Las Vegas sprawl, 1984-2011, via the Atlantic Cities

And many more

This is an open thread.

104 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Sprawl, baby, sprawl”

  1. One Bus Away has been updated for Android phones … looks very nice now … download at the Android app store

    1. Major feature (for us) this release is the ability for Android users to report problems like their iPhone counterparts. Admittedly, that means more reports to process, but it also means we can identify issues faster and get them fixed. Yay!

      1. … Which I used heavily to report errors with RapidRide B arrival data. For weeks, at each layover I’d watch buses come in and report errors with their arrival times. That would have been more difficult without the coach number to match up. (Have an Android phone and these 2 features are dearly missed)

  2. Maybe they should have built all that on the new Lake Mead shoreline lots created by overuse of a resource. That’s almost as scary as the sprawl.

    1. Hard to know what exactly to say about the animation because so many factors are at work. According to Google

      Between 1991 and now the population went from 250,000 to 600,000. Really before the 90s no one other than mobsters and retired NYPD cops ever moved to Vegas and built homes there, so its a new situation.

      And the question is also, whatever would you do with all these people if they weren’t there. Deny them homes? Cram them and their kids into “apodments”.

      The thinking is just too thin.

      1. “And the question is also, whatever would you do with all these people if they weren’t there.”

        Right John, because there’s no other place in the country for people to live.

      2. Indeed, Las Vegas’ population increase is an important consideration. You’d expect the extent of sprawl to increase with that kind of population growth.

        Las Vegas was one of the cities most affected by the housing bubble and collapse. Would that have been any different if Nevada had instituted a restrictive urban growth boundary and directed the city’s growth to infill and upzoning? It seems like there would have had to be lots of construction going on either way, and much that ended up surplus when the bubble burst. But if there was a lot of sprawl-and-abandon going on (like in Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland), where older parts of town decayed even while construction boomed on the outskirts, it’s possible that infill would have involved a lot less construction and less overbuilding.

  3. I’ve been recently realizing the importance of having transit which beats automobile travel times – this is why rail is so popular, and why true, separated BRT is such a good idea. It seems like our best option in Seattle (at least short term) is to continue converting highway lanes to transit-only for most of the day.

    This got me wondering: are there any good studies out there showing how such conversions may affect road capacity (capacity measured by moving people rather than moving cars)? That could be really important in convincing city leaders that it’s worth “giving up” lanes to buses.

    1. Why would we ever convert lanes to transit-only for *most* of the day? Most of the day the freeway has excess capacity and doesn’t need an extra lane. It’s mostly during peak travel times, the same times transit needs the lanes most, that the freeway gets congested — and any time the freeway would get congested is a great time to create an incentive for everyone that can to take transit and use that space efficiently.

      Now… please, everyone, let’s not have another one of those “capacity of a freeway lane filled with buses” argument. I am not going to start throwing around numbers because (a) I’m not an expert and (b) it is a great way to have pointless arguments. The capacity of a freeway lane filled with buses depends a lot on how often the buses have to stop, whether they’re going the same places, how the stations are laid out. Unfortunately the best arrangements for capacity are the worst for ridership, and vice-versa.

      In Seattle I’m pretty sure ridership on freeway bus routes is limited more by the limited off-peak ridership potential caused by the freeway and its associated development patterns than by the capacity to shove buses down the freeway (it’s possible that some people don’t ride on-peak because of bus congestion, but this still holds, because we could run with more frequency if the reverse-direction and off-peak ridership warranted it). To me, the best thing to be said for switching freeway lanes to transit is that it cuts down the vehicular capacity of the freeway.

      1. Wow, for someone not wanting to talk about freeway bus capacity, you’ve seemed to spill a lot of ink on it.

      2. If you’re unsure about bus lanes, I encourage you to drive down westbound 520 during the afternoon rush hour in one of the general-purpose lanes and count the number of buses that pass you. Assuming 20 people per bus (and many of them have a lot more), the HOV lane moves a lot more people during the afternoon peak than each regular lane does.

      3. the HOV lane moves a lot more people during the afternoon peak than each regular lane does.

        I don’t doubt that that’s true but do you have any evidence to back it up?

      4. What I’m not interested in is one of those “let’s assume there are buses filled with people running at sub-minute headways driving at 60MPH down one lane of a freeway, multiply and divide and come up with a capacity” posts that rail opponents like to do. I don’t think there is a single capacity for “buses in a reserved freeway lane”. And even if you determine a capacity for a particular service it’s unlikely to matter because you’ll probably never get the ridership to approach it on a freeway line. I’m more interested in ridership than capacity, and I think ridership is worth spilling ink on.

        I ride buses on westbound 520 during the afternoon rush fairly often. It’s good that they’re there. But they’re pretty limited in what they can accomplish because they’re tied to a walkshed-killing freeway.

      5. “HOV lanes move about 35 percent of the people who use this area’s freeways in only 19 percent of the vehicles”

        From WSDOT

        Given the higher concentration of buses on 520, I can only assume the numbers are higher there.

      6. Thanks Velo. It’s intuitive that a lane that’s moving carries more people per hour than a lane that’s parked. The key qualifier in the WSDOT number is, “(Averages based on 2007 peak commuting periods and directions.)”. Through Bellevue, both directions the HOV lanes is typically slower during the PM peak than the GP lanes with the outside lanes often moving the fastest. Obviously the thing to do is make at least the stretch from I-90 to SR-520 3+. Other places, 167 for instance I’ve seen much higher traffic volume and faster speeds in the left GP lane than the HOV/HOT lane. The HOT lane pricing structure doesn’t seem to be working very well as a TDM system. In my opinion charging $.50 or any amount less than a $1 is silly and prevents people that don’t have a Good2Go pass from using the lane. It should be free up until the point the HOV traffic is constrained to less than the posted speed limit at which point the price escalates to maintain 45-60mph. Remember that a lane traveling at 45mph will usually move more people than one traveling at 60mph and be safer.

    2. I don’t think more bus-only highway lanes is what we need. The real need is for more bus lanes and signal priority on our congested city streets.

    3. Saying that a bus beats a car in travel time because it has its own lane isn’t saying much, since you could equally well compare it to a bus and car on a HOT lane or HOV lane.

      Buses can never replace cars because they only work one way. As long as they end up in central destination.

      However many times, people don’t just want to go to one place. They want to work, go to other businesses, eat lunch, shop, ferry children.

      No bus ever had the speed or flexibility to do the complete cycle of American family live.

      1. Unless of course you make it so the complete cycle of American family life (or at least a large chunk of it) can take place in the neighborhood. If you only need to leave the neighborhood for a few specific tasks, transit can easily accomplish that.

      2. The problem with that type of brute force solution is that you then remove competition. So, instead of being able to travel freely, and create my life from a smorgasbord of schools, workplaces, services, retail from around a region, tailored to my income, needs, desires, I would be forced by ever increasing restrictions to shop at the “company store”.

      3. Come on John. Many complete cycles of american family lives have happened, and continue to happen just fine on transit and on foot.
        From my house in Seattle I can get to and from hundreds of destinations near and far in a very reasonable amount of time on transit. This despite decades of subsidized sprawl unfairly competing with and chipping away at the transit-oriented businesses and services I used to have in range of my buses.

      4. A lot of people in south King County go to Southcenter. That’s “one place”. Somebody recently conjectured that Southcenter is the main justification for the 140’s existence. The airport is another big magnet in south King County, so more and more routes are converging on it. If you have these magnets and buses go to them, from them, and parallel to them, it allows everybody to go from everywhere to everywhere. Much like the south King grid will hopefully be someday. There will still be the problem of the lowest-density single-family blocks, where transit is the least cost-effective.

        If by “one place” you mean downtown Seattle as the sole destination for the county, that’s exactly what we’ve been working against. People in suburban regions need buses that go to neighboring suburban regions moreso than they need buses directly to downtown. Downtown is still a major focus because it’s the center of transfers, including transfers that aren’t available elsewhere like Amtrak and the ferries.

      5. John, I am still waiting to hear how allowing more people and more uses is ‘brute force’.

  4. So metro ran at least one 30 ft coach (1174) on route 10 yesterday. So that must mean the we’re completely out of 40 and 60 ft coaches, right? I doubt it. Who that was a good idea?

    1. One possibility – a breakdown of a 40 footer, and there was a 30 footer and driver immediately available close to downtown?
      I’ll grant that there are, of course, many other darker and more sinister possibilities…

      1. 30′ coaches are typically the scarce resource since they can maneuver in tighter areas. There are not enough of them to go around so if they are being used on a route that needs larger equipment it is highly likely that another coach broke down and somebody else driving a 30′ coach filled in a trip or two.

      2. The buses dont have to come from the downtown bases. South base could have had spares and they sent a driver who was knowledgeable about the route to fill in.

    2. Last Wednesday there were four 30 ft coaches running on trolleybus routes. 1104 was on route 4, 1169 was on route 36, 1174 was on route 36 and 1182 was on route 2.

      1. yeah I have seen them and been on them a few times recently.

        Wish they had a back door like UW’s 30′ Gillig shuttles though

    3. I’ve been consistently seeing South Base 30′ coach subs on Atlantic Base routes in the last few weeks. I’ve seen them on routes 2, 13, 10, 12, 1, 14, and 36.

      I’ve also seen a South Base 60′ hybrid on the 36.

      Is South Base backing up Atlantic Base on a regular basis? And if so, why are they sending 30′ coaches into the busy city rather than substituting one for a 40′ coach on something like the 182?

      Incidentally, a 60′ coach is not an option on the 10 because there is not enough clearance for it in the turnaround.

  5. I asked a question last week about how ST will manage I-90 bridge closures. While my question was in the context of the annual closure of I-90 for the blue angels, there are other reasons why WSDOT would close the bridge to all traffic (bad weather, chemical spill on the span, structural inspections, etc.) The answers I got from this learned blog were wholly inadequate (“take a bus”, “drive around”, “look at the funny monkey”), so I’ll ask again.

    Which aspects of the East Link design will allow trains to continue to operate when the I-90 bridge is closed? What plans will ST have in place to continue to operate trains in the event of closure?

    1. What happens in other systems is they build a bus bridge e.g. you are transferred to buses and driven on alternate routes until you can reboard a train. Maybe this means you are instructed to travel to University of Washington station and transfer to a east bound bus on the 520 bridge where you would connect with East Link or if convenient, stay on the bus to your destination. Maybe it means boarding buses at Mt. Baker Station and going around the south end of the lake.

      There will be times when the train can be used to bridge for a blocked freeway such as during the occasional “snowpacalypse” when I-5 becomes a multi-day parking lot and Link is sailing right by.

      1. I’m sorry if you feel this is an inadequate response but some times stuff happens. Bridges occasionally close. Deal.

    2. Unless someone from Sound Transit happens to read your question, I doubt if you’ll get a satisfactory answer. Even then I doubt if they have even started working on the operational plan for East Link, given that it’s over ten years away from opening.

      1. This is not an operational question. What I’m getting at is the design of East Link may be inadequate to deal with a floating bridge closure. There’s no turnaround on Mercer Island or S. Bellevue, there is no turnaround on the Seattle side. My guess is the line between Seattle and the barn at Hospital Station will shut down when I-90 is closed, and this seems like a big deal.

      2. Switches have traditionally been part of the station design. Just because ST hasn’t reached that phase doesn’t mean East Link won’t have them. I’m pretty sure most of the stations will have them.

      3. “What plans will ST have in place to continue to operate trains in the event of closure?”

        “This is not an operational question.”

        Sounds kind of like an operational question to me.

      4. “There’s no turnaround on Mercer Island or S. Bellevue, there is no turnaround on the Seattle side.”

        You can see in the technical drawings in the East Link FEIS that there are crossovers at Mercer Island and Rainier.

      5. And besides, even if there weren’t crossovers, trains can operate in any direction on any track. The only condition would be that only one train can operate at a time between the last crossover and the obstruction.

      6. If necessary, trains could operate single-track from the maintenance barn to downtown Bellevue, with a shuttle bus connecting downtown Bellevue to the UW station over 520.

        However, given that Seafair is only once a year, I don’t think this is something to be too concerned about.

    3. Let’s see, in no particular order:
      1) The trains run on fixed rails and are quite heavy, and therefore are less likely to be affected by high winds. I would assume ST knows the maximum crosswinds the trains can operate in.
      2) It is entirely possible a hazmat situation similar to what happened on I-5 recently could also happen on I-90 and result in the suspension of train service. That would suck, but it is not a common occurrence. In that case, EVERYONE would be going around the lake or over 520 instead, not just the trains, so that’s not a train operation issue, per se.
      3) I imagine bridge inspections would occur whenever WSDOT felt the need, since the East Link design maintains unimpeded access to the bridge hatches. You could also do them at night when Link isn’t running. In case of an emergency inspection (after an earthquake, for example), I doubt the system would be running anyway since the entire bridge would be closed to everyone.
      4) As pointed out elsewhere, railroad designs include switches every so often so you can either reverse trains or run single-tracked. In the case of a bridge closure, it is entirely likely that East Link could be operated independently between Mercer Island and Overlake. For cross-lake connections during these occurances, transfers at another station to buses operating over 520 would accommodate riders.

      I don’t know what else you could be looking for. Many of the reasons the I-90 bridge might be closed have nothing at all to do with a train or a car, but are for the safety of people.

      1. Jack’s original question, citing the four days of Blue Angels interruptions, is a totally fair one.

        No sane, transit-literate city place on earth but Seattle would spend billions on high-capacity rapid transit and then “ho-hum-and-a-shrug” about the possibility of it closing annually for the very kind of major event for which it should be providing non-automotive access.

        Unplanned closures for vital maintenance and weather emergencies are one thing; planned shutdowns at for reasons having nothing to do with operational safety are something else. If people can’t rely on your transit spine year-round, then you don’t actually have a transit spine.

        “Whatareyagonnado?” dismissals like Charles’ are precisely why transit sucks in Seattle.

      2. As long as there are an adequate number of shuttle buses over 520, and as long as these buses stop at the UW station (so travel from Bellevue to the U-district can be done without throwing away an entire hour detouring downtown and back), I say for a few hours a year, that’s good enough. Also, remember, you don’t have to actually cross the lake to see the Blue Angels perform – there are viewing spots off Mercer Island.

      3. Can’t people walk on the 90 bridge during the blue angel performances? It seems to me you could have trains run during those.

        Otherwise, as d.p. suggested, this is dumb. The bridge closes for a few hours several times during seafair.

      4. Quote: Can’t people walk on the 90 bridge during the blue angel performances?

        No. Pedestrians are allowed limited access to the bridge on both sides, on the Seattle side as far as a couple hundred feet east of the tunnel portal, but cannot walk out onto the bridge.

      5. “Jack’s original question, citing the four days of Blue Angels interruptions, is a totally fair one.”

        Given that no one here knows how Sound Transit will deal with it, and that it’s ten to twelve years away, it’s hardly a fair question, unless one likes arguing with little or no real knowledge. I addressed the only answerable part of Jack’s statement.

      6. it closing annually for the very kind of major event for which it should be providing non-automotive access.

        East Link won’t provide access to Seafair. Spent time out on the bridge this year. First time in years I’ve watched the show. WSDOT doesn’t let people on the center roadway. But, given the Blue Angles get down to 50′ above the deck I’m guessing trains will be held up as well. It’s once a year folks… get over it. Consider it an annual reminder that ST picked the wrong bridge for oh so many reasons.

      7. Eight years from now the Blue Angels will close down due to a confluence of environmental impact and fuel efficiency from the left and wasted government spending from the right. Or something.

      8. Bernie,
        The 520 bridge has not been a valid choice for East Link ever. Simple geography means 520 would have been the wrong bridge.

        Furthermore there is the issue that the current 520 bridge can’t accommodate rail and needs to be replaced. WSDOT has shown no desire to really include light rail in the design of the new bridge. Sure it can be retrofitted at a large cost, but until McGuinn made a huge stink the design didn’t even really allow a train to get on the bridge in the first place.

        The choice was cross on I-90 or don’t build East Link at all.

      9. d.p., interruptions happen in every system in the world. It’s not a question of a resigned attitude, but of basic physical reality. And most of them are handled the same way ST will handle this one. They’ll have a gazillion slow bus shuttles, it will be a pain in the ass and add 20-30 minutes to people’s commute, and life will go on. This happens in Boston, so I’m surprised you think it’s novel. People will access the Blue Angels using other transit on their side of the lake. For the section of Link that is open, there are already bus shuttle contingency plans that have been put into use on a substantial number of occasions when the track was blocked for whatever reason.

        Bernie, the idea that Link should have used 520 is laughable. The 90 corridor has vastly higher transit ridership and allows the biggest two Eastside destinations, Bellevue and Microsoft, to be connected in a much more straightforward manner. It will also allow easy connections to Eastgate and Issaquah, two more huge destinations, in the future. All 520 gets you is South Kirkland, Microsoft, and Redmond.

        Matt, you forgot that anything remotely related to “defense” cannot be wasted spending, by definition, for many of those on the right.

      10. David, your negative Red Line experience that you keep citing stems entirely from the (long-delayed) maintenance on the Longfellow Bridge.

        Contrary to your above assertion, however, the T does not shut down during major scheduled events. Far from it. When roads close for construction, for July 4th, for First Night, for presidential visits, for whatever else you might throw at that compact urban space, the T ramps up service and becomes the lifeline of the entire urban area.

        The only time I can recall the T closing anything on behalf of a planned special event was 2004’s Democratic National Convention. With everybody still freaking out in the wake of the 2001 attacks, the Secret Service closed both the brand-new Big Dig tunnel and the brand-newer North Station Green/Orange Line complex. But they didn’t close the subway line itself. Trains continued to run below the Garden and were easily accessed at Haymarket, three blocks away. And, in an unadvertised perk, conventioneers were still able to access North Station, where express trains to Back Bay alternated with the non-stopping through trains.

        Bernie et al,

        This isn’t about Link “serving Seafair”. It’s about building a metropolitan region that is capable of still functioning during an event like Seafair, for all of those who may have other things to do that weekend or may not care about Seafair in the slightest. Nothing screams “small town” more than the implication that everyone should care about (and bend their lives around) the same things as everyone else.

      11. No sane, transit-literate city place on earth but Seattle would spend billions on high-capacity rapid transit and then “ho-hum-and-a-shrug” about the possibility of it closing annually for the very kind of major event for which it should be providing non-automotive access.

        If you’re so concerned about a few hours of disruption once a year, then you should have advocated for a submerged tunnel separate from any existing bridge structure. The reality, Seafair is a tradition that is attended by hundreds of thousands of people and watched by a million more. The residents and their stressed pets deal with the noise of loud airplanes flying over the city. Everybody has in some small way, made an accommodation to this cultural event.

        The cost of that submerged tunnel is precisely why we’ve chosen to build Eastlink on an existing roadbed over this bridge fully aware of the occasional inconveniences this design would entail.

        And trains have to wait for things all the time. Anytime the President travels by car, all traffic, cars, buses and trains are stopped in the vicinity of his/her motorcade. I just read that the Chicago CTA blue line was shut down because of a rooster on the tracks at the Logan Square stop. There are 2 places on the blue line where flooding can disrupt operations a few days a year. Snow and ice disrupt the DC metro operations a few days a year. Should we demand that they should spend billions to fix those occasional inconveniences?

      12. If the Green Line ran on the surface, you can bet it would have been interrupted during the convention. I’ve seen all four Boston subway lines, not just the Red Line, interrupted during service hours, with the interruption bridged by bus shuttles. And that’s not unique to Boston. For instance, I’ve even seen it in the Swiss intercity rail network, legendary for being the most reliable and punctual in the world. We can’t prevent occasional interruptions without spending billions we don’t have to build duplicate lines everywhere.

        The “major event” part you are so focused on is sort of a red herring, because people on both sides of the lake will still easily be able to access the event via transit. On the west side, Metro runs extremely frequent shuttles (I know just how frequent; my apartment is directly over the pickup point) from Central Link to the water. On the east side, there is plenty of shuttle bus service to Mercer Island P&R, which is the closest you could get on transit during most hours even if it were in regular service.

        It seems to me like the most cost-effective way to run the bus shuttles would be to keep trains running normally between Mercer Island and Overlake, while also operating a frequent bus bridge between Bellevue and UW Station via SR-520. But maybe they will have a different solution. All I’m saying is that this kind of interruption is typical of any system, and doesn’t make Seattle some kind of backwater or warrant overheated anger.

      13. I’ve seen all four Boston subway lines, not just the Red Line, interrupted during service hours, with the interruption bridged by bus shuttles. And that’s not unique to Boston. For instance, I’ve even seen it in the Swiss intercity rail network, legendary for being the most reliable and punctual in the world. We can’t prevent occasional interruptions without spending billions we don’t have to build duplicate lines everywhere.

        Congratulations on completely missing d.p.’s point. Sure, there are unplanned interruptions on any rapid transit system, because shit happens. But how many of these systems make planned closures for several hours in the middle of the workday?

        The only example I can think of is the CTA’s plan to shut down the south half of the Red Line for 5 months because they let the tracks deteriorate to the point where they have to rip them out and replace them wholesale. You can bet there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth when that happens.

        The last time the Blue Angels were in town, I spent 30 minutes on the 545 just getting to Montlake, at which point I got off, went home, and called in sick. The economic impact of shutting down one of only two bridges connecting Seattle to its eastern suburbs cannot be overstated. And for what? So that some hotshot military pilots can put millions of taxpayer money and their own lives at risk performing fancy maneuvers?

        No thanks.

      14. Rooster on the tracks –> 5 minute delay
        President drives near an at-grade crossing –> 5 minute delay
        President has an event next to a subway station –> that station closed, line still operates
        President flies overhead on Air Force One –> no effect whatsoever

        Kind of hard to spot my supposed “red herring” in a flock of yours.

        And yes, David, shutting down the entire metro area for a single event makes this place a backwater. No real city marches in cultural lock-step.

        New York has major events 365 days a year; can you imagine anyone demanding the entire city sit up, shut up, and salute each one of them?

      15. I’m willing to bet more people are inconvenienced in NYC by the closure of the Verrazano Narrows for the Marathon than there are in backwater Seattle by the Blue Angles. And how many routes are affected by “NO buses will be allowed to cross 5th Avenue during the race.“.In fact I’d bet there’s a lot more hours lost to sitting in traffic because of Husky football games. Of course it all pales in comparison to the cumulative effect of losing the center roadway to traffic forever.

      16. Well, good thing the Verrazano Narrows bus routes are pretty minor in the grand scheme of MTA transit service!

        The marathon also crosses the Queensboro. Guess what doesn’t stop running when that happens?

      17. “And yes, David, shutting down the entire metro area for a single event makes this place a backwater.”

        Right, because the entire metro area shuts down during SeaFair. Leave it to d.p. to take everything to it’s extreme.

      18. I sure as fuck didn’t try to go anywhere important, much less cross the lake, during Seafair. Did you?

      19. SeaFair had the same impact on my life this year as it has for the past twenty; zero. And I have to cross the lake every day.

      20. And it’s hardly “extreme” to wonder why a transit advocacy blog is populated primarily with transit dreamers and transit apologists, with nobody in the middle to push for rational undertakings that aren’t kneecapped into ineffectiveness.

        You’re part of the apoligist group, Zed. “Expect little, get even less.”

      21. d.p., did you shutter yourself in all of last weekend while the 520 bridge was closed? I really couldn’t tell much of a difference in overall activity. Country Village was packed just like any other summer Sunday. Kirkland didn’t cancel Summerfest. BTW, the reason 520 was a parking lot Seafair Sunday wasn’t because of the Blue Angles. Chalk that one up to WSDOT failing to make the eastern highrise available for marine traffic.

      22. Bernie, I never left the Ballard-Greenwood-Wallingford areas, and occasional checks of OneBusAway (revealing massively late vehicles coming from anywhere near Montlake or SoDo) confirmed my choice to move only where my feet could take me.

        Zed, your opinion is meaningless.

      23. Bernie, the 520 promenaders in your link actually look like they’re having a ton of fun!!

        Wouldn’t it be nice to occasionally pedestrianize such a piece of infrastructure without sticking a fork in the eye of those who actually need to get around? Like, say, by having a train that doesn’t get closed willy-nilly!

        Like… say…

        But instead, we get the Suck It Up Choir.

      24. Lastly, I can’t help but find it funny that I’m considered an “arrogant” voice on this blog, when nearly everything I’ve ever written here boils down to one of two points:

        1) It’s not okay for one of the most expensive urban transit systems in the country to also be one of the worst.

        2) It’s not okay to spend billions of dollars on a subway line that doesn’t actually work.

        Really? Those two principles make me “arrogant”? I suppose you think that someone who doesn’t want to live in a crack house is “entitled” and that someone who doesn’t want to eat shit is a “a snob”.

      25. “I sure as fuck didn’t try to go anywhere important, much less cross the lake, during Seafair. Did you?”

        Yes, I had to go the Eastside to help a relative with something that came up. The 550 was fifteen minutes late at Convention Place, and it was so hot I was fanning my face while I waited (which I’ve never had to do at a bus stop before), and I didn’t know when the bus would come or how bad the traffic on 520 would be, so I called and said I wasn’t coming because it’s such a bad day for travelling.

        But still, the fact remains that Seattle invited the Blue Angels and holds the annual festival in spite of the disruptions. It’s not like it’s any transit agency’s fault; it’s what the city wanted to do.

      26. By the time East Link is across I-90 we’ll have:

        (a) Link to UW
        (b) HOV lanes on the 520 bridge and maybe even the Montlake Bridge

        U Link->271 should be slower between DT Seattle and DT Bellevue than East Link, but it will be much better than the best alternate today (255 or 545->271 with an Evergreen Point transfer), which involves being stuck in congested general-purpose lanes on I-5 and 520.

        The Redmond trip will offer somewhat less-great options: U Link->271->East Link, U Link->542, or whatever’s left of the 545. Frequency, traffic conditions, and specific destinations could render any of those the best choice in this distant future world. Still, the HOV lanes on 520 will improve all of those trips over today’s versions.

    4. the only reason the bridge is closed for the BLue Angels is that they are worried drivers would crash due to the distraction … trains should be able to keep operating while the show is on

      as for hazmat issues … the rail section should be segregated enough from the vehicular roadway so that there shouldn’t be any problems.

      as for wind … how often is I90 closed now due to wind?

      1. the only reason the bridge is closed for the BLue Angels is that they are worried drivers would crash due to the distraction

        Wrong, if that were the case the ped/bike trail wouldn’t have to be closed and evacuated and the buoy line keeping boats away wouldn’t be so far north.

  6. Ideas for OBS Improvements:

    IDEA 1–Multilingual Canned PSA’s

    For Example:

    “Esta es la última parada en el Paseo Zona Libre. Si usted forward presentará después de esta parada, por favor, salga por la puerta delantera y de pago en el momento de abandonar.”

    Translation courtesy of Babylon

    Idea 2–Announce Connecting Routes

    OBS doesn’t announce ALL stops, but at least it announces all TRANSFER POINTS. However, IMO, OBS should also announce the connecting routes, a la Pierce Transit.

    For example:

    “Next stop Southwest Roxbury Street and twenty-Sixth Avenue. Connections to routes 54, 113, 125 and 560.”

    And when there are too many routes to list:

    “Next stop Southwest Alaska Street and California Avenue. West Seattle Juction. Connections to multiple routes.”

    For moments where connecting routes meet, share routing and diverge again, the connecting routes are only mentioned twice: once where they meet and agen where they diverge.

    Idea 3–Automatic Muting of Exterior Route/Destination Announcements in Residential Areas 9:30 PM-6 AM

    From what I have heard, OBS has been getting negative comments for disturbing residents at night with their Exterior Route/Destination Announcements. Automatic muting, executed in similar fashion to the automatic changing of ORCA card reader states and destination signs, would help mitigate this.

    1. I think OBS already has muting, but it might be manually activated. Every so often I am awoken by a #18 announcement outside my window.

    2. I’m not sure why we need audio announcements to the exterior of the bus at all, as they just say the same information that is already present on the bus’s headsign. Doing this on every bus (and preventing residents from sleeping at night) just for blind people seems very overkill, considering that a blind person can easily ask another person at the stop which bus just arrived (or the driver in the unlikely event that there are no other passengers at the stop).

      1. its not overkill if its THE LAW. You cannot tell if someone is blind just by looking at them.

      2. Were we out of compliance with the law all these years that the buses didn’t make these announcements? Why suddenly start doing it now?

      3. The driver (or an automated system) is supposed to make the announcements. I consistently hear drivers on CT and CT-operated ST routes make those announcements (“535 to Lynnwood”), not so often on Metro. The OBS makes compliance a lot more consistent and reliable.

        According to Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Section 37.167:

        (a) This section applies to public and private entities.

        (b) On fixed route systems, the entity shall announce stops as follows:

        (1) The entity shall announce at least at transfer points with other fixed routes, other major intersections and destination points, and intervals along a route sufficient to permit individuals with visual impairments or other disabilities to be oriented to their location.

        (2) The entity shall announce any stop on request of an individual with a disability.

        (c) Where vehicles or other conveyances for more than one route serve the same stop, the entity shall provide a means by which an individual with a visual impairment or other disability can identify the proper vehicle to enter or be identified to the vehicle operator as a person seeking a ride on a particular route.

    3. 1- a few other cities do this, like San Francisco which announces in English, Spanish, and Chinese. However, it’s impractical to have more then three languages because the announcements become too long.

      2- Many drivers already do this so the OBS not announcing connecting routes is a step backwards. The OBS already announce landmarks, so why not routes? I actually want OBS to announce every stop and drop the “next stop” like Vancouver, which uses the same system as Metro’s.

      3- Sound Transit mutes or reduces the volume of station announcements and warning devices at crossings for Link. So there is precedent for doing these things. A smarter solution would be to automatically adjust volume based on ambient noise levels.

    4. The airport used to have trilingual announcements in the shuttle trains. English, Japanese, and another language that changed based on the current flights. It always struck me as odd that Japanese had a privileged place, while other languages like Spanish were left out.

      1. Japan represents the nation with the highest tourism rate to Seattle; about 25% of all international visitors. And it’s not all just to see Ichiro. Was that way before he came to the M’s and will in all likely hood continue.

  7. Here’s what I think, Jack. Since the right-of-way for Eastlink across I-90 will be completely and permanently closed to all other traffic, usual reasons for closing I-90,apply to trains.

    If center lanes had been reserved for bus transit, with platforms at freeway level in 1990, 550 could have been really “Rapid” these last 22 years.

    Does anybody in aviation know whether closures due to the Blue Angels have to do with danger of losing the bridge to a plane crash, or just worries about distracted drivers?

    MLK experience gives our train drivers awesome powers of concentration.

    Mark Dublin

    1. FWIW, I was informed in last Sunday’s open thread that the I-90 closure for the Blue Angels is because the intersection point for their closing maneuvers is near/over the bridge (strictly speaking it is a box-shaped area, not a point), hence that’s where debris would fall if something went badly wrong.

  8. And meant to say “won’t” apply to trains. Dangers of “Distracted Typing!”

    Mark Dublin

  9. I wish Sound Transit would give customers adequate information regarding overflow trippers. Last night I was on the first 550 to go through the tunnel towards Bellevue after the Seahawks game. As you can expect the bus was overloaded and passengers were left behind at International District Station. There was crowding, a bit of yelling, and the driver had to yell at people to stop pushing. This, despite the fact that there were two Sound Transit 9600 coaches waiting at CPS, presumably as overflow trippers. (Both coaches were waiting in layover lanes that normally house the 212, 216, and 218s during rush hour so they were likely not normal service coaches)

    Adding information on the Seahawks and other “special service” information pages would be the right move. Let passengers know that crowding will occur and that Sound Transit will endeavor to add service to accomodate passengers but that a bit of patience may be required.

    (And can I add that testing/using the “Loaders” at such events would be a good idea? It might also encourage more sports fans to get ORCA cards so they don’t have to deal with the cash paying chaos at the front door.)

    1. At the conclusion of major stadium events, we absolutely need loaders in the tunnel, at least at the station, at least in the International District station. Otherwise, you end up with a situation where people arrive to board the bus at a rate faster than the cache fumblers can pay, so the entire tunnel is shut down until the bus becomes absolutely crush-loaded. Because of this, I once experienced at 70-series bus take over 30 minutes to get from the International District Station to Convention Place station on the way home from a Mariners game. I never made that mistake again.

    2. If not a loader, there should at least be a supervisor to inform people of the overflow trippers and to stop them from trying to board an already limit-loaded bus.

  10. Interesting. What was called “city growth” in the linked Atlantic article becomes “sprawl” in STB’s post about it.

    1. Sprawl is more correct. City growth doesn’t imply geographical formation – cities can grow up instead of out.

  11. Just saw an STB ad in a bus yesterday. It looked pretty effective, hopefully those are attracting more readers!

  12. Anyone know why Metro Transit had some buses in the early 90’s that had schoolbus seats in them. I think they were NewFlyers, but may have been AMGenerals. Definitely Diesel and High-Floor and 35 to 40 footers.

      1. I believe there were some AMG’s so equipped as well – lots of contract service for Seattle school’s various attempts to improve the quality of education by putting kids on a bus at 0630. Interestingly, anyone could ride them for the prevailing fare.

    1. I don’t remember any Americanas so equipped; if they were, then they were un-equipped later, as at one point during my driving career the entire 157-bus fleet was in normal service from Ryerson Base.

      I do remember the AMGs. They were before my driving days, but I remember them occasionally showing up on normal routes and NOT being popular. Metro at one point had an enormous number of school trippers. Today, only a very few are left (all on Mercer Island and the Eastside), and they use normal buses.

  13. Those gifs are crazy, thanks for posting those! The one about Tehran was particular striking

  14. One thing Sherwin is neglecting to tell everyone is he is living in sprawl. So I guess this is a “Do as I say, not as I do” post.

  15. Hydrogen buses project unveiled

    Alex Salmond revealed £3.3 million is being provided so that Aberdeen City Council can order 10 of the buses – which produce water vapour instead of harmful emissions.

    That could be Europe’s largest hydrogen bus fleet and the vehicles could be transporting passengers on routes throughout the city by early 2014.

    As part of the project, the new environmentally friendly buses could even be refuelled at Scotland’s first large hydrogen refuelling station.

    Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution is to develop an integrated “whole hydrogen” system, which aims to harness wind energy to produce and store hydrogen. This would then be used as fuel for the bus fleet and also for hydrogen-powered cars, when these become available.

    1. Double whammy efficiency loss to make do with sporadic energy inputs, nice. Trolly buses would likely be a more sensible use of taxpayer money, as these could run directly off available hydro power, and not take the grim losses wireless power involves, but that’s boring and efficient. This seems more a peacock feather project to signal investment fitness.

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