule is a big imposition. Train passengers are often noisy, and in the summer I can definitely do without the tourists and their obnoxious kids running around the train, usually with parental blessing. I’d just as soon be in the car, listening to my music, bitching about the slowpoke blocking the passing lane, and looking forward to a quick cigar at the rest stop.

      If I lived downtown or on Capitol Hill, and my Portland destination was on Max, I might have stuck with the train, at least for the half of the trips where the back seat and trunk aren’t full of stuff or the dog’s not with me. But most people don’t live downtown in either place, or otherwise close to rail. When I was riding Amtrak, the vast majority of passengers were tourists. I don’t think it’s a viable commuter alternative except for a handful of people.

      1. Thanks for presenting a lot of fairly valid comparisons, Not Fan. Bottom line, there are positives and negatives to each mode, and depending on your individual situation you may favor one or the other.

        Personally, I took a job in Seattle in 2010 but my family remains implanted in Portland. I drove a once weekly round-trip for about six months, but have since switched almost exclusively to Amtrak Cascades.

        On cost, my car is much more expensive than yours. I go through a set of $1600 run flats in under 20k miles, which comes out to nearly $40 bucks in tire rubber for each PDX-SEA round trip. That doesn’t even consider oil and other wear/maintenance/eventual replacement cost. Even though your 17 y.o. econo box isn’t that expensive, you should still factor in that each mile brings you incrementally closer to facing its replacement cost, so depreciation is real. On the other hand, with 3 day advance purchase, you get a 10% AAA discount on Amtrak.

        The clincher for me was that weekly spending 7+ hours driving was causing chronic muscle aches in my arms, as well as eye dryness/fatigue. So I was effectively forced to find an alternative. But I think even if I had more youthful endurance, I’d still think Amtrak is the better choice for frequent PDX-SEA travel. The stress and fatigue of highway driving is just not worth it on a prolonged basis.

        One interesting point is how willing you are to adjust your travel times to narrow windows that avoid peak highway traffic, but find conforming to the Amtrak schedule overly constraining.

        On the other hand, I do appreciate how annoying other travelers can be. It’d be nice if affluent mothers didn’t choose business class just to have more room for their little ADHD cases to roam. Last trip there was a lady with a lap dog that whined for half the trip. Another trip featured a smoker lighting up an electronic cigarette. Another had an elderly gentleman who thought it acceptable to watch a video program on his laptop without headphones. Another trip I had to politely ask a businessman to observe the rules and take his half hour cell phone call to the vestibule. But all these annoyances can be fairly well addressed by putting on one’s headphones and tuning out to an interesting podcast or book.

        As for reliability, I can attest that it’s vastly improved over the last two years. In previous years, it used to be pretty frequently late by over a half hour. But so far this year, it’s been consistently within 15 minutes of scheduled arrival, with few exceptions. One being a 4 hour wait after the train struck a suicidal pedestrian.

      2. Thanks for this thoughtful comment.

        WSDOT says openly that the Cascades route is in many ways inferior to driving at the moment; they’re trying to get it “back up to speed” so that it’s as fast as driving downtown-to-downtown, and sufficiently frequent that “waiting for the train” doesn’t add an intolerable amount of time to the trip — not to mention getting it up to >95% on-time performance.

        WSDOT have made a *lot* of improvements in the four years since you last rode Cascades, but the biggest single improvement (Pt. Defiance Bypass, which is expected to get on-time performance close to 100%) has not gotten built yet, even though it’s funded.

        The whole program costs a fraction of the cost of Interstate widening.

      3. I go through a set of $1600 run flats in under 20k miles, which comes out to nearly $40 bucks in tire rubber for each PDX-SEA round trip.

        POTR. Stands for “Problems of the Rich.” POTR doesn’t belong in the analysis. It’s as if I were to include that $600 a person blowout dinner in San Francisco in a commuting cost comparison. You should compare apples to apples, not apples to Godiva chocolates served by a butler in white gloves.

        Even though your 17 y.o. econo box isn’t that expensive, you should still factor in that each mile brings you incrementally closer to facing its replacement cost, so depreciation is real.

        I’d say a $10 maintenance cost per trip covered it, given that my maintenance costs on that car are so low. But just to satisfy your desire to rig the numbers in favor of the choo-choo buff perspective, let’s call it $20 a trip. And let’s take that 10% AAA discount and knock $8.50 off the train fare.

        And let’s be sure to knock 50 cents a gallon off the gas price, ’cause it’s no longer $4. That brings us to $137 for the train vs. $80 for the car. And remember, once I’m in Portland, if I’ve driven myself I have much more flexibility and cheaper costs of getting around once I’m there.

        Fact is, the numbers favor driving no matter how you spin ’em.

        The clincher for me was that weekly spending 7+ hours driving was causing chronic muscle aches in my arms, as well as eye dryness/fatigue. So I was effectively forced to find an alternative. But I think even if I had more youthful endurance, I’d still think Amtrak is the better choice for frequent PDX-SEA travel. The stress and fatigue of highway driving is just not worth it on a prolonged basis.

        Everyone makes their choices, and I respect them. You’re willing to pay a lot more money, and take a lot more time, to avoid what you perceive as a stressful drive. You’re basically consuming a luxury service in doing so, and in a free country you ought to be able to do it. I only object when someone tries to misrepresent the nature of the choice.

        One interesting point is how willing you are to adjust your travel times to narrow windows that avoid peak highway traffic, but find conforming to the Amtrak schedule overly constraining.

        First off, the “windows” aren’t “narrow” at all. They are two or three hours wide. And if I disregard them, the penalty isn’t great. I am writing this from Portland, where I drove on Wednesday. Got here right in the thick of rush hour; between that and an accident along the way, I was delayed by a half-hour.

        Interestingly enough, on the very same day I drove down here, the Cascades had a derailment. No one was hurt, but the train passengers were transferred to Greydogs. God only knows how many hours they were delayed.

        But all these annoyances can be fairly well addressed by putting on one’s headphones and tuning out to an interesting podcast or book.

        One thing I do on my drives is listen to e-books. I don’t care about podcasts, but if I did, they wouldn’t thrill me enough to put up with the other crap you cited. But, each to their own. Here’s the bottom line: The day I drove and the Cascades derailed, the train was running at a bit less than one-third of capacity. This at peak time, mid-week. There obviously ain’t a lot of demand for the train, is there?

        I’m fine with choo-choo buffs who love the train. I’m not so fine when they start telling lies about how it’s anything other than a niche service for affluent people with time on their hands.

      4. First off, the “windows” aren’t “narrow” at all. They are two or three hours wide.

        These are windows of avoidance, meaning that I can leave Seattle 21 to 22 hours per day without predictable rush hour issues. Not exactly narrow.

    4. And let’s be sure to knock 50 cents a gallon off the gas price, ’cause it’s no longer $4. That brings us to $137 for the train vs. $80 for the car. And remember, once I’m in Portland, if I’ve driven myself I have much more flexibility and cheaper costs of getting around once I’m there.

      Darn it, I forgot to adjust the gas price. The comparison should be $137 for the train vs. $73 for the car. If you want to pay nearly double for the thrill of the rails, be my guest. Just don’t call it the economy choice.

      1. One more set of numbers.

        Let’s imagine I was going to bow to your desire to compare the cost of your rich-dude car with the train.

        On the car side, using the numbers you gave $1,600 in tires every 20,000 miles, that’s $30 not $40 for 380 miles round-trip. Let’s throw in another $20 for your synthetic oil, etc. Add another $7 on the theory that the fancy car sucks premium, and $53 becomes $110 for the car.

        On the train side of things, you talked about riding business class. I think that’s a fair comparison with a guy who drives a car like yours. Using the cheapest Cascades business class averaged with the priciest, that’s $110 round trip. Add $60 for cabs, and the train becomes $170.

        So, if I was a rich guy like you, the train would cost $170 and my uber-car would cost $110. So, high-end to high end, the train costs 55% more than driving. Of course, a rich guy wouldn’t care about the difference, but since we’re doing arithmetic here, what the heck.

        Again, nothing against you taking the train. Have at it. But it’s not any kind of answer for the mainstream commuter. It’s a choice for people with extra time and money on their hands.

  3. Is it just me or is it weird we have to vote on the seawall replacement (which we absolutely) need but not the basketball arena?

      1. Just to point out that it’s not that weird to get back into bad deals on sports arenas take a look at the mess Wenatchee has backed it’s self into:

        Then, there is the most likely scenario — the arena closes and becomes a worthless reminder of our folly, while somewhere judges and lawyers decide how to drain our collective wealth to pay the $42 million debt that will not go away.

        The BB arena won’t sink Seattle or King County and the Kingdome will be paid off soon. I’m not so sure about Safeco Field if the Mariners set sail under new ownership. Hiroshi Yamauchi won’t live forever and Chris Larson isn’t going to be buying him out post divorce. What do you do with the place if there’s no MLB team, Monster Trucks?

      1. You can vote against the arena by joining with as many other voters you can collect and telling your City Councilmembers, and the Mayor, by mail and in person, that if they vote for the arena you’ll vote them out of office.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Why would I want to do that? It complies with a city initiative regarding stadiums and there are no new taxes involved.

      3. I think if it came to a public vote, I’d probably vote for it. I just think it’s funny.

      4. This is standard strategy: Popular stuff (libraries, parks, fire stations, high-capacity transit) gets put up for a public vote, so that funds can be freed up to do the less popular things (like building new garbage & recycling facilities, sewer systems, and City Tajmah Halls).

    1. Not really. We’re voting on a tax to pay for the seawall replacement. There’s no tax necessary for the arena.

      1. Well, it would be nice if the city just had tax authority already to replace the seawall. This kind of basic infrastructure should just be an automatic thing.

      2. It blows my mind that we are still even debating the seawall. Remember when that was supposed to be apart of the tunnel?

      3. I’m voting against the seawall because of the bike lanes and beaches and other non-essentials.

      4. Not Fan is a frequent commenter over at Publicola. I don’t think he or she is a sock-puppet for one of the other commenters here.

      5. “Okay, whoever’s created this “Not Fan” strawman, fess up.”

        It’s Dori Monson, no doubt.

      6. Indeed, the shallow tunnel *included* the seawall. That was the only reason the City of Seattle was supposed to pay for any of the shallow tunnel. The City should not be paying for *any* of the Deep Bore Tunnel, since it has no relevance to city needs… oh well, that’s smoke-filled-back-room politics for you.

  4. “Ticketing on Amtrak required several steps, starting with printing out a receipt from an online booking; exchanging the receipt for a paper ticket at the station; then lining up for a boarding pass and a seat-reservation card.”

    Thrilled this is finally ending this summer. Man what a bad system.

    1. E-ticketing only removes the ‘value ticket’ part (where the paper ticket carried the value once printed, never to be forgotten or lost). You’ll still have a barcode for the reservation, which the conductor will scan, but the boarding pass at Seattle and Portland will be handled the same way for seat assignments. Downline stations will board the same way as always.

      Don’t see them going to electronic seating assignments, and don’t think they should waste the IT money to do it, either, unless it’s an automatic process by the reservation system which wouldn’t allow user selection.

      1. How about letting passengers sit where they want to? This is done on other corridor trains, with no apparent problems. I so hate the ridiculous line which snakes all over the main hall that I pay the extra charge for business class and skip the line (still need seat assigned, but for business class it’s done at the ticket counter, generally with little or no waiting time).

      2. That would happen when ridership gets high enough, such as on California’s Capitol Corridor.

        Depends on the quality of ride people want, since once the trains become ‘Unreserved’ seating, the possibility exists for standing room only. Reserved seating is supposed to guarantee a seat.

      3. i think the seating has to do with platform size…although you can walk to the other cars, I think they do it for speed – quicker ons and offs…

      4. My impression is that reserved seating is simply to group seat assignments with common destinations because they only open 1-2 doors at intermediate stations (Stanwood, Centralia, et al). If we had raised platforms that were Talgo-compatible we could just open all doors and have open seating, but there is a height incompatibility between Bombardier (Sounder), Talgos (Cascades) and Superliners (Starlight, Builder), not to mention conflicts with freight. So I’ve always thought they assigned seats simply to allow staff to open only 1-2 doors and plop the little stepstool on the platform to help riders disembark.

      5. Assign seats like the airlines. I pick them. If I need to be in a certain car then assign me to that car but give me a layout of the car so I can choose where I sit in it. That allows me to just show up 15 minutes before the train leaves like in France.

      6. Seat assignments depend on the route. The Starlight and Builder don’t; they just tell you which car to get in. Vancouver has seat assignments; I don’t remember if Portland does.

        “[Unreserved seating] would happen when ridership gets high enough.”

        I think it’s capacity, not ridership. If trains are running every 1-2 hours like the Capitol Corridor or Pacific Surfliner/Coaster/Metrolink, it’s pretty certain that seats will be available, and if someday they aren’t, you’d only have an hour’s wait. That’s different from a 4-hour or 12-hour wait.

      7. My ‘ridership’ comment was more all-encompassing, in that along with more frequent service the ridership goes up dramatically, and then the ‘assigned’ seating arrangement is a hinderance.

        Ridership is no longer dependent on selling seats because of the comfort factor, people prefer the convenience.

        “Assign seats like the airlines. I pick them. If I need to be in a certain car then assign me to that car but give me a layout of the car so I can choose where I sit in it. That allows me to just show up 15 minutes before the train leaves like in France.”

        As long as you’re not particular about your seating orientation, that would work.

      8. These are fixed capacity trains, unlike CA and the non-Acela trains in the NE, so as long as we are using Talgos, there’ll be reservations. (Brian B can explain the gymnastics of adding/subtracting cars from a Talgo) Assigned seating by destination allows the crew to open only 1 or 2 doors at most intermediate stations and get people off and on quickly. Quiet cars are definitely needed on out Talgos in coach.

      9. When you’re getting onto the Empire Builder at Chicago Union Station, they do make people line up to get on the train (which they shouldn’t), and they do attempt to sort people into different cars (short distandce versus long distance) but they don’t make “seat assignments” — they sort people out as they’re boarding the train. *And some of the cars go to Seattle and some to Portland*.

        The procedure used at Seattle for Cascades has boggled my mind ever since I heard about it. It’s an unnecessary line. There are three ways to do it:

        (1) Seats assigned in advance and printed on tickets.
        (2) Unreserved seating.
        (3) Unreserved seating with “Get in this car for Stanwood”

        Seattle and Portland apparently use a fourth, completely ridiculous, “line” procedure for no good reason.

      10. “(1) Seats assigned in advance and printed on tickets.”

        This wouldn’t be worth the programming time/costs, plus the human factor. That is: why are you selecting the seat you want?

        Unreserved works (2), just sacrifices the predictability for groups or families.

        Unreserved (3), resembles what happens at downline stations now.

        The “line” at the big stations allows for simple ‘ticket’ lifting, without having to make everyone sit down in their seats to make sure they’ve been … scanned, or whatever they are going to do with e-ticketing.

        That might be more of customer service issue, that balances the needs of al the various passengers making the trip, since not all of them are transit wonks like you guys !

  5. It is amazing that Seattle has such terrible traffic and yet people are willing to endure it, pay high tolls and taxes and yet not move into a high density situated condo, or take a bus. Why is that?

    1. It’s not just Seattle that has terrible traffic, it’s also Bellevue, Renton, Kent, Auburn, Tacoma, Federal Way, Lynnwood, etc.

    2. It basically comes down to one word: FUD

      People are afraid of change, even when they have nothing to lose. Someone who asked me for help when his computer wasn’t working was afraid to click the button saying “repair this issue” fearing it would damage his computer, as if it was working fine already…

    3. Misplaced priorities, and blindness to the true cost of things.

      For many people, for whatever reason, it is perfectly reasonable to commute for 2 hours each day, but the idea of not having a 200sqft back yard is absurd.

      Also, for MOST people, the cost of driving is just the gas your vehicle consumes, and tolls you pay along the way. Most people ignore other incremental costs of driving.

    4. Will you ever give up on your posts here?

      Traffic went down on 520 after tolls started — so some people clearly choose NOT to pay high tolls.

      As is often pointed out here, condos keep getting built, and there is not enough housing being built to accommodate all the folks who want to move into urban areas.

      Over half of commuters into Downtown Seattle come by means other than SOV, and 1/3 come by bus. We could probably increase that number if we made employers pay more of the cost of parking spaces given out to employees for free.

      1. “so some people clearly choose NOT to pay high tolls.”

        Funny timing: I had a long conversation with a dead-heading cyclist this morning when we got stuck on the bridge. He went on about how he used to drive until the tolls hit and decided to bike/bus it to work. Now he wonders why he ever drove. (To top that off, I showed him how to get to the 520 trail from the base and now he only takes dead-heading buses)

      2. Traffic did go down after tolls were imposed, but it now–at least between 4:30 and 6pm when I am likely to cross it–has returned to the parking lot it used to be. It would be interesting to see the numbers but there has been a big rebound.

        I currently live just off 520 on the Arboretum end and leave early enough in the AM to make it worth my while to drive down MLK to I-90, but coming home what is a 20-25 minute drive on 520–even with the traffic–has been 45 min and up on I-90. My billable time is worth more than the toll is. :)

        I need to drive most days in order to make site visits; even when I don’t, from Madison Park you pretty much need to take the 11 all the way downtown then back to Hellevue on the 550, which really isn’t worth the trip. We’re looking at moving somewhere more “urban,” but until then the car is it for me.

        (on the other hand, most of us in the office want to relocate to Seattle when our lease is up–even many of those who live on the Eastside!)

    5. Because there are no condos available for families larger than 3 people. Start building apartments and condos with 3 and 4 bedrooms and you might start seeing families buy them.

      Also, families don’t want to live downtown. Not much in the way of things do safely for little kids downtown.

      1. The numbers are saying families don’t mind living downtown, which matches up with my anecdotal experience. 3-bedroom units would be a huge help to making it more attractive for more people. There’s a reason why SPS is excited about having a ‘downtown’ (probably SLU) school.

      2. Heck, even a 2 bedroom is close to impossible to find. There are not many families that can pay for a $600-800,000 condo and the $600-1,100 homeowner dues per month.

    6. People *are* willing to move into high density situated condos. That’s why there are a dozen construction cranes in Seattle right now – people are willing to pay a LOT more per square foot to live near downtown.

      1. More like singles, couples w/o kids, and empty nest older couples appear to be more receptive to moving to high density situated housing, but the couples w/ kids tend to require more room, parking spaces for two cars (for free or a minimal fee) as well as soccer and baseball fields within a close distance for the kids.

      2. Or even just a bit more space that vertical duplexes or row houses would provide.

      3. There are enough families in Belltown, SLU, and the Denny Triangle that the school district is planning on opening a new elementary school in SLU.

        You’d probably have even more families downtown if there were more 3br+ apartments and condos.

      4. People *are* willing to move into high density situated condos. That’s why there are a dozen construction cranes in Seattle right now – people are willing to pay a LOT more per square foot to live near downtown.

        Developers are willing to build them because money is the cheapest it’s been in more than 50 years. The next stories will be about bankruptcy.

    7. “People are afraid of change, even when they have nothing to lose.”

      They are also afraid that transit won’t be there when they need it. Many people have had firsthand or secondhand experience of waiting an hour for a bus, having to take three buses to get somewhere, or being stuck somewhere because the last bus home already left. They don’t want to get into that situation ever again, so they drive. They’ve lost faith that the bus service could be made high quality, so even when it is in certain cases, it takes them years to believe it. That’s similar to the Rainier Valley bogeyman. The peak period of gangs and drive-by shootings was in the 80s and 90s, yet still people are afraid to go there even though their coworkers have bought houses there.

      1. Good point.

        And the horrendous signage and information communication from Metro as documented a few posts in the future, shows that you can’t call the service in Seattle high quality yet. Even if there’s a fast, frequent, reliable service a block from their home, do they even know this, or are the signs telling them the opposite?

    8. Transition costs are huge for moving house. People will stay in a location they don’t particularly like for years just to avoid having to *move*.

  6. As some of you may know, I drove for Metro from 2000 to 2005. I then moved out of town for several years, and returned relatively recently.

    I spent about 1/3 of my Metro career driving trolleys. I drove the AMGs, MAN artics, and Gillig trolleys extensively, but only drove a converted Breda once, as they hit the road in numbers during my last shakeup, when I was based at Central.

    I’ve been very surprised by some of what I’ve seen from trolley drivers on the street since I got back. It seems as though the 10 mph restriction through special work has gone out the window. I see trolleys quite regularly doing what looks like 20 or even 25 mph through straight special work, and 15 or so through the the non-straight portions of switches.

    The old (AMG/MAN) poles would fall off the wire at those speeds every time. The new fiberglass poles will usually handle those speeds, but when I drove we were told that we needed to maintain 10 mph anyway because of stress on the special work and the possibility of damage to it if we lost our poles at higher speed.

    So has Metro relaxed its policy in the all-fiberglass era? Has it just relaxed enforcement? Very curious.

    1. “It seems as though the 10 mph restriction through special work has gone out the window”

      The restriction is 5 mph systemwide and Metro periodically has “reigns of terror” on special work enforcement. There was quite a fuss within the last year or so when dozens of PRs were written for speeding through special work.

      All that said, I don’t think this is a safety issue. It’s really more about preventing damage to the overhead when losing your poles. You probably know that you learn what special work you could push and what special work you darn well better go through at 5mph.

      Now… About that rule requiring diesel coaches to not pass trolleys going through special work… ;)

      1. Interesting. It was 10 mph back in the day (except at a few specified places), but the periodic “reigns of terror” were the same. I think it was blind luck that I never got written.

        So I guess what I’m seeing now is just drivers pushing the limits a bit harder because everyone is fully used to the fiberglass poles after all these years.

        And my special bugbear was the switch on eastbound Pine just east of Bellevue. I went through that one at crawling speed every time and I swear I still lost my poles once out of every three times I went through it in a MAN.

      2. “(except at a few specified places)”

        That explains the “Extreme slow order – 5mph” signs

        “And my special bugbear was the switch on eastbound Pine just east of Bellevue”

        During the turn, right? Yeah, that’s still a tricky spot.

        The switch turning right onto 4th Ave from WB Jackson is probably the worst in the system. I can’t count the number of times I ended up blocking NB 4th Ave after making that turn. It got to the point where I’d make sure I blocked the whole street for safety – drivers would zip around my bus at high speed not realizing that a bus driver might be out there trying to reattach the poles so he can get the bus out of the way… Duh…

      3. Yeah, they’re not very good at noticing drivers out there. I eventually decided to wear my own vest at all times while operating a trolley, to save time and make sure I didn’t forget to wear it.

        Then again, it’s not just drivers. I remember the 1 Shuttle driver (back when there was such a thing) whose bus was hit square from behind while parked in the layover zone on Thomas St, with parking lights on. The driver actually said “I didn’t see a bus there.”

    2. This morning, I watched a trolley bus turn a corner off NE 45th St onto 11th, but the poles kept going along the 45th St wires until the bus yanked them off sideways.

      Did the driver forget to activate a switch or do you think something else went wrong?

      1. There are two kinds of switches. A “Fahslabend” switch is triggered by an RF signal which the driver can send either by activating the turn signal or by manually flipping a switch on the dash. A “directional” switch is triggered when the bus physically begins to turn by the resulting offset between the forward/back positions of the two poles.

        If memory serves (from 7 years ago), that one is a Fahslabend. Sometimes they fail to receive the RF signal correctly, or perhaps the driver failed to use his turn signal.

      2. Or there’s a physical problem: something out of alignment (heat kink? worn component?), or ice (probably not today).

    3. I’m wondering if trolley drivers are driving faster to compensate for increased traffic delays?

  7. I’m not local, but how are the tolls working out for 520 nowadays? A couple articles posted have indicated that there is some avoidance behavior congesting the connecting Interstates, as well as one remark that the tolls are keeping it free flowing. Is there an article with more detailed numbers that someone could point me to?

    1. 520 is better than i90 these days, but far from usable – even on a bus or other HOV.
      Check the flowmaps for black any day from 5-6pm.

      I wish they’d just start tolling i90 now. Is WSDOT or the legislature the blocker there?

      1. As a daily user, I have to say 520 is pretty usable on my bus. It’s wonderful enforced reading time. :)

        The federal government seems to be the blocker on Interstate (<- note, not a state highway) 90 right now, but I could be mistaken.

      2. The federal government makes it almost impossible to impose tolls on sections of interstates or U.S. highways that have historically not had tolls.

        I hope that policy will change as it results in absurd tolling decisions in many cities across the country. (My second city of DC is a particularly good example.)

      3. The feds gave approval for I-90 tolling. It’s the State Legislature that bowed to M.I. and other I-90 user pressure. Hopefully the back-ups get annoying enough that people who use I-90 will beg for tolling to even out traffic flow. BTW, the feds also cleared tolling on the I-5 express lanes. With a toll they might become faster than the mainline once again.

      4. Strange that the I-5 express lanes aren’t HOV. That would speed them up.

  8. Just a few questions… because I do not want to spam your Flickr feed:

    a) Would you consider the Airporter Shuttle transit?

    b) Do you consider Greyhound transit?

    Thought I’d check before starting to post.

    1. I vote “The more the merrier”. If Amtrak photos are there, why not Greyhound? And if by Airporter, you mean the Gray Line of Seattle bus to Sea-Tac, then it is also historical.

      The GLS Airporter was something I used on trips to or from the airport usually in combination with KC Metro for the other direction. Especially back when 194 would shut down at dusk.

    2. It’s not a black and white issue but a question of degree. A personal car or rental car is clearly not transit. A city bus or light rail clearly is. We’ve removed the word “public” so it’s not a question of public ownership. Greyhound and the airlines sell transportation to the public, so they provide the same function as a city bus, even though they’re not normally called transit. Taxis serve as bus substitutes, so they’re a kind of transit too. But employer shuttles, vanpools, and charter buses, maybe not. Still, we’re interested in anything that’s not a single-occupant owner-occupied vehicle.

  9. Thanks for posting that link to the 2011 Seattle Bike Count report. I have been looking for that data for months, and I would not have noticed it today, if your site did not mention it.

    The thing I was most interested in was the seasonal counts. You can see from the charts that at many of the locations, especially the locations with the highest counts, the number of bikes counted in July is 4 or 5 times as many as the number in January. This supports the common sense notion that bicycling is primarily a fair-weather endeavor, and not a practical year-round means of transportation.

    I also continue to find it amusing that SDOT says these counts are “quarterly.” Yet the four months they count are January, May, July, and September. Note that there are only 2 months between May and July, and July and September, but 4 months between September and January, and January and May. An honest “quarterly” count would be every 3 months, or January, April, July, and October. By doing it the way they are doing it, they get more counts in better weather months, and fewer counts in poorer weather months. And, yes, there can be a big difference in our weather between September and October. So, SDOT is cheating a little bit on their counts, and you can see the reason why: the great difference in bike counts between the various months, depending mostly, I assume, on weather, including fewer hours of daylight in January as “weather.”

    The last point I found interesting, and had not seen before, although it may have been available, is the average number of miles ridden by Seattle bicycle commuters each year: 1,992. This is a low number, and about what I would expect. That means an average commute of about 4 miles each way. How does that compare to the average commute by car, bus or train?

    When you read about the percentage of commuters who ride bikes, they never give the percentage of passenger-miles traveled by bikes compared to other modes of commuting. As a percentage of passenger-miles traveled during commuting, I would expect that bikes represent a very small percentage — well below the percentage of people who commute by bicycle. Maybe something along the lines of 1% of all commuting passenger miles are by bicycle in Seattle. A Publicola article quoted a study that the average Seattle commute is 18 miles one-way. That would come to about 9,000 miles per year commuting, on average, compared to 1,992 by bicycle.

    Thanks again for the link to this data. Very interesting.

    1. Once again, we have to point out that passenger miles are not the way to measure the effectiveness of a transit mode. It favors modes that are preferred by those with long commutes.

      Is a 60 mile commute by car worth more than a 4 mile commute by bike? If you measure by passenger miles, then yes, it is.

      We aren’t passenger miles. We are people, trying to get to work. The measure should be in trips.

      As for riding in the rain. You should check out the counts in Portland, or better yet, in Amsterdam or Copenhagen. These cities have similar climates, but as you improve the safety of cycling facilities (read: separation from cars), mode share greatly increases, and seasonality greatly decreases.

      1. When bikers complain about how much money is spent on bicycle paths compared to roads, it makes sense to compare passenger-miles traveled by each mode, instead of percentage of commuters using each mode.

      2. “When bikers complain about how much money is spent on bicycle paths compared to roads, it makes sense to compare passenger-miles traveled by each mode, instead of percentage of commuters using each mode.” -Norman

        No. Your logic is flawed. We spend based on trips, because taxes are paid by people, not by miles. Most of the funding for local infrastructure comes from general tax sources, not the measly gas tax we have here.

        Would it make sense to fund the FAA and the highway trust fund on a passenger mile basis? How much more money would the FAA be getting if this were the case?

      3. Norman, by your “logic” sidewalks and crosswalks would be a waste of money because pedestrians don’t account for very many passenger miles.

        Never mind the fact that everyone is a pedestrian at some point during every trip.

      4. We aren’t passenger miles. We are people, trying to get to work. The measure should be in trips.

        Better make sure to count cars that way too, then. You know, trips to the grocery store, trips to the pharmacy, trips to the doctor, trips to the restaurant, trips to the farmer’s market, trips to the organic dog food store, and yes, trips to Costco.

      5. In fact, most urbanists I’ve read the works of consider the use of a car to haul large quantities of material (for instance, trips to stock up at a large store) to be one of the *primary good arguments* for urban car ownership. They therefore encourage the availability of alternatives such as local grocery stores where it is possible to buy your food fresh daily rather than stocking up in large quantities; it turns out these require a substantial and difficult infrastructure.

    2. Funny, last year I biked almost exactly that number of miles for commuting(2,004), even though my total commuting was 21,000 miles. The 9% bike share got me to/from my 40-mile express bus. Since cutting my commute to 6,800 annual miles (13 miles each way), I still bike the same amount, but it’s now 30% of my commute rather than 9%.

      I wouldn’t expect 10+ mile bike commutes to ever be the norm. They’re a tool best suited for short to medium trips where topography is tolerable and where a 2-bus ride would be uncompetitive on cost and time. For example, a Fremont to Eastlake commute will ALWAYS be done best on a bike, but it’s unlikely that any bike policy could make bikes competitive on commutes like mine (Seattle to Tukwila).

      1. My commute from Bellevue to South Lake Union via bicycle was competative with the bus and my car during rush hour. My time on the bike is 1 hr 10 minutes to 15 depending on my level of fitness and whether I’d prefer the shorter but heavier traffic route through the city or the longer but “safer” route over Capital hill. My time using the car/bus (P&R) and walk or (SLUT) is 1hr. My time via the car only is 45 minutes if and only if the traffic doesn’t screw up with an accident. Also parking was $200/month, bus $4 (gas to the P&R) with employer paid ORCA card and bicycling $25 for parts/month.

        Even in the worst of weather I nearly always prefer the bicycle as I got addicted to the exercise. I used to read on the bus but it’s so crowded these days that I often don’t get a seat either way.

      2. Oh yeah, total distance 32 miles round trip, for last year’s 5K+ bicycle commuting miles.

    3. Norman, please explain to me why biking is not a year round transportation option, even though I have been doing exactly that now for two years from Central Whidbey to Seattle.


      1. Because, as the Seattle Bike counts show, almost nobody bikes in January. And I would assume that holds true for November, December, and February, as well. And, to a lesser extent, any bad weather days in most months.

        These charts show totals for just a few days of each month. Don’t know which days they were (it might have said, but I did not find that). So, I would imagine that, on particularly bad weather days in December, the number of bicycle commuters is much lower than the numbers on that chart.

        When you eliminate traffic lanes to put in bike lanes, like the city did on Dexter, those traffic lanes are gone for good. Even on a terrible weather day in December, when there are virtually no bicycles using Dexter, the number of traffic lanes is permanently reduced, although almost everyone using Dexter on those terrible weather days is in a motor vehicle.

        So, permanently reducing traffic lanes to build bike lanes is really stupid when bicycling is a seasonal, fair-weather transportation mode for the large majority of bicyclists. Particularly in Seattle, where we get a lot of bad weather in the fall and winter, especially.

      2. The traffic is to dangerous for my taste–bikers aren’t as protected with dedicated lanes (nor as respected by drivers) like they are in european cities.

        Plus the city is too damn hilly for comfort.

      3. Nah. Dexter just queues up for the Fremont bridge – put in a 12 lane freeway and you won’t get there any faster. Same with most/all of Seattle’s road diets – they’re bottleneck constrained, which removes these arguments. Bikes get the bottom of the barrel around here – once it’s determined cars absolutely don’t need the road space then the city begrudgingly hands over space.

      4. Norman, eliminating traffic lanes in the particular way they did on Dexter is often good for vehicle traffic as well. Instead of four narrow lanes which constantly require lane-switching because the left lane is blocked by left turners and the right lane is blocked by right-turners, you get enough space that all turning vehicles can get out of the way. Seattle’s experience shows that 3-lane arterials with bike lanes flow better than narrow 4-lane arterials if there is any significant amount of turning traffic, as there is on Dexter. Everyone wins!

      5. As a pedestrian, cyclist, transit rider and motorist, I can’t say enough good things about Dexter. It works better for every mode than it did before, and it feels safer. I’m guessing the data will indicate it *is* safer. A very, very good project. Even in December.

      6. @Norman

        First, without error bars, the number of valid inferences that can be made from any chart is small.

        Secondly, the quality of SDOT’s data presentation is abysmal to the point where I’m not clear on what quantity the numbers are measuring.

        The methodology they link to contains a procedure for extrapolating daily, weekly, monthly, and annual bicyclists based on the number of bicyclists counted during shorter intervals. I had assumed that the charts showed some measure of typical ridership over an entire day through each intersection, but I’m not sure that it does.

        In particular, it’s not clear to me whether each bar in the charts labeled “2011 Seasonal Bike Counts” corresponds to the sum of the raw counts for the 3 two hour intervals SDOT used, or an extrapolation from those intervals. I think it’s the former, in which case the actual daily ridership is probably significantly higher that what the charts show.

        Moreover, the methodology linked to advocates doing multiple counts for each location on separate weekdays, then averaging the counts. SDOT apparently only did one count per time interval, per location. The counts they did do likely do not accurately measure “typical” use, or the variation in use. The numbers they do show might be high, low, or close to average, but from the information SDOT apparently collected, we have no way of knowing.

        Apart from methodological concerns, even if the charts do accurately reflect the relative levels of bicycling during winter compared to spring, summer, and fall, I don’t think that argues against bike lanes. Eliminating bike lanes because they get less use in the summer would also eliminate them during the majority of the year during which they are more heavily used.

        I don’t know if there is any good data on the subject, but my impression, based on casual conversation with people who never bicycle, is that fear of riding in or near traffic is the top reason more people don’t bicycle in Seattle, though there are others of course (hills and rain probably being the next two). Lack of good bicycle lanes almost certainly suppresses bicycle modeshare in Seattle far below what it would be with if we had the level of bicycle infrastructure necessary to make more potential bicyclists feel safe.

      7. For long commutes, lack of a shower and a place to park one’s bike so that’s dry, and still there when you want to ride home is also a major factor. More companies are getting the religion but there are plenty of places which don’t have these two key facilities.

    4. As I understand it, biking is more seasonal in Seattle than in major European cities with much more severe winter weather than we have. This is not surprising.

      1. These cities have much better cycling facilities than we do. On good bike paths the difference between dark and light, and between wet and dry, is less severe than when you have to take the lane. And high-quality public covered bike parking, widely available in cities that take cycling seriously as a transportation mode, makes an enormous difference during the winter months.

      2. The average commute distance in these cities is less, which makes a winter bike ride more palatable for more people. A much larger number of commuters here are riding long distances as a workout on racing bikes, which is a lot more enjoyable during the summer.

      None of this stuff is set in stone.

      When we spend lots of money building freeways, creating a spiral of longer commute distances, the amount of money we need to spend to support commuting per-person just keeps climbing because of the increased distance. We should stop throwing good money after bad, and long commutes are unquestionably bad. They’re bad financially and bad environmentally.

  10. I can see your point, and in some cases it actually may make sense. But not on Dexter, its unfortunately a cycle path from hell now. Lots of bikes at all times of the year, and poor driver attention spans are a bad mix in the middle of winter.

    People bike year round given a path with less obstacles and have the right gear on. Done all over the world in fact. Just her in the US we have a ton of lard-asses, many like me in fact, but some of us actually get on our bikes and ride everyday.

    Thanks for the response, seriously!

    1. But not on Dexter, its unfortunately a cycle path from hell now. Lots of bikes at all times of the year, and poor driver attention spans are a bad mix in the middle of winter.

      So much for the “traffic calming.”

  11. Ugh, that story from India is a primary reason why rail (on dedicated ROW) is better than BRT: people may sneer at the train and think it is unfair that it gets to whisk past them while they sit in deadlock, but it would be pretty difficult for them to drive their cars on the tracks so its unlikely that any government or court would take the corridor away from the train.

  12. God, why do newspapers allow comments on articles? It’s nothing but a bunc of self-confident idiots spouting off what they think is information.

    The one that took the cake on the Amtrak/Bolt Bus article was this:

    “Passenger rail survived for 70+ years without subsidies. It didn’t need to have subsidies until Government interfered in the Free Market by subsidizing roads & planes.”

    As most of us here undoubtedly know, the passenger trains were heavily subsidized by the post office. This allowed the railroads to offer the extravagant services they offered. When that subsidy went away, the railroads tried to drop the trains, so the government created Amtrak. (OK, that’s a little bit of a simplification, but the general idea is right)

    1. The U.S Post Office also subsidized the commercial airlines. In fact, some of the major U.S. airlines came into existence as U.S. Mail carriers. After rail, much of the long distance first class mail moved to the commercial airlines.

      1. & of course the Post Office subsidized the roads. From day one; “post road” funding is even in the Constitution.

      1. Yes. They pay property tax on land they got for free in the first place.

      2. The land they were given for free was incredibly cheap. Much cheaper than the land that the federal government acquired using eminent domain, often destroying existing neighborhoods at the same time, to build the interstate system. Considering how old the railroads are now, I would imagine that they have more than payed back the value of the land in tax revenue. The interstates will never pay for themselves.

      3. The interstates have long since “paid for themselves” by stimulating massive economic activity along their paths, and by facilitating the shipment of people and goods. I do realize how much you hate personal vehicles and the autonomy they represent, but anyone who fails to recognize the contributions of roadbuilding is deluding themself.

      4. Actually, only certain railroads got land grants (west of the Ohio and south of the Susquehanna, and mostly west of the Mississippi).

        The Empire Corridor (NY Central mainline) and the New Haven (NEC from NY to Boston) were actually genuinely privately funded.

      5. I actually question whether there is real evidence that the Interstates provided significant economic benefits. As far as I can tell, no study has ever been done showing that they did anything other than moving economic activity around.

        The US highway system certainly did have significant economic benefits, as did rural road paving, as did the government-funded airports. Roadbuilding *does* have value in general.

        But the Interstates provide such a marginal improvement over the US highway system, in economic terms… it’s not clear to me that they were particularly valuable. They provide no benefit whatsoever for freight, which was fine on the US highway system and the railroads. For passengers, they are slower than the airlines, slower than properly-run railroads (which we lost), and they encouraged destruction of agricultural land. The places where the road traffic already justified access control were already building tollways.

        So I’m going to lay it out there: I’m not sure the Interstates were a useful project. The US had a lot of other things going for it in the 1950s (everyone else recovering from WWII destruction, sensible tax policy, baby boom, etc.) so it could afford some serious misallocation of resources and still boom. But were the Interstates really a worthwhile project?

    2. “I do realize how much you hate personal vehicles and the autonomy they represent……”

      Just who is the “you” in this scenario?

      Your victim complex is certainly interesting, and I’m sure there’s a therapist out there who would be happy to take you on. There’s no reason to do it here.. Don’t be such a cheapskate.

      (note to editor: if you OT me, you need to OT the message I’m replying to. No one in this particular part of the thread says they hate either personal vehicles or autonomy)

      1. Your victim complex is certainly interesting, and I’m sure there’s a therapist out there who would be happy to take you on. There’s no reason to do it here.. Don’t be such a cheapskate.

        Thank you for not launching an ad hominem attack! Kumbaya to you!

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