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This is an open thread.

72 Replies to “News Roundup: Queue Jump”

  1. So I rode RapidRide C for the first time for an election party in West Seattle. Underwhelming to say the least. I can see why West Seattle residents aren’t enamored with the service. As slow or slower than the 54, and packed like a sardine can.

    I’m a big Metro/public transit supporter but they really need to work on how they are marketing things. Rapid Ride was sold as a big improvement, and people agreed to extra taxation for it. Not surprisingly, they were looking forward to it. What they got feels more like a consolidation of routes that was put in place for cost savings; i.e. a service reduction. Rider expectations were very badly managed.

    A lot of people on this blog are transit professionals and look at this objectively through the lens of efficiency or savings or time improvements. While that’s a totally valid way to look at it, from a customer perspective, I can see why people view Rapid Ride as a downgrade. From their perspective, they are walking further to ride a more crowded bus that only comes marginally more frequently.

    I can hear a chorus now of “yes, but… wait until off board fare payment and the next bus coming signs and signal priority”. Agreed these will make some difference, but by the time Metro gets around to it, people will already have the opinion of “Rapid Ride is not an upgrade”. It will have it’s reputation.

    I worry about the effect of Rapid Ride’s performance is going to have on future transit tax increases at the ballot box. I certainly couldn’t blame someone for saying “no” to an increase for more Rapid Rides

      1. There’s a lot of reasons Metro probably couldn’t win:

        – Many of its supporters are (understandably) disillusioned by the poor response to the $20 car tab approval. We transit wonks are of course upset that Metro didn’t push through more radical changes. Other people thought that the car tab funding meant that Metro would not have to change anything, and are upset when that wasn’t true.

        – A Metro funding measure would need to secure the support of everyone in King County, even in unincorporated areas which receive little to no transit service. If you assume those areas are a strong no, then Metro would need to get a strong yes in all of the urbanized areas, which is unlikely.

        – Metro just isn’t that exciting. People like exciting capital projects, like Sound Transit’s initiatives, or shiny new streetcars. Few people will agree to pay more taxes for bus service that they perceive to be getting worse.

      2. 47, yes, I think a “Seattle Subway” ballot measure could win handily, especially if it were voted on by Seattle residents only. :)

      3. every ballot measure is uncertain and at risk.

        Metro has won several; it was provided an additional three-tenths sales tax in 2000 after the $30 MVET was enacted by the legislature and it was approved in 2000 and 2006. Bob Lane’s book outlines the history of its tax measures:

        The ETP and SMP had several ballot measures, with a failure at the end.

        ST has had two wins in 1996 and 2008 and two losses in 1995 and 2007.

      1. Yes and no. Peak ridership is almost definitely higher — at this point, peak headways on the C Line are surely 8 minutes or shorter. But it’s possible that off-peak ridership has dropped, partly due to less service (4 buses an hour, instead of 6 on the 54+55), and partly due to public perception that the C Line is crowded and unreliable (whether or not it’s true).

        In practice, my guess is that C Line ridership is much higher than the old 54+55 at all times of day. But we’ll have to wait and see to be sure.

  2. Of course Bellevue doesn’t want the Link Maintenance facility. The whole idea behind transforming the future Spring District is to get rid of unsightly, blue collar businesses like auto repair shops and warehouses and making the area upscale. Being forced to take train maintenance facilities and warehouses would ruin their plan for that area.

    1. No, it doesn’t. Have you looked at the proposed location? It’s wedged between two Metro bases. There will not be mixed-use development there. Not in my lifetime. Bellevue is pointlessly whinging. That location is perfectly ideal, and it matches the land use perfectly.

      1. The Mayor of Bellevue seems to think putting it there would ruin the area. ” ‘It doesn’t make sense’ to put a rail yard in what will be an upscale area, Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee said …”

        And how can the rail yard be between Bellevue’s two Metro bases? That would put the rail yard in the middle of a street.

    1. It would be fantastic if one of the states could pick up the two trainsets. New service cannot be added until the bypass project finishes, but schedules could be improved, and trains could be lengthened by up to 4 cars each. Question is, do the station platforms have space for longer trains?

      1. From the Lakewood city council, opposing the Pt. Defiance Bypass:

        [Lakewood Councilman Don] Anderson also worried about increased suicides because patients released from Western State Hospital suffering from depression would have an easier time reaching the inland route.

        Lamest NIMBY excuse ever?

      2. Not all stations have long enough platforms, but not all doors need to open at every station. Onboard, when the train stops at short platformed stations, the conductors will announce which doors will be opened.

        Example announcement: Stanwood station coming up, we’ll be opening up in business class and between cars 4 and 5

      3. One thing which could be done immediately with two extra trainsets would be to have all-Talgo service, even on Thanksgiving.

      4. I see why the state and federal governments are dotting every I and crossing every T on this project. Lakewood is clearly going to waste its taxpayers’ money filing frivolous lawsuits against the Point Defiance Bypass project, and the state and federal governments want to make sure that they have absolutely no chance of causing even a small delay. The EIS is going to demolish Lakewood’s attempts to claim that anything was done without due consideration.

        (Hawaii’s metro rail project is being delayed right now by failure to cross every t and dot every i.)

      5. I like the view from the upper level on the Superliners.

        Looks like the Talgos are back on Nov 16th for the 510/517 trains.
        At least, that’s what’s showing as available.

    1. Per the linked drawings I think the building looks decent. Can’t wait for North Beacon Hill’s center to start having a more urban feel. I know some are against it, but we got the subway station, now let’s take on the density to make it a more worthwhile investment!

      1. What’s garbage about those? They’re big and blocky, but density requires big and blocky. They’re mixed-use and built in appropriate locations for dense housing.

      2. So, I have to admit that I find the facades of many modern buildings to be kind of ugly.

        This has nothing to do with them being big and blocky. In fact, some of the nicest buildings in the area are big and blocky. The difference is that those buildings have a unity of form in a way that other buildings seem to purposely avoid.

        For example, look at the Joule in Capitol Hill. It’s got about five different materials and colors, with random things jutting out at random angles. It’s a total hodgepodge.

        Now, compare that with the Capitol Building (also a dense mixed-use building, though quite a bit smaller). It’s a box, but it’s a *symmetric* box. It’s got a small and consistent color palette.

        Here’s a good article explaining what I mean.

        There are definitely examples of new buildings that work well, and there are plenty of examples of old buildings that don’t (though many have been appropriately lost to history). It’s just that, to quote:

        Despite ample, recent built examples to the contrary, the Tinkerbells continue to believe that the modulation of a building’s mass, both horizontally and vertically, and composing it of as many distinct materials and colors as possible, leads to good design. This has not worked, and it is definitely not precedent-based. What this modulation and material mayhem is, is design by check-list. As long as each box is checked, the final result seems to be irrelevant.

        I don’t think this current architectural trend has much significance with regard to the things we normally talk about at STB. Buildings these days tend to be ugly, whether they’re single-family McMansions or the perfect mixed-use mid-rise. We’ll end up with a number of ugly buildings either way, and eventually (I hope), we’ll start building some better ones. :)

        If anything, the biggest thing that we can push for is to create a regulatory environment which encourages people to build *narrower* buildings. I think that part of the architectural trend is due to the fact that many of today’s buildings take up an entire block. Developers thus make the (understandable) decision to vary the facade, so that you don’t have to look at the same thing for an entire block. But if there were six buildings on the block instead of one, then each building could be well-designed on its own, and you’d get variety out of the diversity. Right now, the only people who can afford to build anything are people who can afford to build big. We need to make it possible to build small again.

      3. Local codes often REQUIRE façade articulation, changes in building height modulation and differing materials. Granted, this is more prevalent in suburban areas, but it still exists.

    1. You should try it and be our guinea pig!

      Maybe sidecar could be the solution to Metro’s Snoqualmie Valley restructure.

      1. I’m curious how the mechanics work for drivers accepting rides. If their model is you’re driving down the road and your phone pops up an alert that someone near you wants a ride, fiddling with the phone to respond to the request is dangerous (and a potential lawsuit waiting to happen if this actually causes an accident). On the other hand, if you have to accept ride requests before you even get in your car, that requires manual effort on part of the driver to check the SideCar app before every trip. If the chance of actually picking up a passenger is small, the effort of fiddling with the app won’t be worth most driver’s time for a potential payout of a few dollars if a passenger actually does get picked up.

  3. So… Everett Transit. How is it that they keep fares so low? It seems to me that they pretty much let CT do all the hard work and focus on a few established destinations in Everett, but I don’t know much about it first-hand.

    1. I’d be interested to see their farebox recovery. That’s an absurdly low fare. Although, I wouldn’t suggest that they price them at Metro rates due to short trip distances.

      1. Higher density (well, or really lack of low density suburbs) gives you the political support to do that.

      2. Even with a very low fare-recovery ratio they aren’t spending a whole ton of money, right? I suspect they just don’t run many bus-hours per taxpayer, so it isn’t a big political problem.

        I guess the thrust of my question is whether Everett is doing something Tacoma could do to save transit within their city. If Everett Transit is cheap because it isn’t good, and would hardly be worth using were if free, then probably not. But I don’t really know what’s happening there.

    2. Very tempting for the Pierce delegation to declare Tacoma to Puyallup, South Hill, Federal Way, etc to be of regional transit nature and let ST run and pay for all the service to those points. Those are longer distance than say Seattle to Bellevue.
      “Follow the Money”, so ST’s 9/10 looks pretty good when compared to 53% cuts.

      1. And look, there already is a 574 to Federal Way! :) Too bad for Fife, it’s not big enough for ST to serve it.

  4. In re the coal trains,

    If what people are primarily worried about is dust, why can’t you just put a cover on the train cars? won’t that take care of 99% of the problem?

    1. I suspect this increases the risk of the coal dust just building up in the covered space and going boom.

      1. Bingo. And even if that wasn’t a concern, the added cost of covered cars would hurt the economic case. Coal production, transportation, and consumption exists primarily because the costs of the negative externalities are not paid by those who profit from it.

    2. Yes you can cover the cars. But that adds expense. The trains are designed to load from the top and empty from the bottom. In reality there is very little effect from the coal dust along the route. There is however a fairly significant effect from the polution generated by the diesel locomotives. But what people are really pissed off about is the noise and the level crossings. And of course some people are genuinely concerned about the planet but that’s pretty much a feel good argument since China is going to get the coal. Either through other west coast ports or from Australia. I’d raise another concern though which is the increase in extremely large bulk cargo ships in the Puget Sound. Navigating the waters up to Bellingham is pretty tricky both in terms of the number of obsticles, other marine traffic and weather. Even if nothing goes wrong those ships spew a lot of crap into the water and the noise effects on animals like the Orca is not well studied.

      1. The positioning of a coal port in Bellingham or not will have no influence on the world price of coal. Like I said, it will either go through other ports on the west coast or China will get it from Australia. There is no impending “peak coal” scenario. What Wyoming doesn’t sell to China will go to US power plants. So in effect we’re trading off burning the coal here or over there. If China is willing to gobble up all we can send them then it’s an incentive for power plants in the US to shift to natural gas sooner. What we could do politically is reach a bargain where the US pre-processes the coal to make it cleaner burning. Not clean but slightly better. It adds value to our export. cuts down on the volume that needs to be shipped and could be transported in sealed containers.

      2. Your argument is inconsistent. If there’s no shortage of coal, why would sending it to China decrease demand here?

        They wouldn’t be buying it from us in the first place if we didn’t have the best coal at the cheapest price. Remove our supply, and price goes up. Price goes up, consumption goes down.

      3. why would sending it to China decrease demand here?

        Doesn’t decrease demand for energy but it does make natural gas more competitive. If we sell all our apples to China then people start buying peaches to make their pies. Most of the coal producing states now have an abundance of natural gas. It’s relatively cheap to send natural gas via pipeline to US power plants but expensive to liquify it and send it to China. OTOH it’s a significant expense to switch existing plants from coal to natural gas.

        Remove our supply, and price goes up. Price goes up, consumption goes down.

        Stopping the coal terminal in Bellingham doesn’t in any way remove our supply from what is a global energy market. It might make it cheaper domestically if we limit exports but unless there is some international agreement on the burning of fossil fuel it just shifts the supply chain. Coal is not the limited resource that crude oil is and while we have a preponderance of the world supply we in no way control enough of the world production to make any real shift in price. If Australia knows they have a larger market companies like BHP will simply invest more in ramping up production.

      4. But you’re saying there’s no limit on apples, so we’d keep eating apples here. And effectively that’s right – we have a virtually unlimited supply of coal here. Natural gas is winning here because it’s cheaper. And it will still be cheaper even if we export less coal to China.

        I’m not saying that coal prices will shoot up if we block delivery, but they will increase. And any increase will result in a decrease in consumption.

      5. If there were a significant uptick in Apple exports then yes we would increase apple production. Short term what would happen is less apples would go into “fruit juice” than we’d see a switch to peach pies because there are other sweeteners that are essentially interchangeable.

        If you’re fighting to ban all west coast coal ports then yes that would put at least in the short term an upward pressure on the price of coal in China. But unless you declare war on coal at home it has the same short term effect of depressing the price here and making it harder to pitch conversion to natural gas. In the end it’s a world wide energy market. Form a coal cartel and China just builds more examples of the Three Gorges Dam and ramps up their nuclear program. That’s probably better for climate change but I don’t see the US ever being able to control a world coal cartel.

      6. As far as navigating to Bellingham is concerned, that’s my department. There’s nothing fundamentally difficult about getting a deep draft to Bellingham. These days we all carry rather sophisticated navigational equipment that make it pretty hum-drum, we’re all tracked by our AIS transponders, and in near constant communication with Seattle Traffic. If that doesn’t seem adequate there’s also the Puget Sound Pilot that a foreign flagged vessel picks up at Port Angeles and the immensely powerful tractor tugs that work the north end of the Sound, so there’s really no cause for alarm.

        As for spewing stuff into the water, that’s really not the case. Unless something goes wrong the only thing you might see pouring out the side of a deep draft would be seawater coming out of a heat exchanger. The noise pollution I don’t know about, but if it’s any consolation there are already way more tankers up that way than most people would probably guess, so I wouldn’t suspect there’d be more than an incremental increase in noise/traffic.

    3. What government agency has sampled the coal dust that is supposed to be coming off these trains?

      I’d like to see some hard numbers, because I’m having a hard time seeing it, and finding the residue opponents are talking about.

      1. Missoula did a study. They found what I would consider a fairly trivial amount of coal dust along the railroad through town. At least trivial to the particulates coming off of vehicles passing through Missoula on I-90 – diesel particulates, tire particulates, etc.

        Most of the loose dust blows off near the mine. It has been a big problem for BNSF and UP because it fouls the ballast and can lead to derailments. I understand the RRs and the mines have been going back and forth about who should pay to spray the loads with a dust suppressant, but I haven’t been following that to see how it is being resolved.

  5. RE: Talgo suing Wisconsin. It’s a pity to have to come to that, but my confidence of Scott Walker to see past the next year is non-existent. He refused the federal help, and now he’s refusing to pay for the trainset the state did get (that the federal money would have covered). What a mess.

    It would’ve been amazing to go from Madison to Milwaukee, and then onto Chicago. I was happy for WSDOT when he refused funding, but now that I’m in Madison it’s immensely frustrating to see this wasted money and nothing to show for it.

  6. The Cadman ready mix concrete yard on the west side of 130th Avenue Northeast

    This site is nowhere big enough. Much of the surrounding property would also have to be taken. Makes no sense to locate this in the heart of what is designated for TOD. The gravel pit could be an OK spot for a P&R and the sole initial Bel-Red station. Let Wright Runstad pay the full cost if they insist on an extra station wedged between 130th and Hospital station.

    between SR 520 and Northup Way, in an area now occupied by small businesses;

    This site is less than a mile from my house and I could support the location if the cost is competitive with the Lynnwood site. This land abuts SR520 and is a buffer to the residential zoning to the north. Right now it’s auto parts stores and auto dealerships. From a neighborhood standpoint I’d rather have the train yard. Of course the City is probably concerned that the luxury auto dealerships might move out of Bellevue and take their sales tax with them. It also means that the property won’t be bought and sold on a regular basis so the City loses big time on real estate excise tax and ever increasing property assessments.

    1. What? Are you saying that auto dealerships pay property tax, but Sound Transit would not pay property tax on the same land, if ST bought it?

      1. No, what I’m saying is that Sound Transit will hold the property forever as a rail yard. Auto dealerships change hands on a regular basis. Every time a property sells there is an excise tax paid (like sales tax every time a used car is sold). By taking the property out of circulation the City takes a revenue loss. Further, a car lot is most likely going to be sold and redeveloped at some point into something much more valuable that generates higher property taxes over time. A rail yard will likely limit the value of surrounding property further cutting into future tax revenue.

      2. Would Sound Transit pay property taxes on that land if ST owned it, or not?

        You did a good job of ignoring my question.

      3. So, just one more example of transit riders paying NO taxes, while motorists pay taxes every time they turn around.

        The property taxes paid by auto dealerships are passed along to people who buy autos. Meanwhile, transit agencies pay no property taxes at all.

  7. The Swift got pulled over today by the county Sheriff for running the “red”. He asked the driver if he ran it intentionally. The driver said “No, I ran the green intentionally and pointed at the light”. They had to go back and look at it because the Sheriff was unaware it existed.

  8. Next Magnolia bus rider meeting appears to be confirmed for Tues Nov 13th at the Magnolia public library (Route 24, or .5 mile walk from route 19) at 6:30 pm.

  9. I’m a long time reader of the blog although I rarely comment. I’m commenting now because I’m trying to find a last minute (Tuesday evening) speaker for a course on climate change. I teach chemistry at Seattle University and the students just learned how to calculate the carbon emissions of cars versus humans versus planes.

    This week, I would like to show them how land use decisions impact people’s decision to walk/bike/or drive. Considering the depth of comments on the blog, someone might know someone around capital hill neighborhood that could chat for about 25 minutes on Tuesday night, perhaps even lead a brief tour around the Capital Hill green district to illustrate how well-planned density with generous sidewalks, greenery, and storefronts leads residents to choose carbon neutral methods of travel. The person would NOT have to lecture, this would be more an interactive discussion experience.

    If you know someone (or know someone who knows someone) I would love advice. I understand its last minute but I plan on running this course again later. I will check back on the comments often OR you can message me at my Seattle U email address. (search for chemistry faculty + lovitt)

  10. Interesting breakthrough in “light harvesting”…

    Hydrogen fuel edges a step closer

    Making hydrogen gas in water just got a little easier. The discovery may lead to inexpensive, practical means of harvesting sunlight to create clean-burning hydrogen for powering cars or generating electricity.

    Scientists would like to mimic plant photosynthesis, which harvests sunlight and splits water molecules to create fuel. It sounds simple, but even in plants the task is a highly orchestrated set of reactions, with multiple players acting in multiple places. So researchers often tackle one half of photosynthesis at a time.

    1. Hydrogen fuel edges a step closer

      Now, if it would just take that last step over the cliff never to be heard from again.

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