Photo courtesy planet_lb

This is an open thread.

71 Replies to “News Roundup: Around the Globe”

  1. for those interested …

    workers are going to start excavating the NB (outbound) trackway for the First Hill Streetcar between Howell and Pine this week.

    When that work is complete (may or may not include the crossover to the terminal track and the SB trackway) they will then move construction south to between Pike and Pine streets.

    track map:

    1. Looking at that map – are they removing cars from 14th between Yesler and Jackson? It sure looks like it. If so, it’s genius – that terrible 5-way intersection at Rainier/14th/Boren/Jackson slows everyone down and I assumed it would make the streetcar unreliable.

      1. It doesn’t look like it… Notice the back in angle spots on the east side of 14th at Main.

    1. It depends how you define “light rail.” If you’re referring to light rail as a lower-capacity rail mode than say a subway, then yes, SkyTrain is light rail. But if by light rail, you mean rail that typically has street-running (sometimes in mixed traffic) operating characteristics (as conceptualized in North America), then SkyTrain could not be defined as light rail.

      1. Correct. Link is really a rapid-transit system, with all the associated expense and capacity. Which is why we shouldn’t be sending out to the boonies, but rather concentrating it where it can do the most good.

      2. The definition I’ve always used for light rail is that it has the capability of operating on the street safely, i.e. overhead wire rather than third rail.

      3. The definition I’ve always used for light rail is that it has the capability of operating on the street safely, i.e. overhead wire rather than third rail.

        That’s the usual definition. SkyTrain cannot do that, thus not light rail.

      4. I thought “light” referred to lighter that the required FRA standards to operate in mixed use with freight railroads. Appears that has nothing to do with it. The only common denominator between the plethora of definitions seems to be that it’s a fixed guideway designed exclusively for passenger service. Wikipedia starts out:

        Light rail or light rail transit (LRT) is a form of urban rail public transportation that generally has a lower capacity and lower speed than heavy rail and metro systems, but higher capacity and higher speed than traditional street-running tram systems. The term is typically used to refer to rail systems with rapid transit-style features that usually use electric rail cars[1] operating mostly in private rights-of-way separated from other traffic but sometimes, if necessary, mixed with other traffic in city streets. If this is the case, then under the law of many countries such systems are legally tramways,

        It goes on give historical accounts of official definitions by various agencies. “Transportation Research Board (Transportation Systems Center) defined “light rail” in 1977 as: “a mode of urban transportation utilizing predominantly reserved but not necessarily grade-separated rights-of-way.” As opposed to a streetcar or tram which runs predominantly in mixed use with traffic.

    2. It is most correctly “Advanced Light Rail Transit”…

      And for the record, the Expo Line ROW was designed so that it could also handle the Düwag (later Siemens) U2 Light Rail cars that Calgary and Edmonton had bought, if that ended up being the choice of technology for the line.

      1. Interesting about the Expo Line. Working definitions of light and heavy rail could be not weight of the cars or passenger loads, but minimum degree of reservation they can handle.

        Light rail has no problem with fully-reserved elevated or subway track. But its distinction is that it can also run center-reservation, as on MLK, or even streetcar track.

        In Stockholm, the Flexity Swift cars on the Routes 12 and 22 run some very narrow streets with with unrestricted parking on some segments, and around sixty mph other places. The Nordic countries don’t say “light rail”. If it does any street running, a train of the caliber of LINK is a streetcar.

        I think light rail reached its height with the Chicago and North Shore Electroliner, between the 1940’s and 1963. Technically, it was called “interurban”. Street track in Milwaukee, a hundred miles an hour through the Skokie Valley, and around the Chicago Loop on the CTA elevated. One section was a cafe car with white table cloths.

        Look it up online. Some great history.

        Mark Dublin

    3. Light rail systems have the interchangeable parts common to all manufacturers light rail/streetcar/heavy rail systems for a century. SkyTrain is a proprietary technology, so it’s more like the monorail systems which are each proprietary too. In other words, it costs a lot more, and locks you into one vendor. Of course, you’re getting driverless trains and thus ultra-high frequency, which is a major advantage, but it has to be weighed against cost and vendor lock-in. That’s why SkyTrain has not been widely adopted, especially in the US where the public is only willing to pay for bare-bones minimal systems.

  2. Man that Vancouver story sounds like Seattle.

    Toderian said in his term as planning director he tried to start a new citywide plan but could not get past “obsolete” local neighbourhood plans that have only made the problem worse.

    “I did my part when I was director and didn’t vilify them but fundamentally they are dysfunctional planning mechanisms. They are recipes for inaction. They are both inflexible and unclear,” Toderian said.

    1. Yes, It’s time to incarcerate people who live in neighborhoods so that planners can perfect the planet.

      In other news, Danes are promoting sprawl but building 14 mile long bikeways. From that article it sounds like all of the biking they do hasn’t solved a roadway congestion problem.

      I’m all for safe bike lanes and the longer the better. And linking single family neighborhoods is a good idea. Why? Because people want to live in single family homes. By necessity, more than by choice people choose apartments and connected dwellings.

      1. “By necessity, more than by choice people choose apartments and connected dwellings.”

        You know this how? Are you sure your occupation doesn’t lead to a strong case of observation bias?

      2. I live in Seattle.
        I deal with a wide variety of people who make an effort to choose single family housing over connected housing. Even sellers of SFH aren’t clamoring to get into an apartment. I’ve been at this for 30 years and it’s my observation. Your opinion may vary.

      3. Y’all, y’all, y’all. Everything equal, we people do want to live some place with some space. We, for the most part, want to live in big houses with two-car garages in quiet neighborhoods with great schools, a short walk from all the economic opportunities and cultural vitality of Midtown Manhattan, except where everyone’s polite and there’s no traffic. People want easy access to the freeway (and we sure don’t want to pay tolls for it) and the airport (but no takeoff noise, please!), fast, frequent rapid transit that stops right in our neighborhood and goes everywhere with no intermediate stops, a pleasant walking environment, and safe, effective bike routes. And we want it all with low taxes, low cost-of-living, and everything local, organic, carbon-neutral, and fair-trade.

        The world is physical. Our desires conflict, especially with our own desires.

      4. “The world is physical. Our desires conflict, especially with our own desires.”
        And for that reason, we all should get to make choices. Single family neighborhoods exist because people want to live that way. Other people may want something different. So engineer your dense neighborhoods however you want for those that make that choice and allow single family neighborhoods to remain as they are.

      5. Even in an upzone, nobody forces anyone to tear down their single family home. “we all should get to make choices” Yep. Like we should all be able to make the choice to build up our city if we want to. You’re free to keep your home just the way you bought it forever, even if we upzone your land.

      6. Like that woman in Ballard?

        “People want easy access to the freeway (and we sure don’t want to pay tolls for it)”

        Or sit in traffic on it. Or deal with the noise from it while at home.

      7. The way you live isn’t just about the building you live in and the grounds surrounding it.

        Which isn’t to say that doesn’t matter at all. It does.

        But people have desires about their way of life that extend into our neighborhoods and cities in ways other than defining the heights and arrangements of the buildings we live in.

        Anyway, I thought this was about about bike paths in single-family neighborhoods, though suburbia and rural areas, etc. We should build bike paths in single-family neighborhoods. We shouldn’t do it because people want to live in single-family homes, we should do it because people do live in single-family homes and want bike access. We should build bike paths in low-rise office parks. We shouldn’t do it because people want to work in low-rise office parks, we should do it because people do work in low-rise office parks and want bike access. We should build bike paths through the financial district. We shouldn’t do it because people love the financial district, we should do it because people work and have business around the financial district, and want bike access. We should build bike paths in mixed-use neighborhoods. We shouldn’t do it because people want to live in mixed-use neighborhoods, but because people do live there (and work there and shop there) and want bike access.

        We can do it in all these places because bike infrastructure is relatively cheap and has few negative externalities compared to roads for cars and even transit infrastructure, and really doesn’t contribute much to sprawl because biking has a pretty low top-speed. We can expect the most impact in areas with plenty of density and mixed use, and sadly in our city today these are the places that need and lack bike infrastructure the most, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore single-family neighborhoods when opportunities exist to improve bike access.

      8. From the Wall Street Journal,July 17th, 2012

        A Neighborhood’s Comeback
        Part of Pittsburgh Finally Recovers From 1950s Planners; Google Sets Up Office

        “PITTSBURGH—Starting in the mid-1950s, civic leaders tried to revitalize East Liberty, a once-thriving shopping district suffering from white flight to the suburbs. Now, East Liberty finally is recovering from errors made by city planners—mistakes repeated across the U.S. in that era of giant urban-renewal projects.”

      9. That is so right, Al. Without changing neighborhoods by upzones, but by eliminating streets for cars and making streets for people the neighborhoods will become more dense and some business will locate in/near them, where it is feasible for the occupants to get to work and get to shopping without a car.

      10. I wasn’t shopping for a single family house, but it’s what I ended up making an offer on. A townhouse was more what I was looking for.

        But I ended up being priced out of them and down into a small 1940’s era tract house, in a SF5000 zone, just outside of the “urban village” I would rather live within. As a society, we are subsidizing that lifestyle choice and pushing people into it who would rather live in a denser, more walkable environment (but can’t afford to because we artificially limit supply).

      11. It should be possible to merge people’s desire for single-family homes and yards with better urban design. The frontier is gone; people no longer buy a piece of land with nothing around it. Large developers subdivide the land into lots, and people buy the lot. Thus, people don’t have the “freedom” to decide whether the neighborhood should be cul-de-sac or grid, or the spacing of the neighboring houses. Their only decision is whether to buy in this neighborhood or another neighborhood. So if the counties change their policies to make neighborhoods more walkable and more amenable to transit, it doesn’t give people less freedom than they currently have.

        It should be possible for urbanists and single-family fans to work together to build housing clusters that give people yards while still using overall space more efficiently. For instance, one example, not a panacea but desirable by some, is the movement in some blocks to tear down their fences and create a large common yard rather than small individual yards. Another, more farfetched idea, is rooftop gardens in a terrace arrangement, so that one house is under the garden and a house behind it opens up to the garden.

      12. Lack, We are in the same boat (although not looking to buy right now, hopefully tomorrow we close on our old SFH and get that albatross off from around our neck). What my wife and I want is a row house. Neither me or my wife want a front yard.

        But since Glenn and his ilk don’t like choice, b/c they think everyone should be forced to share their lifestyle we have very little multifamily homes (townhomes, duplexes, rowhouses, etc) and what we do have is overly priced due to the high demand.

  3. What happens when the proverbial dog finally catches the car? A little over two weeks ago, a man waiting for bus on 15th and Republican has his iPad snatched from his hands. When he catches up to the thief, he is brutally beaten, suffering a broken jaw, eye socket, and rib. The snatching part was caught on video.

    1. When I’m on the street, I put my easily snatched $500 devices in my backpack whether I’m waiting for a bus or not.

    2. That’s terrible. It does remind me of a much lighter story, though. When I was a young man (many years ago) I had a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was my first job. While working there, my manager, a rather heavy guy, called to me from the back of the store.

      “There is someone stealing some food from the locker!”, he yelled.

      So, I ran back there and saw him. He took off. Being the competitive (and perhaps loyal) guy that I was, I chased after him. He was pretty fast, but I was 17 and in good shape, so I started catching up to him. As I did so, I wondered what the heck I was going to do. Tackle him? On the cement? That’s nuts. Before I could figure out what I was going to do, he turned around and said …

      “I’m hungry man, give me a break”

      So, I did. I turned around and walked back to my boss and told him I couldn’t catch him. I think he ended up with a handful of frozen custard.

  4. Hello All!
    I was just wondering what the chances of a 140 Express Route were.(By passing some of the Southcenter Stops, Stops along Grady Way, and the Tukwilla Sounder Station)

    1. Don’t expect it to be very expressful, just slightly better and with 15-minute evening/Sunday frequency (if it’s like RR A and B and not like RR C). The biggest difference is the Renton section on Oakesdale & Lind Avenues rather than Grady Way. I don’t know whether that’s better or worse; you may have an opinion.

      There has been talk of a Burien – Renton Link line, which could cut travel time dramatically, but there’s been no official proposal yet. It could potentially be in ST3.

      1. Honestly most of the people from Renton are getting off at Southcenter or they are going to Tukwilla station to transfer to link & other buses. I know about RR F but if its anything like the RR A line then its honestly the same thing just a bigger bus with less stops(unless they add a bus lane or signal priority). Ridership would increase if the bus had an express version.

        Oh and another thing, I live right by the 169 stop and when i do take the bus between 1-4 PM it seems to be packed full. I even had to enter the back of the bus because there was no room. Kind of reminded me of the Route 7. Could metro not increase frequency to 20 min. instead of 30 during peak? Or at least put an articulated bus?

  5. A TOD missed opportunity …

    Sam, the problem solver, to the rescue!

    When East Link begins, a number of bus routes will be eliminated, and Metro will no longer need two bases right across the street from each other. Sound Transit should buy Metro’s Bellevue base and use that for their maintenance barn. It’s similar in size to this property they just bought, and it’s also adjacent to the future rail line.

    1. Unless Metro redeploys the service hours to other Eastside bus routes, in which case there would be no net shrinkage of buses. There will be a big market for frequent feeder routes when Link is complete.

    2. … Sound Transit will no longer need, not Metro. But the 550 and 545 are parked at Metro’s East Base. If those routes, and others, were eliminated because of East Link, Metro could move their buses from Bellevue Base over to East Base, and sell the Bellevue Base property to Sound Transit for their Maintenance Yard.

  6. Doesn’t someone here work for Microsoft? There’s a 26 acre greenspace on the corner of 51st and 148th in Redmond that is currently being obliterated to make way for Microsoft low-rise office buildings and parking garages. I know how much this blog hates poor land use and parking garages, so I can’t wait to watch this guy rip his employer a new one!

    1. Interesting, I thought it was owned by Nintendo. Turns out they sold it to MS back in 2007; right at the peak of the real estate bubble. I’m sure MS would gladly build taller but it’s City of Redmond that has the low rise height restrictions. Pretty silly when this is already all commercial, next to a freeway and the Link Station is going in right next door. Redmond’s record of land use is probably the worst on the eastside.

      1. Parcel Viewer says Microsoft bought it from Nintendo in 2007 for $42 million. And about Remond’s height restrictions, don’t you think if a small time developer can get a height variance for an apartment building he’s building in the city of Seattle, Microsoft could get one in Redmond?

      2. Are you talking about the height bonuses allowed when low-income housing is built, or buildings are built to LEED standards? Those are built into the codes. I suppose a variance is possible through design review, but that’s subject to the community’s whims. What recent projects were built higher than the zone allows?

      3. Height is not the issue for MS in Redmond. It’s FAR – floor/area ratio. They bump up against that limit long before they hit the height limit. Even if they only built 1 story, they would hit the FAR limit before they filled the lot.

        Redmond zoning in the Overlake area is also highly variable depending on use. You can build a variety of uses on any parcel in the area, but you get different FAR and height restrictions based on the planned use. “Software publishing” uses are restricted down to a FAR around 0.5 depending on the specific parcel, while residential uses are allowed to build much denser, with a far around 3.0 (again, depending on the specific parcel).

    2. Don’t blame Microsoft, blame the City of Redmond. Microsoft’s campus maxes out the allowed FAR (which is ~0.5 for office uses in that area), and has the minimum amount of parking required by Redmond zoning.

      All those big open green spaces and playfields on the Microsoft campus are required to comply with the zoning.

      1. But Microsoft dominates Redmond so heavily that if it really wanted to there is no doubt in my mind that it could get the zoning changed to allow for higher density. Or Microsoft could build a tower in Downtown Seattle, which would have the added benefit of being more convenient for the new generation of young tech workers who want to live in the city.

      1. Because they’re not a transit agency? I dunno, I criticize Microsoft plenty at home.

    3. LT, STB criticizes plenty of things that aren’t transit agencies. They demonize culdesacs for God’s sake. Microsoft plays a very large role in this region’s transit. MS has their own (subcontracted) transit agency. East Link’s alignment and terminal are because of MS. Much of the congestion on the eastside if because of MS. And I do blame Microsoft for how Microsoft develops its property, not Redmond. Microsoft is the 800 lb gorilla in the relationship, not Redmond. I’ve been reading STB for years. STB is more than a transit blog. Yes, it’s mostly a rail fetish blog, but it’s also part transit blog, and part land use blog, and part city planning blog. I know what they’re for, and what they’re against. And much of what STB is against, Microsoft does, in a big way! But STB tends to avoid taking issue with anything MS does. I’m just asking why.

  7. A fleet question for anyone: So, is Metro increasing its overall fleet with the continuous addition of DE60LFR’s or is Metro replacing the DE60HF’s on a one-per-one basis? Same question with the 40′ Gilligs and the Orion’s.

    1. Good question. My hunch is that, as the 4200-series converted Breda’s “fall apart” per se, routes 7, 36, 43, 44 and 49 will need diesels to sub for them. So I believe the D60HF’s (no “E” as they use conventional diesel propulsion) will remain in active service longer than expected, even though technically these days Metro is acting as if conventinal diesel propulsion is going the way of the steam locomotive. I have not seen any DE60LFR’s outside of South or East, except a few occasions on the 36 ( coach 6960).

      As for the Orions, it has become apparent that Metro has purchased more than the initial 169 (the highest coach I can recall seeing is 7177), but since Orion is going out of business, the question is what will replace the 212+ other Gilligs? More Gilligs (Advantages)? D40LF’s?

      In other words, it is not certain whether the new buses are 1-for-1 replacements. We shall see.

      1. Metro isn’t interested in buying anything which is not a hybrid (except for the Workhorse vans, where no hybrid alternative exists). So I doubt we’ll see more D40LFs. If Orion is unwilling to complete Metro’s order, it’s more likely that they’ll buy DE40LFRs instead, which can be had with either the same Allison parallel hybrid system as the artics, or a Siemens series-hybrid setup. The BAE series-hybrid system in the Orions is not an option for the New Flyers, so I suspect they’ll go with the Allison system that they already have experience with.

        But this might all be moot. I have no inside info on this, but I strongly suspect Daimler will allow Orion to complete Metro’s order (and even their options), before laying off the staff and liquidating the factory. They just aren’t going to take any new orders or develop a next-gen design. So there is a chance that Metro still might be able to replace all the Gilligs with Orions.

  8. I read “Light rail vs. SkyTrain” and thought something else had run a red light on MLK.

  9. My favorite response in the Taxi article was the one that ended with:

    If it’s before 11pm … I grab the light rail. At least it knows where it is going.

  10. Where else would ST put an eastside maintenance facility? The largely neglected light industrial area along B7 would have been good but it was deemed more important to serve the swamp. Funding ran short for the E segment so Marymoor is out. The idea of wedging it between 520 and NE 20th never did sound rational. They’d have to buy out numerous viable businesses rather than one factory that closed after it’s freight rail connection was severed. Plus the they really should be transitioning to elevated before crossing NE 20th at grade (stupido!). Of course it’s questionable they’ll ever need an eastside MF; at least not until the bridge sinks, again. And 180 cars seems like drastic overkill even for ST. Figure Overlake to Lynnwood is an hour tops, I’d hope. 6 minute headways means 10 trains each direction. Even if you use 4 car trains that’s only 80 cars that would be in service.

  11. Wouldn’t the Tacoma Dome be the ideal place for a new NBA/NHL franchise?

    It has its own Sounder Station…so it’s transit rich.

    It is connected to the local LINK.

    It has more than adequate parking and is freeway accessible from the 4 corners of Washington.

    It’s hardly used at all (I checked the calendar and there’s only one scheduled event each month…and sometimes not even that!)

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