Issaquah Valley Trolley (Flickr/DWHonan)

This is an open thread.

111 Replies to “News Roundup: Foot Ferries”

  1. I’ve never seen the Issaquah Trolley in person. Without an OCS how is it powered? Is that a generator it is towing behind it?

    1. There is no OCS, so the trolley tows/pushes a gas-engined power car to provide power for the traction motors. That is indeed the power car you see behind it.

    1. Knute Berger was having a low-level stroke while writing it?

      In a way, I agree with him — if you lifted this city off the earth and laid down a new one on top of it, you could get a much better-laid-out result. But that doesn’t seem practical. As for grid-v-curve, I would point to San Francisco, which is similarly hilly but laid out in an almost unrelenting grid. They don’t seem to have a problem being interesting. What’s killing Seattle isn’t the lack of meandering parkways; we have too many of them already. It’s the lack of density — a lack that cannot be rectified, because the streets are too wide and too far apart.

      1. San Francisco has plenty of meandering narrow streets in the middle part where the big mountains are, and fewer people live.

      2. He also misses one of the important reasons why meandering streets are helpful: traffic calming.

        Roosevelt is like a miniature highway because the road is so straight and so long with so few signals.

      3. Roosevelt is also a mile wide, with nothing to impede traffic and little reason for traffic to impede itself, i.e. things to stop for. The parts of Roosevelt that DO have things to stop for are not freeway-like at all.

        Mt. Davidson and Twin Peaks form miniscule part of SF, and most of the hilly parts are covered with grid. The “narrow” part is in fact a large part of WHY those streets are interesting and full of people. Seattle doesn’t have narrow streets; we have ludicrously wide Old West streets almost everywhere. We even have angle parking in some parts! The Olmsteadization of Seattle is one of the main reasons Seattle is so vacant and empty.

      4. The problem isn’t the street widths. If you want density you just build density. It’s not the street widths that caused so many of the lots to have single-family houses, or the minimum lot size to increase, or developers to stop at one or two stories. These can all be fixed without reconfiguring the streets.

      5. As I tried to explain to Andrew last week, when I described “dense” Capitol Hill as falling terribly short vibrant urbanity, street widths absolutely matter.

        When fully half of your land (major and minor streets alike) is asphalt and concrete, you will invariably end up with stuff that is further from other stuff than it should be. People will have fewer blocks worth of stuff within walking distance, and the walks will be less appealing, and so they will resort to driving and will demand infrastructure that supports driving.

        And yet all we ever hear in this town is clamoring for more “open space”…

      6. Roosevelt is also a mile wide, with nothing to impede traffic and little reason for traffic to impede itself, i.e. things to stop for. The parts of Roosevelt that DO have things to stop for are not freeway-like at all.

        Which parts are that? I can think of the intersection of 65th and Roosevelt and that’s about it. The thing is a freeway from 130th down to there, and from there down to the bridge. The only reason traffic slows down outside that one spot (and even there) are the signals. Parts of it are also two lanes, like the spot by my old place on 57th, or even one lane in each direction (maple leaf or Pinehurst). People still drive on it like it’s the autobahn.

        When fully half of your land (major and minor streets alike) is asphalt and concrete, you will invariably end up with stuff that is further from other stuff than it should be. People will have fewer blocks worth of stuff within walking distance, and the walks will be less appealing, and so they will resort to driving and will demand infrastructure that supports driving.

        The streets in San Francisco aren’t significantly more narrow than they are on capitol hill, at least in any of the places I lived (Mission, SOMA and Western Addition. There’s more to it than just street widths.

      7. I’m not arguing for bouvelards by the way, I’m just saying Knute wrote a whole thing praising winding streets without mentioning their best feature.

      8. Seriously, drop to Street View if that’s what it takes to understand.

        Mission is by far the widest street in that SF image. Yet every single street on Capitol Hill, when measured frontage-to-frontage, is as wide as Mission.

      9. You may be right, but I’m not sure I find that as convincing as you think. That’s one neighborhood.

        Look at these two:


        Or here’s street view (because that’s what it takes for me to understand, crikey, I’m sure you make friends easily).



        I picked these streets at random. Church is sort of a major street and so is Pine. Pine is probably more major, really. I’m not super convinced.
        If there’s anything that jumps out at me it’s that:

        1) the blocks are shorter, at least in one direction, which helps walkability, but that sort of means that more space could be dedicated for roads.
        2) the buildings are sure bigger, with a lot more stuff in them. They are also closer together, and have a lot less surface parking.
        3) the sidewalks are a lot more narrow.

        1+2 certainly help density and urbanity. As does the subway. But I’m not totally sure that it’s obvious that the actual real estate footprint devoted to roadway is that much less. Or were you making another point?

      10. One last thing, I’m not sure you’ve read your links correctly. The widest streets in your sf link is obviously Dolores, followed by Guerrero. And this street is clearly not as wide as mission.

        If you are going to talk about “what it takes” someone “to understand”, at least be correct in your evidence.

      11. Oh, and south van ness is there, too! You may have actually picked the narrowest, or tied for the narrowest, of the north-south streets in your picture as your “by far the widest” basis of comparison.

      12. Capitol Hill as falling terribly short vibrant urbanity, street widths absolutely matter.

        Seems like Manhattan has fairly wide streets. Or is that an urban fail too?

      13. 1) the blocks are shorter…

        Yes, that’s important. But also:

        3) the sidewalks are a lot more narrow.

        Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!

        I already said that the right of way needs to be measured frontage-to-frontage, i.e. building-to-building. Wide sidewalks on every side-street, or even on major ones, are not necessarily a boon for people! When you insist that every street contain 2-4 (generous!) travel lanes, two parking lanes, and room for an entire elementary school to skip down the street arm-in-arm, you’re using up a whole heck of a lot of space.

        [my links, your links, everybody’s links]

        If you can’t see, in all examples, that the ground beneath Seattle is overtaken by a huge quantity of streets and sidewalks, while SF is largely covered with stuff-that-is-not-streets-or-sidewalks, then I have an excellent optometrist that I would like to recommend.

        [your “random” Street View links]

        A perfect example! In SF, a designed-for-transit street running north/south, and a much, much skinnier street running east-west. In Seattle, it’s wide as fuck in both direction, even though Harvard Ave is minor!

        The widest streets in your sf link…

        Let’s just zoom in and measure! Mission is 75 or 80 feet, building-to-building. Van Ness, maybe 85. Valencia, barely 65. Guerrero, same as Mission. Dolores, with it’s median strip, is an outlier.

        But more importantly, there are more than a dozen other streets in that image none of which have nearly those widths. The east-west through streets are barely 50 feet wide. All of those side streets, which contain a whole lot of people and create a whole lot of access, are as skinny as 25 feet wide!

        In Seattle, essentially every street in every part of the city is 60-100 feet wide. Every fucking one.

        And this street is clearly not as wide as mission.

        Dude, that’s an alleyway. Provides precisely zero extra frontage, people, or stuff. Not relevant.

        2) the buildings are sure bigger

        Actually, no. A few may be taller, but San Francisco is not a vertical city. Those buildings are, for the most part, skinnier and more packed-in than anything we have, anywhere — believe it or not, “Historic Pioneer Square” is even worse for density of construction than much of Cap Hill! SF simply offers a lot more places-per-square-mile in which people and stuff can be!

        If your attempted alleyway example were in SF, it would actually be its own street, with the fronts of buildings rather than just the useless backs.

        at least be correct in your evidence.

        I am. SF’s ROW-to-stuff ration probably isn’t even half of ours. I am baffled how you can have lived in both and not noticed.

        Seems like Manhattan has fairly wide streets.

        Nope!! Commissioners’ Plan of 1811: with only fifteen exceptions, the east-west streets in the numbered parts of Manhattan are 60 feet building-to-building. Most streets in Lower Manhattan and in much of the other boroughs are even smaller. They’ve used their space pretty efficiently, don’t you think?

      14. 1) Which street in your view has 4 travel lanes?

        Wide sidewalks on every side-street, or even on major ones, are not necessarily a boon for people!

        That’s an interesting point. Too late to change, that, unless we want to surrender more of the streets to cars.
        3) Which street in your seattle view is 100 feet wide (I do see south van ness is maybe about that wide, actual van ness a bit north is wider than any in your view there)?
        4) Some of those “streets” in San francisco are barely more than alley ways (look at san carlos, which I used to live on, mostly useless backs, is the awesome part of the SF street the parking?).

        You really like to make the problem somehow mine, but the problem is your lack of evidence. You said you provided evidence, but it wasn’t right. Saying Dolores doesn’t “count” and that “van ness” is more narrow than it appears doesn’t make it so. How is a sidewalk bad but a boulevard good? Come on, let’s at least be logically consistent.

        1) The shadows make it hard to see, but the streets in that part of SF aren’t obviously significantly more narrow. The streets are also one thing we can’t really change in seattle, so focusing on them as the problem is essentially giving up.
        2) The buildings really are significantly different.

        San Francisco isn’t more walkable primarily because of its streets. It’s more walkable because of its buildings. I’m done. You think what you want, I’ll be satisfied to know better.

      15. Andrew, anyone with eyes should be able to compare those satellite images and understand that:

        1) a significantly larger portion of ground coverage in Seattle is taken up by streets and sidewalks, whereas that same space in San Francisco is full of actual stuff; and

        2) the streets in Seattle are uniformly wide in a way they are not in most better cities.

        No, Dolores does not “count”, being as it’s the only wide boulevard of that sort within many square miles. Have you never heard the phrase “exception that proves the rule”?

        That street you linked to is full of multi-family houses fronting it. You lived facing it, for chrissakes. Your “example” of a skinny Seattle street was a literal alley, with precisely nothing on it.

        The East Union right-of-way is 100 feet wide. 23rd Ave is 100 feet wide. Downtown streets are over 80, without exception, and in Pioneer Square it’s close to a uniform 100.

        Along with your insistence that Seattle is “lacking urban parks” and that the hideous BART station plazas are well-used in a way that should be emulated, we can now add “Seattle streets are skinny” to the way in which you feel you “know better” than reality.

      16. Do you think there is a lack of density on Mercer Island?

        I would seem the ideal pace to put super high rise low cost housing…especially with LINK coming through.

      17. Of course the street widths may not be ideal. If we could rebuild Copenhagen in Seattle things would be a lot better. But bulldozing entire neighborhoods to rescale the streets is just not going to happen. North Seattle is still waiting fifty years for its sidewalks, and Seattle does not have a budget surplus. So the question is not, “Can we convince the Powers That Be to make Seattle ideal”, because the answer is no. The question is, “Can we manage to make a reasonably walkable/transit-oriented city (or at least the urban village archipelago) under the constraints of the street widths.” Yes, we can make it better, and it’s worthwhile to do.

        There are two or three different kinds of complaints people can make, and we need to distinguish them. (1) Things that aren’t going to change. “Seattle is less dense/walkable than NYC/San Francisco/Copenhagen.” We can complain to express emotion, but we can’t pin the blame on any particular entity and expect them to change. (2) Things that ST/Metro/Seattle have recently decided. Here we can pin the blame, but it’s not worthwhile to complain repeatedly about things we can’t change, or to repeatedly lambaste the perpetrators, or to ignore the tradeoffs they face (opposition by others). What’s worthwile is to make the best we can within these constraints. (3) Things that ST/Metro/Seattle is deciding now or in the future. We can make a decisive difference here, and we should try. The time to do so is when the decision is being made. Not before, except to provide reference material for the future.

        So when people complain about the street widths or the latest bad decision by ST/Metro/Seattle, it often sounds like they’re lambasting the perpetrators repeatedly, or blaming somebody for historical evolution, when in reality it’s spilt milk and the only proper response is (1). I.e., vent a bit for emotion’s sake, but don’t go retrying the perp forever or expecting that they’ll suddenly change their mind.

        We also need to keep in mind Seattle’s true peers. The northeast was settled centuries ago and the cities were big enough in 1920 that they could withstand the automobile onslaught and keep their subways/interurbans/streetcars. Even San Francisco squeaked by under the gun because it was a few decades older and larger than Seattle. Seattle’s true peers are the western cities that were about the same size and age in 1920. Seattle’s population was 200,000 then, and that wasn’t enough to withstand the automobile interests and early streetcar rip-up: “everybody” was excited about cars and “nobody” thought comprehensive public transit was worth preserving. In the 1962 time capsule the City Council was most excited about the imminent Central Freeway (I-5) and Evergreen Bridge, and gave little attention to urban interests. Portland is our closest true peer. And Portland did do better than Seattle in small blocks and central parks (e.g., the South Park Blocks), and they kept their streetcars till the late 1950s. Wonderful, but that was a hundred years ago and we can’t do anything about it now.

      18. Mike, I know that some things are immutable. But being able to correctly identify problems so as to propose effective and relevant solutions is extremely useful.

        Seattle continues to knee-jerk about “more open space”. This is flatly wrong and counterproductive. Our wide streets and sidewalks, which reduce the total percentage of land available for any other uses, are a big part of why.

        It is also worth being aware of past mistakes (be they made last century or last week) so as to avoid repeating them. Sound Transit gave us “subways you can’t walk to”. Everybody defended their “regional” biases, so now we’re getting told that 35% of DSTT capacity is “maxed out”.

        Wrong begets wrong.

      19. Mercer Island.

        (1) It has a shocking lack of density throughout. Almost all of it is exclusively single-family houses on large lots.

        (2) The modest village around the P&R is a step in the right direction, but it’s a very modest step. Two buildings, not very tall, with about a two block pedestrian-oriented area, and everything’s on the opposite side of the freeway from the P&R. I attended an ST meeting at a community center a five-minute walk from the P&R, and it very quickly descended into residential-only apartment buildings and single-family houses along the way.

        (3) A tall Beacon Tower sized building or several would be a great addition to the station area. But I imagine Mercer Island would choke at such an upzoning.

        Of course, Mercer Island may have a station area upzone plan I don’t know about. And the Link station may be in the middle of the freeway with a shorter bridge on each sides (one to the village and the other to the P&R). That would be better than walking across the entire freeway (and one-story bank) to get to the village.

      20. It’s worth noting that the north-south avenues in Manhattan were wide, but from 1832 onward, they had *horsecars* and then electric (conduit) *streetcars* running down the middle. They were also two-way traffic, all of them.

        So they were pretty good for development.

        The elimination of the streetcars in favor of first elevateds and then subways and finally buses (during LaGuardia’s administration; LaGuardia didn’t like streetcars) came much later. The one-way system on the avenues came even later, if I have my history correct. None of those were improvements; they were all detriments.

        So, y’know, that’s what wide streets are *for* — they’re for running rail down the middle.

      21. d.p, you’re arguing against a strawman per usual. I doubt you could even articulate what I have said (same story as always),

        I take the fact you’ve gone so personal* in your attacks against me is proof enough to me that you have run out of counter arguments. I might try to change the topic, too, if my evidence for what “it takes you to understand” was so obviously, clearly wrong.

        *where I have lived even! What’s more personal than that!

        Also, you might look to see what “exception that proves the rule” actually meant when Cicero said it.

      22. Pointing out your participation in the troubling Seattle habit of confusing opinions with facts is germane to the discussion at hand and is hardly a “personal attack.” But nice little censorship there!

        Some people hold the opinion that single-door usage does not slow bus operations.
        Some people hold the opinion that the 2 is “productive” in its current routing.
        Some people hold the opinion that an unobstructed view of a generic old high school is morally and/or legally sacrosanct.
        Some people hold the opinion that mass transit cannot happen in Seattle because of hills and the soil.
        Some people held the opinion that “unique economic conditions” kept Seattle immune to the housing bubble.
        Some people hold the opinion that the world is flat.

        All of these beliefs are absolutely, unequivocally false. In many places, those advocating them would be either quietly indulged-then-dismissed, or outright told to go to hell. But in Seattle, where all opinions are inherently equal(tm), these destructive falsehoods get seats at the table!

        I’m sorry that you think Seattle is lacking in open space (in general) or urban parks (in particular) in comparison to other functional cities. Unfortunately, you are wrong by every possible statistical analysis, not to mention by the list you were provided of dozens of underutilized or utilized-only-by-hobos public spaces.

        I’m also sorry that you think Seattle’s side streets are no wider, and fill up no more of the total urban space, than the majority of streets in peer cities. Again you are wrong, as every one of those satellite images clearly shows. We’re no Houston or L.A., but we’re far from being S.F. or Paris.

        (p.s. Though divorced from its legal origin, my use of “the exception confirms the rule (in cases not excepted)” was absolutely correct. Dolores was the only wide, median-stripped boulevard around. In fact, you had to scroll well off my original linked map to find it. You found and highlighted the exception. There are no others. The rule is that San Francisco side streets are skinny, and major streets are of medium width. In Seattle, essentially every street is medium-wide. Your struggle to name the excepted cases prove this.)

      23. D.p., Dolores park is on the left of my screen in that link and Harrison is the right-most. I am on a desktop, so maybe you are on a lower resolution monitor?

        Also, I never argued that we need more open space. You are just chasing windmills and fighting straw men.

      24. Perhaps you never used the words “more open space”. You just promoted a superfluous station plaza in a site with no potential for activation, and you bemoaned our lack of a “Central Park” even as all of our existing central parks go to rot.

        Distinction without a difference.

    2. So… he’s responding to the idea that “fixing the grid” with the waterfront and other projects is a good idea, by saying that non-gridded stuff is better…

      I think he’s missing the point. The point of “fixing the grid” at the waterfront and along Aurora isn’t making everything a perfect rectangular grid. The point is that pedestrian access across these places has been chopped to bits by highways, and that it needs to be restored so that people can walk between places in straightforward ways.

    3. Which specific streets in Seattle are too wide? The downtown avenues and Dearborn Street have been cited. I don’t have a problem with downtown’s streets, although they do resemble San Francisco south of Market rather than north of Market. And Dearborn Street is such because it used to be the I-90 terminus.

      The minor streets in Capitol Hill, the CD, Greenlake, and Fremont are generally narrow. Some of them can’t even fit two cars side by side. (Although they would if the two parking lanes were eliminated.)

      What I see in many other cities is more wide boulevards than Seattle. Portland, San Francisco, most other California cities, Dallas, etc, all have a lot of wide boulevards close together. Whereas in Seattle you can’t think of any wide boulevards in Capitol Hill/CD, and north Seattle has just 15th W and Aurora. Part of Northgate Way and Lake City Way may count. But 15th NE and 23rd/24th don’t look as obtrusive or take as long to walk across as the plethora of boulevards in other cities.

      1. Portland’s street grid is famously tight!

        Lots of skinny streets, lots of tiny blocks, lots of stuff contained therein.

        Every one of those “wide boulevards” is 50 feet from building to building.

  2. Has anyone heard how payment for RapidRide will work downtown Seattle this fall? While there are plans to rebuild many of the stops downtown with federal grant money, that work is at least a year off. Until then, will it be pay-as-you-enter for everyone, even for Orca users? Or will there be some sort of interim Orca reader?

    1. Good question.
      I also wonder about my stop at 3rd and Cedar. It’s labelled a “Station” on the RR D map, but I don’t see any off-board readers.

    2. I’ve been under the assumption that it will be POP, which is so completely ironic in light of the elimination of the RFA yet so completely typical of Metro per decisions made by the county council.

      So RR will have POP yet, routes like the 550, 255, 41, 7X, etc. that come as or more frequently will not. I cringe when the inconsistency of public policy is so evident.

      1. RR will be POP. However, at boarding locations without Orca readers, all riders are supposed to board at the front door (and then tap/pay). And, right now, there hasn’t been any visible work done to provide Orca readers in the downtown core… which is worrisome, given that these will be the busiest stops on the C and D Lines.

        And, I agree there are many other routes that should operate with POP, including tunnel routes.

      2. Usually the ORCA Card readers aren’t added to the stops till pretty late. Has Metro installed the “tech pylons” yet?

      3. I’ve been saying “Orca readers,” but that could be interchangeable with “tech pylons” for this discussion since I’m really talking about off-board payment infrastructure.

        The only locations with tech pylons installed downtown are at Bell St in both directions. The footings for the pylons exist at Virginia and Cedar, but that was done as part of the bus bulb project a couple years ago. And, nothing at all has been done anywhere else downtown.

  3. I got an email from Sound Transit today asking for feedback on three name possibilities for the Link S 200th St. station. The candidates are:

    *S 200th Street
    *South SeaTac
    *Angle Lake

    I don’t live near the area so I don’t know how much weight my opinion holds, but of the three I think I prefer South SeaTac. To me, it is the name that best describes where the station is located.

    1. My feeling is that South SeaTac Station goes against the “avoid similar names or words in existing facility names” part of the naming criteria from ST.

      1. Ya, South SeaTac would be my third choice. I prefer “Angle Lake”, although there really isn’t any good access to the lake from the station.

        But it’s a nice name, it’s an accurate name, and it won’t get confused with the other stations names.

      2. As an Eastsider who doesn’t know the South King area very well, I voted for the S 200th option; it’s perfectly clear where the station falls on the street grid and doesn’t require any prior knowledge of what nearby bodies of water are named. I fully agree with AndrewN’s explanation for why South SeaTac is a poor choice.

      3. I too want to chime in that “South SeaTac” is a bad idea

        (pretending to be the tourist)
        SeaTac? That’s the airport! South SeaTac? Oh, must be the south end of the Airport!! Wait? What?! This isn’t the airport??? %#!?#%?!

        No different than trying to explain University Street is NOT University of Washington

      4. The street name can be after the comfortable name as a subheading. “Angle Lake station, South 200th Street”. “UDistrict Station, NE 45th Street”.

    2. It seems like people who don’t know that SeaTac is also a city could be confused by “South SeaTac” and think that the station is at the south end of the airport.

      I’d go with S. 200th Street, that way people will know how ungodly far they are from downtown. :-)

    3. I don’t know where South SeaTac or Angle Lake are. I think I can figure out where S 200th Street is. That should be the name.

      1. Then again, we wouldn’t want anyone to get it confused with the stop near 200th Street SW in Lynnwood…

    4. I suggested South 200 Street/Angle Lake. I think ST should use more slashed named stations. One which gives the street/the other a familiar (at least to area residents) feature. Likewise Brooklyn Avenue NE/U-District. Or University Street/Financial District.

      1. There’s a problem with your Brooklyn station example; the cross street is a better geographic locator than the parallel street. So in line with your other other examples: “NE 45th/U-District”.

        Of course, “NE 45th St./Brooklyn Ave. NE” would be even better.

  4. “And then the capper: the incredible Metro service, whizzing down Aurora and into town in 15 minutes, and with even faster service soon to come.”

    Are they talking about the 5? There’s no way the 5 gets from Greenwood to Downtown in 15 minutes. Maybe they meant the 358, which is ‘incredible’ Metro service, but not in the way Crosscut is suggesting.

    1. According to Google Transit the 358 is 33 minutes to DT and the 5/54 is 48 minutes. Drive/Taxi is 15 minutes. Maybe their incredible Metro service is Access? Oddly, from Mercer/Roy Google lists the 358 to DT as 19 minutes and the 5/52 at 16 minutes.

  5. The board voted unanimously to declare the surface property “surplus,” which allows the process—which will culminate in Sound Transit’s sale of the land to the UW

    That pretty much ends any real debate about there being a plaza.

  6. “Meandering crosscut piece makes little sense” isn’t “news” in any sense other than this one is newer than the 1000 other pieces like that.

    1. I made the mistake of scrolling through the comments on the Crosscut piece.

      Half the people in the Seattle area are functionally retarded.

      1. JB had another great quote: “The last place to have density would be a transit center.”


      2. “Half the people in the Seattle area are functionally retarded.”

        So, you’re doing better statistically than most of the country!

      3. Remember, the general principle is that practically everyone is stupid, and ignorant, and likes it. Sigh.

    2. Yes and I stand by that argument. I also provided a reason…which is that at a transit center, you was free flowing traffic…for both buses and cars to access it so that it serves an entire area, not just those who live within a few blocks of it.

  7. Any fools who at any point believed that “fixing the Mercer Mess” ever had anything at all to do with alleviating traffic are presumably also keeping teeth under their pillows and writing letters to Santa Claus. It’s not just that they have failed to do so; it’s that the very idea of doing so is laughably impossible. It’s 80,000 cars; there’s no more a way to make them proceed through the area unimpeded by traffic than there is to power a rocketship to Mars with jars of Marshmallow Creme. And even if they did make traffic move faster (to where, exactly?) it would just expand to fill the space. A traffic nightmare like that is ALWAYS, by definition, going to fill right up to the point one centimeter shy of “eff this noise, I’m outta here”.

    They might, just possibly, make it a better street though. Odds are against it; it’s Seattle after all. I’ll be interested to see in a few months’ time who exactly is going to walk on those sidewalks. Maybe suicidists, thwarted by the fence on Aurora, who are looking for a big hit of carbon monoxide.

    1. The current issues with the “new” Mercer have more to do with the limited skills of the average Seattle driver than with anything else.

      This city has some of the worst drivers in the nation — yes, they are “polite”, but that is about their only saving grace.

      1. If every driver in Seattle was magically tranformed into Mario Andretti’s Conscientious Commutin’ Cousin, Mercer would still be backed up.

        The only way to free up Mercer would be a devastating economic depression on the scale of Detroit (or a nuclear bomb). If Mercer was forty lanes wide, it would be backed up.

    2. Yeah, that should come as no surprise: “Travel time benefits for specific routes vary from general improvements for westbound traffic to slight increases in travel time for some eastbound routes.”

      On the other hand, the plan calls for a bicycle path on Valley, and the Mercer West project includes buffered bike lanes on Roy and a bicycle path as part of the widened Mercer underpass as well as widening those ridiculously narrow sidewalks.

      Plus vacating Broad between Valley and Harrison and reconnecting Thomas and Harrison across Aurora should make the Uptown Triangle less of a out-of-the-way wasteland.

      1. Ya, give the average Seattle driver a couple of months to re-educate themselves via trial and error and give SDOT time to finish the other improvements and it should be better than what we had before.

        It’s just going to take Seattle drivers a really long time to get used to it..but things will get better.

    3. I know that long-term, the Broad St. underpass will close, but does anyone know how long the now-empty northern lanes will stay bike accessible? Those narrow-ass sidewalks on Mercer now have an alternative!

      1. Broad St stays open to cars ’til mid-2014, then the full switch to two-way Mercer happens (and, I hope, some better sidewalks will be open at the same time) and DBT north portal construction begins in earnest. So I would assume it was physically passable until then, but they might choose to use it for construction staging and take a dim view of people biking though it. You don’t legally have a right to ride there once the “road closed” signs go up.

    4. I wish after spending that money on such a pointless project they had at least made it prettier. It’s still just a giant freeway on/off ramp.

    5. It seems that there is a persistent, although perhaps unintentional effort by City of Seattle politicians and planners to kill off the Seattle Center. Traffic congestion, lack of any major transit focus since the monorail was extended, moving the home of the symphony to DT, BB arena shenanigans, turning the original Arena into a storage closet for the opera, Fun Forrest to another collection of random shaped glass doodads…

    6. Clearly they wanted to make it more difficult for cars.

      And you know what..I support that design…even if it means more employers will spread offices around rather than all cramming into downtown.

    1. I assume that they’re talking about a derivative of their old “Husky Special” shuttles that run directly to the stadium from some select P&Rs (Northgate, I-5/65th, etc.) Essentially it’s door-to-door service with no stops in between, thus justifying the slight premium over standard bus fare. There’s a similar deal in place for Seahawks’ games.

      There was a big to-do about it a year or two ago after the Bush administration essentially outlawed it, but after some lobbying and pressure Patty Murray got us an exemption, which then had to wind through the courts before finally being found legal.

    2. I think the Huskies signed an agreement so they could get around that? At any rate they still do some P/R service that’s listed separately. Since that also costs $3 now maybe there was some miscommunication about the Metro route pricing.

      1. The “free” transit service (free to ticket holders, though they pretty much let anyone ride) to Husky Stadium was part of required mitigation to local neighborhoods–Montlake–when the then-new north upper deck was built in 1987. I assume that since games will not be played in that area this year the mitigation requirement does not apply and they can try and recoup some of their costs. I am not sure whether or not it will come back next year when the new stadium opens…I imagine it will as it has been very successful.

        Sounder is serving the game on 15 September, but apparently not this Saturday. Of course no special service will occur for the Thursday night game as the buses are otherwise occupied!


    “Railroading has, like almost all industries, made great strides in labor productivity since its inception more than two centuries ago”

    “For the past 50 years, however, this progress has eluded passenger rail in the U.S. While unions and management squabble over wages and benefits, the overarching issue of labor productivity remains unresolved. The resulting high labor costs drag down service, prevent new lines from opening, and depress ridership and revenues. ”

    “And the labor issues in New York’s transit system extend outside of the train cars. When asked by transit blogger Benjamin Kabak about its high construction costs, Michael Horodniceanu, president of the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital construction division, gave a two-word answer: “work rules.” Citing the example of the city’s revered sandhogs, he said the MTA employs 25 for tunnel-boring machine work that Spain does with nine. “

    1. New York City is in a specially bad place when it comes to work rules.

      Its problems do *not* apply to Seattle.

      In fact, the “commuter rail” labor productivity… are really really bad on the LIRR, rather bad on some of the other “legacy” commuter rail systems (which have operated continuously since they were operated by private companies), and actually reasonably good the fresh-start commuter rail systems scattered throughout the country (such as Sounder). LIRR only relatively recently got rid of “firemen” (!!!), who haven’t been needed since steam engines went out. There is no similar overstaffing on Sounder.

  9. Don’t most Sounder trains run with a 3 person crew: engineer, conductor and security guard? That’s pretty lean compared to what it took to operate passenger trains 50 years ago. I think the security guard position is window dressing, but I can’t imagine BLET would want its conductors also working as security guards on passenger trains, so the 3 person crew will continue. The biggest inefficiency in Sounder operation is that the trains only run at commute hours and like a Metro rush hour tripper, there’s a lot of time put into getting the train ready to go and then running it back to the yard after just one trip. If the trains ran all day, the per-trip cost of running would fall.

    1. If the trains ran all day, the per-trip cost of running would fall.

      Doubt it, you wouldn’t be generating squat for fare recover mid day running a horendously expensive train back and forth between Seattle and Lakewood. In any event the total cost would skyrocket. Lose a little a lot on each one and make it up in volume?

      1. Well, I did say the per-trip cost of running would fall. I didn’t say that the trips would be more profitable.

        If Sounders ran hourly Metro (and PT) might be able to truncate a lot of unprofitable suburban bus routes at Sounder stations and have people ride the trains to downtown Seattle (and downtown Tacoma). Profitable? I doubt it.

      2. Let’s get this straight. Your idea is instead of under utilized buses serving far flung P&R lots mid day you want to “save money” by instead running WAY MORE expensive trains. Supposing BNSF would even entertain the idea do you have any clue what just the increased trackage costs would be???

      3. Midday Sounder would be a colossal waste of money. Commuter trains only make sense if you have massive volume to offset the extremely high hourly operating costs; this is how Caltrain functions in the South Bay.

        If you want to rationalize some services around Kent, start by truncating some of Metro’s peak expresses (158, 159) which pointlessly compete with Sounder.

      4. If we wanted to, we could build an express to Kent today at zero net cost. Simply add a 594 stop at Federal Way TC, and get rid of the jog through SODO, instead using I-5 to go all the way to the center of downtown. The addition of the Federal Way stop and the elimination of the SODO jog would roughly cancel each other out and keep the running time between Seattle and Tacoma the same as it is today. Yes, people going from Tacoma to SODO would have to backtrack, but there’s tons of buses, plus Link, going from downtown Seattle to SODO, so it shouldn’t be that big a deal (*). And it’s not like huge crowds of people commute between Tacoma and SODO anyway.

        Now, reroute the 578 to go to Kent between Auburn and Seattle, rather than Federal Way. We now have nonstop all-day service between Seattle and Kent with no additional costs to add to the budget.

        (*) If the new arena gets built, this proposed change would make it take significantly longer to get from Tacoma to a Sonics game, so it might make sense to preserve the 594’s SODO busway routing before and after basketball and hockey games, even if the regular, everyday route bypasses the area. But we would still be talking about only a few trips per week here.

      5. Stop trying to put words in my mouth! All I said is that part of the reason that commuter train service is so expensive is that the trains are only used for a few trips a day. I did not say that it would be a good idea to run the trains all day long! I did point out that per-trip costs would go down if the trains ran all day long, but I did not say that would be a good idea.

      6. Amazing that the “SoDo jog” (a dedicated busway) is considered a drain and a distraction. Another example of real-world implementation giving lie to the BRT enthusiasts.

      7. If buying the slots from BNSF could be done cheaply, midday Sounder *would* make economic sense, and would be used pretty heavily. But it can’t.

    2. Two of the trains make three one-way trips morning and afternoon. Once the new ST2 trips start, there will be improved usage of the trainsets.

    3. I think the Sounder trains are stored in SODO midday, minimizing the amount of deadheading rush-hour only service would ordinarily required.

    4. Sounder has perfectly reasonable staffing.

      The reports about low labor productivity are really reports about labor productivity at *legacy* rail systems. The LIRR has engineer, conductor, and one attendant for each car, last I checked; which is reasonable for an Amtrak train running for 24 or 48 hours, but vast overkill for a commuter train. And as I noted above they only got rid of the “fireman” position relatively recently.

      Similarly, Boston and New York are the only subway systems whose unions think that they need two employees per train. Legacy stuff.

      1. Note that Amtrak’s staffing is lower than the staffing of the previous private railroads, which for similarly long train routes would have anywhere from two to ten employees per car (seriously).

  10. “If you can’t get people from the freeway to Bellevue Square, you’ve got a problem.”

    At least Wallace is up front about his view of Bellevue’s #1 priority…

  11. Maybe this is beating a dead horse, but I rode the B Line yesterday for the first time, from Redmond TC to Bellevue TC at 7am and return at 5pm, and I’m a little annoyed at Metro. If one reads what passes for the B Line schedule, one would draw the logical conclusion that all trips take about a half-hour:

    But no! It appears that the scheduled running time during peak hours is, in fact, the 40-45 minute rides I experienced yesterday, which caused me to be late for both work in the morning and a recreational team sport in the evening because I was planning my time around the published 30-minute ride. OBA indicates the longer running times during peak hours:

    What’s the point of publishing a “frequent service” schedule if it fails to indicate that running times outside of the early/late hours are up to 50% longer? Sure, it’s nice to know that I can just show up and expect a bus to come by soon, but it’s also essential to convey to the rider information about how long they’ll be on the bus so they can plan ahead if they have an arrival time constraint.

    1. The purpose of RR B is not to shuttle people between DT Redmond and DT Bellevue. The 232 does that using SR-520. RR B connects Overlake (Microsoft) and Crossroads (a big transit mode share) with the two region transit centers at either end. That said RR B does a lot of needless wandering to serve Overlake Village and the warehouse district of north Redmond.

      1. A warehouse district that has a lot of MF housing nearby (and an indoor recreational sport facility).

      2. Hmm… I had no idea. The 232 isn’t exactly as widely publicized as RR B. It also runs nowhere near as often; based on when I arrived at Redmond TC, I would have stood around waiting for at laest 20 minutes before the next 232 showed up, assuming it didn’t get delayed during the half-hour run from Duvall.

      3. …and we’re back to “buses get caught in traffic, so they run slow exactly when they need to run fast, namely peak time”. Build a rail line.

      4. When the 232 isn’t running, the fastest transit option from downtown Redmond to downtown Bellevue is actually to take the 545 to the little-used Yarrow Point freeway station, and jog the rest of the way. Even at a 10-minute mile pace, that’s still good enough to beat the other transit options.

        Unfortunately, as of last month, this option is no longer available for the eastbound trip, which leaves 566->545 or B-line all the way as the only two viable options.

    2. The trip planner suggestion for Bellevue TC to Redmond TC at 5:00 pm gave the B Line as a third option (departing at 5:07 and arrive at 5:53 for a total of 46 minutes). The first option was a 232 as Bernie suggested with a 22 minute travel time. The second option was on Sound Transit using Route 566 and transfering to a 542 or 545 at Overlake. With a transfer, that travel time was 33 minutes.

      1. I think there is a huge problem with the marketing. It was billed as a route that went from BTC to RTC which is true but it’s not really a route designed to connect those two points. Given that those are the two best known points and the center of each city it would seem logical that it would be but it’s really about connecting both of them to the very important Overlake/Microsoft and Crossroads area. Everyone knows about Microsoft but not many people outside of those who need it really understand how big transit is to Crossroads or how big Crossroads is in terms of transit demand. And yeah, know body knows about the 232 even though it’s the direct route connection between two of the largest transit centers and downtowns on the eastside. Nooooobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…

    1. Hydrogen articles unlikely to be gargoyled on the metaverse:

      * First human run over by a hydrogen vehicle speeding through a cul-de-
      sac. There will be no signs of impairment or negligent driving, of
      course, as these sorts of things seem to just… happen… somehow.
      RIP Wayde Rodriguez-Fale.
      * First bicyclist left to die as the hydrogen-powered vehicle speeds
      away–more or less cleanly–from the hit-and-run. And not the last.

      The small task of managing our existing infrastructure aside, some may
      argue that self-driving vehicles will pass the many and significant
      technological and cultural barriers to entry. Assuming this claim to be
      true, we can expect:

      * The first human run over by a self-driving vehicle (by way of
      faulty sensor, software error, software fault, hacked code, etc).
      And not the last.
      * The first driver to take the manual controls and flee after the self-
      driving vehicle collides with someone. And not the last, unless the
      vehicles are neutered from human operation.

      So there would be a small fraction of the race still quite sedentary,
      ruining their backs in expensive autonomous boxes, mostly stopping for
      other humans (what sort of error rate is acceptable? How much slowdown
      will limited-travel-time humans find acceptable? Is it okay for a few
      lines of code to mow someone down?), picking their way through a vastly
      expensive, variously kept road network–more passenger deaths from
      chunks of unmaintained road getting kicked through them–all problems
      inexplicably solvable by the simple nostrum of building more and more
      and more roads?

      Or the able could just walk. But walking is hard! And so the rest plays
      itself out.

    2. I think I have the answer to American Energy Independence. Remember, you heard it here first folks, Bio-Coal!!!. We dry and burn corn using the energy to compress the charred remains into coal. This is environmentally friendly because it uses the entire plant. And if there’s a drought we can divert corn back to high fructose corn syrup production and substitute old growth logs or whatever else we want to get rid of. The bio-coal production can occur in old strip mines in plants constructed with federal subsidies for EPA Superfund sites. The coal will be converted to methane and distributed via a fracking big pipeline network built by the new government jobs program, the Civilian Coal Corps. Then the methane is finally converted to hydrogen so at the tail of the pipe the only byproduct is water! Surely this can unite America; conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat, men and women, young and old, cats and dogs…

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