This is an open thread.

72 Replies to “News Roundup: Risk Reduction”

      1. Just anecdotal (photo essay here). Sounds like the long wait was to buy tickets (not needed if you have an Oyster card).

        But at a daily ridership of 30% of your full capacity, I’d guess the lines come and go. There has to be long lines at some part of the day, unless ridership is steady throughout the day and on into the night (hours are 7am – 11:30pm).

  1. Ugh. The comments on that PubliCola article on SDOT’s bad waterfront decisions make my head hurt.

    Apparently it’s just too difficult to understand that the same buses that would run along the waterfront also go to West Seattle and Ballard during the course of their routes.

  2. Word to Seattle City Council, SDOT, and the Seattle Waterfront Project that they all need to hear from a lot of people besides me:

    An artery in a human leg free of blood clots is not a “want”. With the amount of general traffic likely to replace Viaduct travel with surface travel in the same place, any transit vehicle in regular lanes might as well be up on cinder blocks selling street food. Pedicabs really would be better public transit.

    Fortunately, I don’t think a single KC Metro bus has to be on the Waterfront at all. Option under study that makes the most sense is to route West Seattle bus routes through Pioneer Square, either via transit and pedestrian mall on Main or couplet of Main and Washington.

    Marion/Madison trolley service can U-turn at First, with passengers accessing the Waterfront via footbridge to Colman Dock- as I think Bruce has suggested. Same with Route 16 or whatever succeeds it.

    Linear Waterfront transit is best provided by a spur of the First Hill streetcar line, likely Jackson to Occidental to Yesler to Alaskan Way- running in its own lanes to the east of the roadway at least as far as the Aquarium, before possible street running to the Sculpture Garden.

    Lame slogans and the mentality behind them are like the chronic lingering sniffles that plague offices in badly-ventilated buildings. Cure is same: fresh air and strong antibodies. Seawall Committee of Seattle City Council and both list full calendar of meetings with public comment.

    It’s still early enough in the design phase to get this right. Waterfront transit can be built to work. But it has to be integrally designed into everything that happens on the Waterfront. As an add-on- not a chance.

    Mark Dublin

  3. Toyota Confirms Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Sedan Due Out in 2015

    Lentz offered no details on the Toyota hydrogen fuel-cell sedan, but presumably it would compete with the Honda FCX Clarity. Honda says the FCX Clarity’s fuel efficiency is three times that of a comparably sized gas-powered car. It has a 240-mile driving range and a five-minute refueling time, said the automaker.

    1. That’s terrific, but it doesn’t magically open up roadway or parking capacity. Car pollution and car space occupancy are two separate problems. Both would need to be solved before we could give up transit in favor of cars. And the space occupancy problem is the harder problem.

      1. That could ameliorate parking issues, but does little to solve roadway capacity issues. We still can’t have everyone on the roadways at once in individual cars during rush hour. There’s just not enough space, and if you built enough space, you’d be living in a godforsaken asphalt jungle.

      2. The car might also be obsolete…which is why I say personal transit.

        If you have a driverless, pollutionless, transportation system, you can build all sorts of devices and configurations. From go karts that deliver groceries, to Segway pods that self assemble into 3 decker rail cars.

      3. I actually agree that the prospect of autonomous vehicles create all sorts of new possibilities. I envision that vehicles could be used to shuttle you to frequent transit corridors. You no longer need to own a car. The thousands of dollars you would have spent on owning, maintaining, fueling and insuring a vehicle is freed up.

        I think it would allow transit agencies to concentrate their investments on mass transit corridors and not the marginal routes they have to serve now.

        Ultimately, the pattern of life is moving towards denser communities. I envision autonomous vehicles as a transition technology.

      4. Alternatively you could have an asymmetric pattern.

        Where you live — or rather — where you sleep, could be a restful two acre agriburb…with a mini farm and partial generation of your own energy from solar-hydrogen.

        But at the same time, you could have very dense Urban Playlands, like a Disneyland (or a mall), that have no “cars” at all, just walkways and low power vehicles. These would be gathering places, entertainment complexes, shopping palaces.

        Because of autonomous vehicles, and rapid speed corridors, yes, I agree, at some point the ideal “last mile” is some sort of on demand taxi. This then frees the planners to build the most optimal corridors, with the highest speeds possible.

        Autonomous solves many problems. One of the biggest issues now is that while you may want to drive your car to park and ride and get transit, what do you do when you get there if you still require a car at the destination? This is as big a reason as any as to why many people drive when they “could” take transit…because there is no car waiting for them at the other end to complete their journey.

      5. Self-driving cars: Coming sooner than you think?

        From parking-assist to adaptive cruise control, more cars in showrooms are coming loaded with helpful tech for drivers.

        But that kind of sensor-based tech is one-sided. To be truly useful, vehicles need to be connected to one-another in a network. Coincidentally, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology is also being tested by a range of automakers and agencies. As V2V and sensor-based technology evolve side by side, that could ratchet up the deployment of self-driving cars.

      6. Robot cars are not going to be accepted until they are ~100 times better than human drivers. Unfortunately, this is a prejudice we don’t know how to change.

  4. Agree with the Amtrak HSR article. Been reading they have parts of the Michigan lines running at 110 mph…that is “enough” for some uses.

    Imagine having a single stop HSR running Seattle to Tacoma at 110mph every 30 minutes. 30 miles in 20 minutes? It would essentially double the size of the urban area.

    1. I actually found it wanting. I do need to reread it but there was a lot of emphasis on increased capacity – which isn’t the problem (or certainly not as much of problem) – the issue is speed. Boston to DC needs to be faster than air transport. Also, there aren’t any hard numbers – is it really only 10% of the cost?

    2. Amtrak Cascades is aiming toward 110 mph long term, along with more runs. That’ll get you to Tacoma every few hours, though not half hourly. 20-minute travel time is probably unrealistic though, because there will always be special speed limits in population centers and sharp curves. Full-speed 110 mph is more for the open country, which Seattle – Tacoma isn’t.

      1. Right now it seems like the fastest part of the ride to Portland is south of Olympia down to about Kelso, then things slow down. That is the most promising area for 110 MPH.

  5. Just want to use this space here to thank Seafair & Metro & Sound Transit for the transit services last Saturday. Really awesome to get a day pass and ride the light rail to the Seafair shuttle, a Seafair shuttle back to light rail and then a quick taxi to the Museum of Flight.

    Thanks guys, that’ll be all. Nicely done Seafair, Metro & Sound Transit.

  6. A comment I posted to Sightline HOT-lane thread:

    I think most drivers don’t think of the cost of driving on a per-trip basis. In fact, most of them don’t want to think of it at all, but they consider maintenance, gas, insurance, etc. as “committed” costs, mostly immutable. This is reinforced by the fact that gas tanks carry enough fuel for several trips, so buying gas every week or so is just a fact of life, like your trash-pickup bill.

    The only time to consider it is when buying a new vehicle, but external factors (person/cargo capacity, offroad capability, sportiness, towing limit) usually trump gas-mileage and other per-trip costs.

    Now that I’m biking/busing (with free employer-provided pass) more, when I do drive, I am rather conscious of the trip-cost… 30 miles to the arena tonight for my men’s-league hockey playoff = ~ 2.25 gallons of gas @ $4/gal for the good stuff = $10. The league fee (for ice time, referees, admin, trophies, etc.) works out to about $20/game, but I bet if I asked my teammates why hockey was expensive, not 1 would bring up that 30% of the cost is getting there.

    However, while driving is perceived as free, however, tolls, including HOT lane-fees, are not perceived as free; each one is a buying decision. This leads to the same sort of penny-wise-pound-foolish sort of thinking that has a company buy the cheapest printer paper that causes paper-jams, which results in a $60/hr employee spending their time un-jamming the printer (instead of advancing the interests of the company: double whammy).

    1. You could also ask which society you would rather live in.

      It’s sort of the argument about vertical density being “more efficient”.

      How far do you take it…at what point do you put everyone in a cellblock inside of a prison and feed them at the same cafeteria every night.

      Very efficient right?

      So, half of the equation is doing it efficient or cheaply, but the other half is building a society we would want to live in.

      In your example, ideally, transit and transportation would be as free as water. Wouldn’t you want to go and jump in a car, or bus, or train and go wherever you want, whenever you want to do what want to do?

      1. How is water free? It takes energy to transport it, energy to clean it, energy to consume it, and energy to dispose it. I hear there are some in America wishing for a little water. Since water is free, then it should be no problem to solve their issue, right?

        Who am I kidding? Free ponies for all! (but no pony poo, obviously)

    2. And you are still forgetting to factor in other costs: depreciation, wear and tear, maintenance. There are sunk costs for cars, but there are also incremental costs other than gas. $0.20 to $0.30 per mile is a good range depending on your situation.

      1. Do you know how AAA comes up with the $.59/mile figure? They assume that you trade your car in every 5 years. That just puts a major portion of the cost in the capital cost column. Keep the car longer, and those costs just move over to the operational cost column.

        Saying “Oh well, it’s a sunk cost, I have to pay it anyway.” is just rationalizing a bad economic decision.

        Why, or better yet, who has decided that we must be totally dependant on an auto based transportation system?

        There’s no ‘sub-area equity’ rules in place for the gas tax.

        Just give me the opportunity to vote on a plan… that’s all.

      2. A ton of AAA and the IRS numbers are depreciation. And contrary to what someone else mentioned that those costs exist anyway they don’t totally. Go to a price calculator and enter your car with 100,000 miles on it or 10,000 miles and see which car has more value. The more you drive it the less it’s worth. I usually calculate 50 cents per mile because it’s a good round number although AAA and IRS both use numbers above that.

      3. A ton of AAA and the IRS numbers are depreciation.

        Of course transit advocates never include those costs in “cost per boarding” because… well, trains would actually suck! If you look at O&M costs like transit cars are a great deal. Why? You don’t have a retirement plan built into the cost of driving your own car!

      4. Right. Those don’t count either, to most drivers. “Oh, I’m 4000 miles over have to get my 30k service done, but that’s gonna be, like, $400” “Oh, yeah, wait ’til the 60k + timing-belt”. The fact that you have to get that done because you drove 30,000 miles is lost on them.

    3. The league fee (for ice time, referees, admin, trophies, etc.) works out to about $20/game, but I bet if I asked my teammates why hockey was expensive, not 1 would bring up that 30% of the cost is getting there.

      That’s a good point but on the flip side consider the cost of transit. 1.5% of sales tax for Metro and 1.5% for ST plus car tab fees, etc. Then start to add in the time cost of 2-3X vs personal responsibility. I remember driving past the rink at Kingsgate and seeing buses from the northern interior of Canada at 8AM and games had already finished. Publicly funded transit is not the answer unless you want to severly limit mobility. The true cost of mobility may indeed be masked by subsidies but eliminate those and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe the best value is just stay home and work in the yard of your suburban home :=

      1. Uh, no. The answer in cities, with congestion, is to have competent public transportation; in places where it *works* it is *faster* than private cars.

  7. Does anyone know if ORCA automatically does day passes for Link, capping the total payment at double a one-way fare?

    According to ST’s Link fare page you can buy a day pass for double the cost of a one-way ticket. In my admittedly limited experience you can also effectively do this by purchasing two one-way tickets (one in each direction between two stations). With my ORCA, it appears that I at least get a free transfer on a return trip, but I haven’t tried riding multiple times in a day outside the 2 hour transfer window. If paper ticket buyers can get a day pass while ORCA users can’t, that seems… ridiculous enough to be true.

      1. Actually, Rob has said far more about transportation than Inslee, thank you. I watch the debates, and Inslee bumbles the question EVERY TIME.

        Maybe you should check out his campaign website and look at his answer to the “Question of the Week: Transportation.” Rob believes in transit funding, but we REALLY need to fund roads. The congestion in this region is not sustainable and will ultimately cripple the economy.

        Get off your liberal agenda and realize that the roads need maintaining too. My most recent bus trip in Seattle was extremely jarring, yet McGinn seems bent on building “happy trains” on a road that would basically duplicate a route made by the Link extension. How much sense does that make? How much will this cost taxpayers? Why don’t we repave, and maintain the roads we have, so MORE folks can benefit.

      2. Charlotte, your post is so severely misguided that I don’t even know where to begin.

        First, you mistake “funding roads” (by which I assume you mean “funding road construction“) with “alleviating congestion.” The one does not necessarily lead to the other; in fact often new roads will increase congestion. Traffic grows to fill the available capacity.

        That is why this blog promotes mass transit as a congestion mitigation: you can either have more cars clogging up more roads, or you can take cars off the existing roads by building effective transit systems.

        The First Hill Streetcar, which you erroneously blame Mike McGinn for, exists solely because Sound Transit, a state entity, decided to delete the First Hill station from University Link. In other words, it exists to replace promised but deleted service, rather than duplicate it.

        You won’t see me heralding the alignment we wound up with as good planning, but you cannot blame Mike McGinn for the First Hill Streetcar.

      3. The congestion in this region is not sustainable and will ultimately cripple the economy.

        100% right on. Congestion is not sustainable. Building more congestion is doubling down on a bad bet. We have a vast oversupply of road capacity. We have an acute shortage of peak capacity. Spending billions on peak capacity road construction not only doesn’t work but makes the problem worse. Spending billions to “solve” the peak capacity problem with light rail also doesn’t work but at least doesn’t have the inherent blight of widening freeways. Yeah, it sucks for people impacted by property take aways and those close to the line but it’s not nearly as bad (or as expensive) as adding lanes to the Interstate.

      4. Light rail is not just about addressing peak capacity. It’s about providing all-day-and-evening transit that’s better than the existing bus service. That allows more people to use cars less often or to go car-free. A narrow focus on “peak capacity” doesn’t gain you those. People won’t take peak-only transit unless it works for all parts of their round trip. If they’re making a side trip in the evening, or checking on their kids in the middle of the day, or think that the might need to check on their kids in the middle of the day, they can’t just put on flying feet for the segments where no reasonable transit is available, they’ll take their car for the whole trip.

        Sounder is an example of peak-only capacity. It works only to the extent that people can leave their car at a Sounder station and come back to it later. It doesn’t work for other combinations of trips.

    1. Matt Yglesias is an [ad hom] unfortunately.

      Food service on long-haul trains is *always* a loss leader. It’s expensive to run a restaurant in a moving train. You want to avoid doing so if possible…

      …but it’s not possible to avoid it in a train which runs over two or three mealtimes. Passengers, being *humans* rather than robots, demand food. Just as they demand water (also expensive to provide on a train) and bathrooms (also expensive to provide on a train).

      Next they’ll be complaining that the bathrooms on Amtrak aren’t profitable. IDIOTS.

    2. And incidentally…. Amtrak’s food service is understaffed so it can’t provide food fast enough, which means that fewer people can be served per hour, which means the food service ends up having less revenue and much the same costs…

      …people talk all manner of bullshit about topics about which they know nothing. It’s very irritating.

      1. I’d like to see Matt take the Empire Builder between Seattle and Chicago and tell us how it is possible to run that train without offering on-board food service.

        That said I’ve taken both the EB and the Coast Starlight and wish the on-board food offerings in coach were up to the same standards as the Cascades trains.

  8. Testing underway for Sounder train extension to Lakewood

    Testing for the Sounder train extension to South Tacoma and Lakewood started today. Trains will be traveling the tracks between Tacoma Dome Station and Lakewood Station as often as every 30 minutes, so be sure to pay attention to all warnings and traffic signals when traveling near those tracks.

    1. Question: How many people are willing to have a 75 minute commute to work (not including however long it takes to drive from home to Lakewood Station)? Is this enough to justify the massive capitol expenditure here, especially when it will only provide 2 round trips per day.

      Will Amtrak eventually be able to make use of this investment on its Seattle->Portland route, or are we building a whole set of tracks for two Sounder trips a day and nothing else.

      1. Where did you hear there would only be 2 round trips per day to Lakewood? That seems rather low.

      2. It’s primarily being built as the Pt Defiance bypass for Amtrak. The Lakewood Sounder is more or less just flying the flag. Parking at Lakewood Station is already maxed out with the express bus service. I suppose some people will take the train to jobs in Puyallup, Kent and Renton. But unless they increase parking (very expensive) or start providing more shuttle service, for which PT doesn’t have any money, it’s going to be near impossible to generate any new ridership. Now, if JBLM could be persuaded to provide decent shuttle service that could be a winner. Maybe even enough to justify an extension to Dupont.

      3. I stand corrected. There will be 5 round trips to Lakewood each day, not 2. (

        @Bernie – even if a JBLM shuttle existed, the single-direction-peak-only schedule of the train would make it only useful for people who live in the base and work in Seattle. For anyone commuting too the base for work, the Sounder train would be completely useless, with or without a Shuttle to Lakewood.

  9. Question, Charlotte: what is there about rail transit that’s especially politically “liberal”, however you define the term?

    The best US transit magazine in decades was called “The New Electric Railway Journal.” It was published by the Free Congress Foundation, the creation of the late Paul Weyrich, who was politically to the right of the late Louis XIV.

    Paul believed with considerable justification that subsidies to using private automobiles as our sole public transportation, assisted by Big Government enterprises like the Interstate Highway program, constituted the biggest socialist endeavor in history.

    He also thought that true free enterprise in transportation would give us a fifty-fifty mode split between private cars and transit, especially if most transit was done with streetcars.

    Very likely, like sewers and fire departments, unsubsidized private enterprise isn’t really interested in transportation, for the simple reason is that there’s no profit in it. And like most real functions of public life, most efficient way to do it doesn’t fall into current political classifications.

    However, if you use the term “conservative” in its most useful sense, as a synonym for “careful”, rail transit is by its very nature conservative. The PCC streetcar is very hard to improve upon. Computers don’t like heat, dirt, shocks and surprises, which are the essence of ground transit.

    Same with the term “liberal”. Over time, what makes life comfortable and worthwhile for the average person hasn’t changed since we lost our tails.

    Mark Dublin

    1. If you use the term “conservative” in its most useful sense, as a synonym for “careful”, there are no conservatives left in the Republican Party.

      Politically, “conservative” has come to mean “reality-denying whackjob” and “liberal” has come to mean “anyone else”. It’s bizarre, but there’s language for you.

  10. The waterfront streetcar is piece is a classic transit wish article. However, what’s missing is they are looking to spend $1 billion on that waterfront revival, so maybe putting it back might not be completely out of the question.

  11. CR handled that segment surprisingly well. He gave equal time to people who live there, people who actually live next door, and to a concerned neighbor.

    I think he was a little freaked out by how small the units are, but he certainly was more sympathetic to the aPODment people than he could’ve been.

    1. That did seem like a well done piece. Presenting them as an alternative to a group house or dorm room as opposed to another apartment makes a lot of sense.

  12. Going through the STB Flickr pool, seeing Zack’s photos of the Bredas reminded me of what I never liked about the old destination signs: the lowercase letters. Was there a reason Metro chose to use those? Were the signs they chose incapable of all caps display? I’m assuming it was a Metro decision as they existed across the fleet on different makes of buses. They were so hard to read. Had they been in all caps, like the signs are now, I feel like they would have been much easier to see.

    1. It’s actually been found that a mix of case (such as typically used with a proper noun, like Broadway) is easier to read from a distance than all-caps. Much of reading is based on shape recognition, rather than adding up individual letters to make a work. All-caps messes this up. There’s actually a federal mandate that is currently in effect that requires new signs to be mixed-case.

      Other readability concerns: why don’t more buses have the white LED destination signs? They are much brighter than the amber LED displays, and are more readable from a distance.

      1. The white LEDs are blinding. I cursed that one #44 with the white LED headsign. Physically painful to look at it.

      2. Yeah, they could be turned down a little at night, but for the sunny summer days, it’s nice to be able to see the bus info.

    1. If you download the OFM data it lists King County population in 2010 at 1,931,249 and in 2011 as 1,942,600. For Snohomish the 2010 number is 713,335 vs 717,00 in 2011. Annual population change for WA 2010-2011 is +43,360. Maybe the lost people were found stuck in traffic :=

      The only counties where the population declined are; Garfield (-16), Pacific (-20) and Pend Oreille (-1). What I found most surprising is that “natural increase” (births – deaths) exceeds net migration by eight fold.

      1. From census data, if Seattle 2011 population is 620,778 then it grew by 12118. According to the OMF data King County grew by 11351 meaning all growth was attributable the area inside the Seattle city limits. That’s a bit hard to believe. Other areas, like Bellevue have added residents but where were the big loses? I’d put money on areas around Auburn being the biggest loser. Huge numbers of foreclosed homes are out in the too-lies… Not to fear, Sounder here!

      2. It’s a little surprising, since from 1990 to 2010, Seattle’s annualized rate of population growth was about 0.82%, so if anything like 2% yearly growth is sustained throughout the rest of the decade, it’ll be a dramatic increase- about another 133,000 people in the city. Even if growth averaged “only” a linear increase of 12,000 people/year over this decade, that’s still 120,000 people.

        AFAIK, such a high rate of sustained growth hasn’t occurred in a US city as populous and dense as Seattle since 1950. (The only places that came sorta close were Milwaukee between 1950 and 1960, and Los Angeles between 1980 and 1990, and at the start of those decades they were both around 15% less dense than Seattle is today)

        I’m curious about well our transportation system would cope with such a rapid increase in population. It seems likely that a large proportion of the newcomers would be moving to denser areas and using transit, so I’d expect significantly more than an extra 2% increase in ridership each year.

      3. Every ten years we get a reset when people are actually counted instead of estimated. Depending on who you believe Seattle’s population in 2011 is anywhere from 604,722 to 666,027. The City of Seattle’s own web page “estimates” the 2010 population at 612,000 but the census report was 608,660.

        Mr. Bubble was looking at only Net Migration which was -1,304 for King County. An aberration in the long term trend of gaining ~6-8k per year. But the Natural Increase was 12,655; consistent with it’s long term trend of ~13,000. Net migration for the State was still +4,809. It just means we have a higher percentage of grown in Washington chickens ;-)

      4. That 666,027 is really a [citation needed]. 2% growth YoY would be high for a city with Seattle’s characteristics, but it’s within the realm of possibility, but 11% YoY growth doesn’t seem plausible.

        The 620,778 estimate seems to come from the US Census Bureau. I’d be curious to learn how accurate their estimates are.

      5. The US Census Bureau estimates are significantly higher than those from Office of Financial Management. Census Bureau estimates a 2011 WA State population of 6,830,038 and OFM puts it at 6,767,900. Even accounting for a difference between April 1st and July 1st that’s a pretty huge spread; annual rate would account for ~12,000 and they’re off by 62,000. For Seattle they estimated an increase of 1,820 from April 1st to July 1st 2010. Annualized that would be 615,940 by July 2011 but they’re estimating 620,778. Give the OMF data points to virtually all growth in King County coming from Natural Increase and the fact that Seattle is mostly comprised of singles and their dogs it really doesn’t add up. I also find it a bit fishy that Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Renton all have the same 1.7% growth rate. That would be a huge deviation from historical trends. Basically doubling the city’s growth rate during the worst economy in 50 years.

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