125 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: 165mph”

  1. Would they be able to run at these speeds for much of NYCBOS? That’s where they really need to decrease travel times to compete with flying.

    I take Acela PHLNYC (includes the stretch shown here) pretty frequently, it always seems to fill up when I travel during the morning/afternoon rush. So, I’m not sure what the business case for running this stretch at 170mph instead of 135 is.

    1. The faster you can run a service, the more trips you can make in a day, the greater the capacity without increasing equipment and labor costs. More fares for the same service hours, and if they’re full already and you’re providing an imporved (faster) service, you can charge more for those fares.

      1. My understanding is that Amtrak can’t really run more trains on the NEC because the area around NY Penn is clogged with commuter trains. There’s an ARRA funded project on Long Island that could increase capacity there, but they need new tunnels under the Hudson to increase capacity between NJ and NYC. LIRR’s ESA project might also free up some platform space in Penn Station (if Metro North doesn’t take it).

      2. At some point, it is more expensive to operate trains on high-speed rail the faster they go. This is why China reduced the speed on their high-speed rail lines — to save money.

        As I understand it, its something like cars on a highway. The optimum speed for fuel efficiency of most cars is around 50 mph. The faster you go over 50, the less mpg you get, and the more expensive it is per mile.


        “In an interview the People’s Daily, Sheng announced that all trains in the high speed rail network will be operated at a maximum speed of 300 km/h (186 mph).[9][55] This was in response to concerns over safety, low ridership due to high ticket prices,[56] and high energy usage.[54] On June 13, 2011, the Ministry of Railways clarified in a press conference that the speed reduction was not due to safety concerns but to offer more affordable tickets for trains at 250 km/h and increase ridership. Higher speed train travel uses greater energy and imposes more wear on expensive machinery. Railway officials chose to run faster trains at 300 km/h instead of 350 km/h to achieve closer train spacing and greater capacity utilization.”

        “From July 20, 2011, the frequency of train service from Jinan to Beijing and Tianjin was reduced due to low occupancy renewing concerns about the demand and profitability for high speed services.[63] High numbers of service failures in the first month of operation drove passengers back to the existing slower rail services and air travel with airline ticket prices rising again from reduced competition.”

        “The Wenzhou train collision had an immediate impact on China’s high-speed rail program. The Chinese government formed a commission to investigate the accident with a directive to report its findings in September 2011.[71] On August 10, 2011, the Chinese government announced that it was suspending approvals of any new high-speed rail lines pending the outcome of the investigation.[72][73] The Minister of Railways announced further cuts in the speed of Chinese high-speed trains, with the speed of the second-tier ‘D’ trains reduced from 250 km/h (155 mph) to 200 km/h (124 mph).[74] The speed of the remaining 350 km/h trains between Shanghai and Hangzhou was reduced to 300 km/h as of August 28, 2011.[75] To stimulate ridership, on August 16, 2011 ticket prices on Chinese high-speed trains were reduced by 5 percent.[76] From July to September, high-speed rail ridership in China fell by nearly 30 million to 151 million trips.[77]”

      3. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually do agree with Norman here. Once you increase speed beyond a certain point, capitol, maintenance, and energy costs just spiral out of control. Meanwhile, it’s a basic principle of math that each additional mile-per-hour saves you less time on a fixed distance than the prior one, so you start to reach a point of diminishing returns.

        This even holds true for air travel. The Concord failed it was too expensive to operate and even regular planes today are scheduled to fly at less than their maximum speed to save fuel and hold down ticket prices. The public has consistently voted with their wallets that it is not worth an extra thousand dollars to get from New York to London 3 hours quicker, nor is it worth an extra $50 to get from Seattle to San Francisco 15 minutes faster.

        This is why I question the wisdom of the proposed California high speed rail line. Sure, improving travel speeds from Los Angelas to San Francisco is good, but a hundred billion dollars is just too expensive of a price tag for a service that would either require massive operating subsidies or charge fares that would be no cheaper than the airlines would charge. Much better would be to make incremental improvements along the line, focusing on getting the trains at a consistent 79 mph without constantly stopping for freight. Then, re-invest the savings to improve transit on a more urban scale to help with trips people actually make on an everyday basis, rather than once a year. For instance, a tiny portion of what this HSR project is costing, California could instead spend the money to transform CalTrain from the once-an-hour pile of crap it is today to something that would actually be usable for the everyday person.

      4. I’d argue that CAHSR makes sense for California mostly because the trains will be displacing airline flights at very crowded airports. If the state can avoid building new runways and freeways, the HSR should be cost effective. It would also free space at the airports so the airlines can have more profitable longer-distance flights.

        Add to that, improvements to CalTrain and MetroLink will be a side-effect of HSR construction in the Bay area and LA.

      5. “If the state can avoid building new runways and freeways,”

        Runways are paid for with taxes and fees on airlines and airplane tickets.

        Freeways are paid for with gas taxes, tire taxes, tolls, license fees, etc., paid by motorists.

        The state doesn’t have to use general tax revenues to build runways or freeways.

        Transit trains are not paid for by the people who ride the trains — they are extremely heavily subsidized by the general public. If the people who use transit paid for it, there would be no need for general tax increases, so transit agencies could build whatever they felt like building, and just pay for it with fares and taxes on fares, like airlines do.

        Bolt bus does not have to go to the voters if they want to operate more buses, because they don’t use tax revenues to pay for their buses and operations. So Bolt Bus just operates however many buses make the most profit. Whereas, Pierce Transit has to go to the public for tax increases because people who ride Pierce Transit buses don’t pay their own way.

        Airlines don’t go to taxpayers if they want to buy more planes or build more runways — they just increase ticket prices and/or fees.

        Has there ever been a public vote to raise the sales tax to buy more airplanes for Alaska Airline (or any other airlines)? NO. Because airlines use ticket revenue to buy airplanes, not general taxes like the sales tax, which Metro and ST rely on.

      6. Long distance high speed rail doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

        Airplanes are always going to be much faster and require no tracks.

        What does make sense is improving the speeds of commuter rail.

        I would rather see a 85 or 95 mph Sounder than a 165 mph Amtrak.

      7. Runways are paid for with taxes and fees on airlines and airplane tickets.

        They’re also paid for in the case of SEA with a portion of my property taxes that goes to the Port. Air Traffic Control is almost entirely a government subside that piggy backs off the military desire to have absolute control our air space.

      8. Runways are paid for with taxes and fees on airlines and airplane tickets.

        Freeways are paid for with gas taxes, tire taxes, tolls, license fees, etc., paid by motorists.

        The state doesn’t have to use general tax revenues to build runways or freeways.

        – Norman

        Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?

        – Megyn Kelly to Karl Rove

      9. “They’re also paid for in the case of SEA with a portion of my property taxes that goes to the Port”

        YOu are wrong. That is not true.

      10. “Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?” d.p.

        No. This is just telling the truth and being honest.

      11. Your assertion that roads and highways are self-sustaining, with no input from the general fund, has been debunked so many times that your desperate clinging to your lie threatens your remaining dignity.

        At least your attempt to claim that air travel chugs along unsubsidized is a new (if equally fallacious) wrinkle in your routine.

        Rove lies to himself, and in the process lies to everyone else. Perfectly analogous.

      12. I just laugh at people who are not clever enough to recognize all the billions of dollars of revenue that go into “general funds” from taxes and fees on motor vehicles.

        For example, about 20% of all sales taxes collected in WA state are from sales of new and used vehicles. So, if some general fund money in WA state were spent on highways, that does not come close to the amount of general fund revenue collected from motorists.

        Likewise, the city of Seattle gets about $80 million to $90 million in parking fees, taxes and fines, all paid by motorists. Most of that goes into the general fund. If some money from the general fund is used on city streets, there is also a lot of money going into the general fund from motorists. The City of Seattle also gets some general fund money from sales taxes, much of which comes from sales of used and new vehicles, repairs and maintenance on vehicles, etc.

        Then, there is the MVET which goes to Sound Transit, which is wasted on things like LINK, but which all comes from motorists, and amounts to around $80 million per year, or so.

        So, the bottom line is this: all the revenues collected from motorists, including state and federal gas taxes, sales taxes on new and used vehicles, servicing, parts, etc., licenss fees, MVET’s, parking fees, fines, and taxes, tolls and all the other various taxes and fees that are paid only by motorists is more than equal to all the money spent in WA state on highways and local roads and streets.

        The fact that a lot of money is collected from motorists in MVET and license fees and sales taxes and given directly to transit agencies instead of being spent on roads is just an accounting gimmick. Local governments take revenue from motorists and spend it on things other than roads, then spend some general fund money on roads, then transit supporters claim motorists are being “subsidized”. lol

        If you are not smart enough to see through this that is your problem. I suspect you just don’t want to see through it.

      13. I like it when people who live in accounting fictions pat themselves for being “clever enough” to invent circular logic!

      14. You don’t even know the definition of “circular logic.”

        [ad hom]

        There is a pot of revenues from taxes, fees, tolls, etc. Motorists put more money into that pot than is taken out to spend on roads and highways. Transit riders put nothing into that pot from their transit expenditures, and a lot of revenue is taken out of that pot to spend on transit.

        Therefore, motorists pay more taxes and fees than is spent on roads and highways, and transit riders pay a lot less in fares than is spent on transit.
        [ad hom]

      15. Metro’s 2010 Rider Survey: “Eighty-five percent (85%) of Metro Riders have a driver’s license and 95 percent have a vehicle available in their household.”

        Nearly all of Metro’s transit riders are also paying those fees and taxes as “motorists”. When a majority of society thinks that public transit is worth paying for through fares and other taxes, they vote for it. When they think it isn’t worth paying for, they vote no. You can find plenty of examples of both.

      16. Re: running faster trains.

        This is a case where Maglev actually becomes advantageous—it has significantly higher initial capital costs, but lower maintenance and operating costs.

      17. Norman,

        For example, about 20% of all sales taxes collected in WA state are from sales of new and used vehicles. So, if some general fund money in WA state were spent on highways, that does not come close to the amount of general fund revenue collected from motorists.

        Purchasing a car and paying for the roads that that car uses are not the same thing. It’s not clear to me why you think that sales taxes on specific classes of goods should be dedicated to certain uses. Cars are just another consumer good, and their sales tax goes into the general pot like everything else. You’re also overlooking the fact that you pay no sales tax for gas–all the tax money goes toward transportation and it’s exempted from sales tax. This is unfair to those of us who spend less on gas and more on things that actually have sales tax attached to them, but I don’t hear you complaining. I strongly suspect that the amount of sales tax foregone in exchange for sales taxes exceeds those sales taxes we collect on cars (no that it matters, because the absolute amount doesn’t change the fact that it’s not a fair or rational system).

        Likewise, the city of Seattle gets about $80 million to $90 million in parking fees, taxes and fines, all paid by motorists. Most of that goes into the general fund. If some money from the general fund is used on city streets, there is also a lot of money going into the general fund from motorists. The City of Seattle also gets some general fund money from sales taxes, much of which comes from sales of used and new vehicles, repairs and maintenance on vehicles, etc.

        When you pay for parking you’re paying to rent public space from the city. Again, this really has very little to do with funding transportation, and you have no claim to that money once you’ve spent it. You got your space from the city and that’s that. There might be some case for the taxes collected on private parking to be dedicated to transportation (although it’s probably not very strong), but giving the money you paid in parking back to you in the form of more subsidies for driving doesn’t make any sense.

        Then, there is the MVET which goes to Sound Transit, which is wasted on things like LINK, but which all comes from motorists, and amounts to around $80 million per year, or so.

        I’m not sure how much goes to ST specifically (the $20 fee that the KC council passed was for Metro, I believe), but certainly some licensing fee money goes toward public transportation. Of course, most of the people using public transportation own a car and paid those same fees–they’re just not getting their money’s worth as much as people who drive more, since they pay the same fees whether they drive 1,000 miles a year or 20,000. This needs to change.

        So, the bottom line is this: all the revenues collected from motorists, including state and federal gas taxes, sales taxes on new and used vehicles, servicing, parts, etc., licenss fees, MVET’s, parking fees, fines, and taxes, tolls and all the other various taxes and fees that are paid only by motorists is more than equal to all the money spent in WA state on highways and local roads and streets.

        Your whole premise is confounding paying for your car with paying for the infrastructure to get your car from place to place. I’m really having trouble explaining this clearly because your logic is so backwards, but it comes down to the fact that you’re treating the money you spend on your car as a special class of spending, which it’s not. You buying a car or getting it repaired is no different from me buying a slice of pizza or a new couch, and as such you can’t argue that any revenue the state collects from said purchase should be dedicated to a specific project or class of projects.

        I think part of the reason you’re confused about this is because the gas tax itself has warped your perception of how government normally pays for things. The gas tax is exempt from the sales tax, not for some rational reason, but just because. It’s not how we normally do things, nor should it be. You’re proposing that we expand this system and take even more money away from the general fund than we already are by effectively exempting MORE things from sales tax. (Make no mistake, if you start saying that sales tax on the sale of cars should be dedicated toward transportation, it’s no longer a sales tax.) We ALL pay those sales taxes on everything we buy, and it’s people who use a lot of gas that are getting the break, by not having to pay sales tax on a significant part of their budget. Personally, I don’t buy gas so I have more money left over for other things, which means I’m contributing more of my income to the local government and general fund via sales tax.

        The fact that a lot of money is collected from motorists in MVET and license fees and sales taxes and given directly to transit agencies instead of being spent on roads is just an accounting gimmick. Local governments take revenue from motorists and spend it on things other than roads, then spend some general fund money on roads, then transit supporters claim motorists are being “subsidized”. lol

        Regarding the MVET, I wouldn’t call it a gimmick obviously, but you’re flat out wrong on the sales tax (which is much more significant). You need to get it through your head that you are not elevated to a higher class of citizen when your money is spent on a vehicle. I don’t expect the sales tax I spent on my bike helmet to be dedicated to bike infrastructure, and you have no right to expect similar treatment when you choose, choose to spend money to own or operate your vehicle.

      18. And this is what is meant by “circular logic”.

        In Normanworld, any tax paid by any person who happens to own a car is a “tax on a motorist.” Property taxes paid by those with a car out front? “Tax on a motorist.” Restaurant tax paid on a meal he drove two blocks to? “Tax on a motorist.”

        He cannot fathom the idea that anyone might be a transit user who is not also one of Reagan’s imaginary “welfare queens.” He therefore can not imagine transit users ever paying substantially into the general fund, much less paying in more than they take out (thanks to corporate, roadway, fossil-fuel, etc. subsidies).

        Norman takes “drivers pay their own way; public transit users don’t” on faith; it is one of the foundational pillars of his world view. It doesn’t matter that it is counterfactual. Broaching any possibility that he is subsidized or that his nemeses are not would cause his entire world to collapse.

        [ad hom]

      19. You guys are amazing.

        Allow me to point out the obvious: there is no sales tax on transit fares; transit agencies pay no gas taxes or property taxes.

        It is not true that there is sales tax on everything. It is true that there is NO sales tax on transit fares. So, the money transit users spend on their transportation is NOT TAXED.

        With me so far? Or, does someone want to argue that is not correct?

        Therefore, transit users, when they use transit, contribute NO tax revenue to any city, county, state or federal general fund or specific fund.

        There is sales tax in WA state on autos, and everything associated with autos, such as repairs, maintenance, parts, etc. Those taxes are part of the COST OF DRIVING. Just like the MVET, license fees, tolls, et. al. are part of the cost of driving.

        So, motorists are paying a multitude of taxes, fees, tolls, et. al. that transit users DO NOT PAY.

        Let me just put this one more way, because I know this is over the heads of most of you:

        Motorists pay sales taxes on their transportation (gas taxes on their gas); transit users do not pay sales taxes on their transportation expenditures (or gas taxes on their gas).

        Therefore, motorists are putting billions of dollars total into the state, county and city general funds in this state, while transit users are paying NO sales tax at all on their transportation.

        The amount of money motorists pay in gas taxes, fees, sales taxes, tolls, et. al. is greater than the amount of money spent on all highways and roads in this state. Transit users don’t pay any taxes at all on their transit expenditures, so they are not contributing anything at all to state, county or city general funds. All transit users do is TAKE revenue — they don’t contribute any tax revenues whatsoever when they spend money on transit.

        This is not that complicated, really. Try thinking about it for a while.

      20. Wow Norman, I can’t believe I have to actually say this:

        You don’t pay tax on transit fares because it’s a public institution. Hence, public transportation. It would be a complete waste of money and effort to collect tax that’s going to a public institution in the first place. You also don’t pay sales taxes on your MVET or other fees, because they’re a public institution and if they want to collect a certain amount of money that’s just what they charge–sales tax on top would be superfluous. Buying a car, on the other hand (or gas for that matter), is not a public service, and hence there are taxes so that government can get its cut. Transit users pay for PART of the cost of their trip with fares, and pay for much of the rest in the form of sales tax, property tax, and, yes, the fees on the cars that most of those transit users own. Likewise, drivers pay for PART of the cost of their trip in gas taxes, part of it with sales tax, property tax, and various fees. There’s no meaningful difference here.

        But let me just step back and say that no one here is saying public transportation isn’t subsidized. It clearly is. The point is, it should be. Maybe driving a car should be subsidized too, although maybe not, and even if so, certainly not as much as transit since there are significant drawbacks to more people driving–drawbacks that are partially offset by encouraging people to use transit.

        I don’t like to get too negative with my comments, but it genuinely bothers me to think you sincerely believe the things you’re saying. That you think transit users are some kind of drain on the system is baffling, given that the system literally could not operate without a significant chunk of the population using it, and that charging significantly more would eliminate the incentive there is to take it. I’m not sure what you’d propose instead–should transit users just pay the full unsubsidized cost of their fares? Cause here’s what would happen if they did: Everyone would suffer. Everyone.

        I’m struggling to actually summon the energy to respond to each of your baffling points, but just to address the one about the sum of all taxes motorists pay exceeding the amount spent on road infrastructure: duh! Unfortunately, government has to spend money on many other things as well, so your idea that anything spent relating to your vehicle should go right back to subsidizing your driving is laughable. And on top of that, if I’m going to include the amount I spend in sales taxes with the amount I spend on fares, mine also exceeds the cost of serving me with public transportation. But that’s not how things work–there are other priorities in this and every other state, and taxes are collected to fund all of them, not just the one that makes you feel like a “producer”. You’re really channeling Mitt Romney here.

      21. Shane: wow. you truly just do not get it at all, do you?

        I will try to simplify even more for you:

        Transit users are TAKING tax revenues from the public when they use transit;

        Motorists are CONTRIBUTING tax revenues to the public when they drive cars.

        Simple enough?

        You basically said the same thing in your post: transit fares should not be taxed, because it is tax revenues that is paying for most of the transit trips, whereas (by your logic) motorists should be taxed because it is their own money that is paying for their trips. So, if you are taking from taxpayers already by taking transit, you should not have to pay taxes on that transit; but if you are paying your own way by driving, then you should also have to pay taxes to subsidize the people who are not paying their own way. lol

        Did I get that about right?

      22. Wouldn’t it be hilarious of Norman was really a transit supporter just like the rest of us, merely using blog to play devil’s advocate. Heck, maybe Norman is actually Mike McGinn! LOL!

      23. asdf, it’s not too surprising that you agree with Norman here. In most of his posts, he’s actually demonstrated a pretty good understanding of logic. It’s just his facts that are completely wrong. On the rare occasion when his facts are right (generally when they demonstrate a legitimate technical issue with some transit technology), his conclusions are correct, too.

      24. Transit users are TAKING tax revenues from the public when they use transit;
        Motorists are CONTRIBUTING tax revenues to the public when they drive cars.
        Simple enough?

        Yes, but wrong. Most if not all transit users contribute tax revenue because they are generating economic activity at one or both ends of their trip. Work, shopping, recreation, etc. All of these usually involve a taxable activity. And government would receive less tax revenue if all citizens had to drive to generate an economic activity. Moreover, drivers are also taking tax revenue when they drive, like wear on roads that require tax revenue to repair.

        As many sensible people on this thread have noted, there is no perfect class of makers and no perfect class of takers. We all make and take at different times, sometimes at the same time, when we use transportation.

      25. Yeah asdf, I really do feel like I’m just dealing with a troll here, but I have a lot of conservative family so I know there are people who actually think about things this way.
        Transit users are TAKING tax revenues from the public when they use transit;

        Motorists are CONTRIBUTING tax revenues to the public when they drive cars.

        I’m not going to bother to state this again after this post, I’ll just say that both are subsidized. The fact is that the cost of building and maintaining road infrastructure exceeds the revenues taken in when and that in order to afford that infrastructure we have to take money from other programs. You’re trying to act like things involving cars are somehow exempt from being taxed the same as other things (which is true in the case of the gas tax, to our detriment), but you’re clearly wrong and won’t find much sympathy for that viewpoint here or from any other rational people. Cars don’t get special treatment. You’re convinced of the contrary for some reason, but I can’t change that.

        And you seem to think that it’s a contribution to pay for your own infrastructure. Even if the revenues collected from fees and gas tax covered the cost of roads this would be false, because it only means that you’re paying the cost of getting yourself around. That’s not “contributing,” that’s just “not taking”. But the reality is that there are numerous costs you impose on others (and yourself) when driving, and part of the whole point of transit is that those costs are minimized and you’re not contributing nearly as much to congestion, pollution, or the need for massive tracts of land being dedicated to the storage of vehicles. As someone else mentioned, all motorized forms of transportation come with costs to the public. The point is that we use them to get from a to b and make our contribution through our employment, purchases, etc.

        You basically said the same thing in your post: transit fares should not be taxed, because it is tax revenues that is paying for most of the transit trips, whereas (by your logic) motorists should be taxed because it is their own money that is paying for their trips. So, if you are taking from taxpayers already by taking transit, you should not have to pay taxes on that transit; but if you are paying your own way by driving, then you should also have to pay taxes to subsidize the people who are not paying their own way.

        You can’t tax transit fares because the government doesn’t tax you for its services. It sets costs with specific goals in mind that include not just farebox recovery but also ridership, mobility, etc.

        But really, I’m done. You don’t care to look at the nuances of the matter and I’m sure you feel the same about my arguments. It’s been a pleasure.

      26. The old “externalities” argument, eh? lol

        “Externalities” — the last refuge of someone who has lost the debate.

        As if transit has no negative externalites, and as if trips in motor vehicles don’t generate economic activity.

      27. To be clear, I do not agree with Norman’s logic about how transit is supposedly leaching money from the car-driving public. The only Norman comment I am agreeing with is the point that if you try to make trains go faster and faster, beyond a certain point, each minute of time shaved off becomes more and more expensive until costs spiral out of control.

      28. When will you people learn to stop feeding trolls and conversations like this are a complete waste of your time?????? Seriously, it’s getting ridiculous.

      29. (coming in way, way too late to comment) Actually, Shanghai’s bullet train probably has low ridership because it has poor signage and connections. It was tough for me to find – and I was directly intending to ride it. Finally I found the two uniformed women at an escalator whose entire job was to show me how to find it. The price was (IIRC) around $6 which is high for China but dirt cheap for someone that just flew in on an airplane. When I arrived at the other side I had no idea how to transfer to the metro – I actually walked into the parking lot of the grocery store nearby named, confusingly, “Metro”.

        When you have low ridership it does make sense to slow down your train – you lose all of those capacity benefits (though you keep the speed and frequency benefits) when you can’t fill your trains anyway.

      30. Amazing how off the deep end Norman went this time.

        No need for paragraphs of exposition. The retort to his latest logical tick is quite simple:

        Transit riders pay a fare.
        That money goes directly toward transit service.
        That money fails to cover the entire cost of the transit service, so the remainder is covered from a variety of other sources including the general fund.

        Drivers pay various licensing fees and gas taxes.
        That money goes directly toward infrastructure maintenance.
        That money fails to cover the entire cost of the infrastructure maintenance (not to mention a host of other driving-related costs), so the remainder is covered from a variety of other sources including the general fund.

        This is 100% analogous.

      31. “Runways are paid for with taxes and fees on airlines and airplane tickets.”
        No, they’re not. A few, in recent years; none at all, in the past.

        “Freeways are paid for with gas taxes, tire taxes, tolls, license fees, etc., paid by motorists.”
        No, they’re not. And you’ve been told this, and the citations have been shown to you, and you keep lying about it.

        This, STB editorial board, is why Norman should be banned: for repeated and deliberate lies.

      32. Folks, stop feeding the Norman. His mind will NEVER let him see the numbers. There’s no reason to continue.

        As far as the actual conversation goes concerning the cost of running trains faster there’s a break even point and outside of special circumstances it doesn’t make sense to go beyond that.

        The TGV costs between 7 and 9 cents per passenger mile to run and it averages 136 miles per hour or so. This makes it competitive for trips less than 4 hours (500ish miles) or less. Even though they’ve raised the top speed from 186 mph to 200 mph the trains rarely ever see it. It’s more symbolic than anything. The new AGV will be able to do 220 but again I don’t think it will make a whole lot of difference.

        Oh, and if we could maintain the same amount of efficiency between Seattle and Portland the total ticket cost would be $13. Fares would cover 100% of the ticket cost as they do in France (TGV makes over a billion Euros a year helping it subsidize the TER).

    1. Not going to work for two reasons: cost and capacity.

      Cost: A round trip between Seattle and Portland or Vancouver today via Amtrak costs roughly around $75 per person. Spend massive capitol costs to increases speed and you either have to raise fares or significantly boost subsidies to pay for it. If people have to shell out $100 per person or more just on transportation, that means you’re spending more money on travel than on the game ticket itself! A few will be willing to do this a couple times a year, but even with a bullet train, you will never have nearly as many people in Seattle commuting to Portland to watch a game as would commute to downtown Seattle to watch it. Even if you kept the fares low by massively increasing subsidies, you would then run into another problem of –

      Capacity: Professional sports venues have huge crowds. 10-20 thousand for basketball and hockey, 40 thousand for baseball, 80 thousand+ for football. To get this many people to and from the game, you’d have to have a huge number of trains all approach the venue right on top of each other. In the real world with finite budgets, this is certainly doable for short distances, like downtown to Northgate – but have these trains all run all the way to Portland would be way to pricy. Any fares that covered more than a tiny percentage of the cost would be well beyond what most fans would be willing to pay.

      1. Thinking about it, do costs other than fuel, increase that much per mile for rail? I would think that each mile traveled has only an incremental additional cost..unless, the fuel/electricity costs are that significant by the mile.

      2. John, the very high costs are for establishing the line in the first place. ROW for a new alignment would cost billions just for the real estate before you even start building the line.

        Maintenance of the tracks and overhead for a high speed line would be enormous unless you’re going to run lots of trains on it.

      3. Actually, aw, a lot of the maintenance costs are proportional to how many trains run over the line, although *some* are proportional to calendar time.

      4. The question is whether the train should pay for infrastructure costs or just operating costs? Do we expect freeways to pay for making them and do we expect airports to pay for building them? If so then the train should. If not then we should focus on operating costs.

  2. I was curious about something. During the morning commute, on the southbound Express Lanes, traffic is often backed up from Roanoke through Mercer. Most of the cars are in the second lane, heading for the southbound regular lanes, or the fourth lane, which has offramps at Stewart and Mercer. The third lane is used by buses heading for the tunnel or union street, but tends to be blocked by drivers trying to cut in line. The first lane leads to the Columbia street offramp, underneath the Seattle Municipal Building, and tends to stay open.

    Bus drivers headed for the tunnel (41, 73, etc.) often move into the third lane before the bridge and just tough it out. Others move to the first lane, bypass the worst of the backup at ~40mph, and then merge back after Mercer, when most of the pressure is off. Doing this can easily save five minutes.

    Does Metro have rules for which lane to use? This seems like a little thing that could make a big difference.

    1. Short answer is NO. Just follow safe driving techniques and the law. That said, drivers tolerance for pushing the schedule varies a lot. Some don’t like waiting for the last minute to merge right, and some like to to shove their weight around and play the game. Someone will always let a bus move over.

      1. There’s a traffic control sign painted on the left rear panel of every Washington transit bus commanding other traffic to yield to it. I think there should be another one on the right rear panel and very prominent cameras aimed diagonally in both directions which come on (with a red light to warn that they’re recording) whenever the turn signal for that direction is activated.

        Any car which fails to yield to the bus for ten seconds should be subject to a $500 failure to yield citation.

        And yes, when a driver “shoves [his or her] weight around” on a bus I’m on I give a little cheer.

      2. The Yield law was passed to give buses a break getting out of bus pull-outs and back in the traffic flow they just left. Most people ignore it, hell, even SPD ignores it. Sad but true, so a lot of drivers just leave their ass end sticking out in traffic so they can nudge back in.
        I testified for that one in Olympia and it was a struggle to get that much.

      3. pierce transit has illuminating devices that do that (not sound transit buses including those operated by pt). important to remember this only applies to buses entering traffic from a bus stop, not when in general traffic.

    2. Guilty as charged. When lane #2 is backed up, it’s incredibly awkward and dangerous to block lane #1 and force your way into lane #2. Much safer to drive in lane #3 and deal with the occasional blocking cutter into lane #4. I don’t think they ever cost me five minutes; maybe two on the very worst day.

    1. Now is also a good time for anyone who is a constituent of Sen. Eide’s to talk with her about prioritizing transit and maintenance over widening and new roads. It would be nice to know where she stands before the caucus convenes and privately chooses committee heads.

      1. Joe, I generally agree with prioritizing maintenance over new construction. But here in Seattle we need to get rail going *now* for those corridors where bus transit is failing due to volumes buses really can’t handle. North Link is addressing three of those corridors. But we have a few more without any funded plans, and upgrading them to a technology appropriate for the volume is priority #1 for the substantial minority of Seattle citizens who use them.

      2. West Seattle in another 5-10 years will need rail in the worst way for our corridors considering the overflow on some of our bus lines such as rapid ride and the 120.

      3. David, East Coast Cynic;

        Duly noted. BTW, East Coast I have a good friend in West Seattle who I’ll ask about rail.

        I’ll defer to you guys. I just want to spur you guys here on not just to be gracious in defeat but because I would like to see a Governor stand up and say point-blank he or she is going to be there for transit and what transit represents not just to the disabled community & seniors but also stress the impact of a bus or rail on traffic relief in congested areas.

        Example: What is going on in Pierce County is unacceptable and the Governor should be willing to stand up to Tim Eyman and the like not just in formal debates but go out on the hustings and send a message, “This IS a top five priority and here’s why: We need congestion relief that’s affordable, accessible and not going to spend years tied up in studies & litigation. We need people able to not just go to jobs but also shop after work and during the weekends to get our economy back. There is no greener job for the environment than a transit job.” It’s what I’d do, get proactive, go on offense, find your inner Russell Wilson, etcetera.

    1. I do admit to being surprised that they ran tests this fast along the Boston-Rhode Island border segment, both because Acela trains are never likely to skip 128 station and because there are no express tracks on the segment, so 160-mph trains would be whizzing by inches from the commuter platforms.

      Hope the tests went well!

      1. I’ve stood at Princeton Jct (I’m from the area, my dad takes the train to NY everyday from Hamilton or Princeton Jct) while an Acela went by on the platform track. It scares the absolute crap out of you if you aren’t expecting it, and you can’t really hear it coming. I can’t imagine one going by this fast.

      2. Now imagine one going by this fast… and this close to the platform!!

        I do hope they’re able to make it work. But I imagine there will be platform gates that open automatically when a commuter-rail train is arriving (and close at all other times) in these intermediate stations’ futures.

      3. I’ve felt the TGV at the aix-en-provence station going by at high speed. They do verbal announcements and there’s a waste high gate between the passengers and the train. Still a bit scary the first time.

  3. I still haven’t heard from Metro about whether they are going to consider redistributing buses among the bays in the DSTT. I did get an acknowledgement of my email a week ago.

    For the long term, I hope we can simplify the platooning. Consider this: If the 41 were the only bus serving Bay A, the bay would only need one length, so there would be two lengths at the tail of each platoon, leaving almost no inbound loads of passengers sitting and waiting longer than the wait time for one platoon. Bay A would have 14 outbound trips during peak-of-peak hour, while Bay B would have 28 outbound trips. The 15 inbound trips would have a very low likelihood of piling up.

    This also handles the problem of passengers gaming which bay to wait at. If they are considering the 41, they can wait at Bay B, and then walk a few steps to the rear door when the 41 comes along.

    Having only three bus lengths for the two bays also enables Metro to get maximum utility from boarding assistants with just three of them on the northbound platform.

    I’m hesitant to mess with the already-working southbound platooning (as demonstrated in every time trial I’ve taken on southbound Link this pick during peak), but the desire to minimize waiting time for deboarding buses, and get one more loader back out on driving duty, where we need her/him, leads me to make a parallel suggestion for southbound bay distribution.

    Thanks to the 212 getting kicked upstairs and the change on the 218, the 550 has a completely distinct set of passengers from all other tunnel routes except the 216. Move the 550 forward to Bay C, and make it only one length. Move all others back to Bay D. Those gaming between the 216 and 550 (if there are any) can wait at Bay D and walk forward a few steps to enter the 550 at the rear door. Bay C would serve 10 trips during peak-of-peak hour. Bay D would serve 21 trips.

    The 18 inbound southbound trips would have a much-reduced likelihood of waiting in line to get into a platoon at Convention Place. Since I haven’t hung out at Convention Place during peak, though, I haven’t watched to see if unloading buses are sitting and waiting.

  4. I think it’s sad that some of our important problems aren’t open for discussion just because it’s either taboo (overpopulation) or we think there’s nothing you can really do about it (travel). Personally, I think a lot of travel is unnecessary, but as humans, it’s in our dna to want to travel, explore and migrate. Fetishising modes of travel and travel speeds doesn’t help. When travel itself is the problem, faster and higher capacity travel isn’t the solution to a problem, it’s enabling a problem. And just like we did with smoking, and drinking and drving, I think it’s time to start educating people on the damages commuting and travel does to our society.

    1. Giving up on travel is giving up on the exchange of ideas. (And, no, the internet doesn’t count… in-person interaction is worth many times more.)

      The task is to figure out how to allow people to travel without doing so much damage, not to shut travel down.

      A bit of a blue-sky goal right now, but every percent improvement in efficiency helps us get there.

      1. http://news.yahoo.com/relief-pump-ahead-ny-area-drivers-200508965–finance.html

        “On Monday, the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute said the average gas mileage of new vehicles sold in the U.S. reached its highest point ever in October. Fuel economy has now improved by 20 percent over the last five years and fuel consumption has fallen 17 percent, the institute said.”

        Over the past five years in the U.S., fuel economy of new cars has improved 20 percent and gasoline/diesel consumption has dropped 17 percent. These trends are going to continue through at least 2025, because of the CAFE standards for new-vehicle energy efficiency in the U.S.

        I do agree with Sam that a lot of travel is unnecessary. And enormous tax subsidies for transit just encourages a lot of unnecessary travel, at great expense to taxpayers.

      2. Governments are wise to subsidize all forms of transportation as they do—it’s the backbone of commerce.

      3. And every percent in the reduction in travel helps us get there too. I’m not advocating for no travel. I’m advocating educating people on the harm, destruction, and waste travel causes.

      4. Jeffrey: Access is the backbone of commerce. Mobility is useful only to the extent that it provides access. For example, cities provide access in a way that is almost the polar opposite of mobility — rather than making it easier to travel, they reduce the need to travel in the first place.

        Obviously, some motorized is necessary for commerce; even in Manhattan, not everyone lives and works and plays within walking distance. But on a dollar-for-dollar basis, density will produce greater dividends than mobility.

      5. @Aleks. Sidewalks are subsidized by the government, no? That’s 100% compatible with what I said.

      6. @Aleks — Nevermind, I get your generalization now. Access is a more encompassing word than transportation. What did it for me is that I realized that I could include communication as a form of access.

      7. Jeffrey: Exactly. If we try to maximize access, then we will produce better outcomes (by any measure) than if we try to maximize mobility, even if we end up funding a lot of the same transportation projects (sidewalks included).

      8. Sam: Travel (both local and on a larger scale) brings enormous benefits in terms of the wider distribution of knowledge and understanding. I reiterate that reducing travel isn’t nearly as good a goal as reducing the impact of travel.

        Aleks: Access to closer resources is fine, but it can’t substitute for a lot of travel. Access to a local grocery store may reduce some trips. But you can’t provide closer access to people who remain far away, and travel allowing people to interact is a bedrock necessity for a healthy society.

        This is why I agree with almost any form of transportation subsidy which actually helps move people efficiently.

      9. David: Access doesn’t just mean stores. Many of my friends live within walking distance of me. If I lived in the exurbs, all of my social trips would involve driving. In basically every situation, density decreases the average distance I have to travel. It lets me live the life I want to live, but with less traveling.

        Imagine a world where the government subsidized 100% of all travel. You could wake up one morning and decide you wanted to take a plane to China, and it would be free. On the one hand, that’s super cool. On the other hand, we can’t afford that — not environmentally, not financially, not any other way.

        Given that we have a limited amount of resources, we have to make tradeoffs. Therefore, we need to have a way of deciding what our values are. If we decide that we value mobility, then we will build infrastructure that allows people to travel long distances. If we decide that we value access, then we will build cities where people can live the lives they want to live.

        I’m not saying we should try to reduce travel. I’m just saying that we need to pick the right objective function. Focusing on mobility rather than access is how we got the freeway network that dug a hole (literally) through the heart of many of our country’s best cities.

      1. Ooh! I do! Only three cars nearly hit me today. Good thing my tax dollars are going to their parking spaces, I guess.

      2. Are you saying that the taxes, fees, et. al. that motorists pay do not pay for their parking spaces? lol Only YOUR taxes pay for parking spaces?

        You think motorists don’t pay taxes? Or you think the taxes motorists pay are not used for parking spaces?

      3. Typically, parking spaces are paid for by the businesses and passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices. However, because parking at businesses is usually “free”, everybody who shops there pays the higher prices to pay for the parking, whether they drive there or not.

        In other words, Norman, every time I walk to a store to do grocery shopping, I am paying extra on my grocery bill to subsidize the parking lot so that you can drive there. While the money you spend on taxes that fund transit provides some residual benefit to you, for instance, less time searching for parking in dense neighborhoods, the benefit to me from your using the parking space that I help subsidize every time I shop is zero.

      4. Here’s some ideas:

        1. Extirpate all pedestrian walk buttons (or install corresponding car-roll buttons the driver would have to get out and tap and maybe get a green in a cycle or two–yeah, right!). Corresponding fixes to the light cycles to grant suitable more-than-just-scampering time to pedestrians. Wins: pedestrians become less the second class citizens they are.

        2. Charge market rate parking for every acre of public land that presently offers free parking to motorists. Wins: revenue, increased parking spot turn-over, e.g. that presently free strip in Fremont that fills up with park-and-riders and denies local businesses customers (the Canal Street Coffee owner has a good rant about that, but gotta giveaway all that public land for free vehicle storage, right?).

        3. Offer tax deductions to pedestrians, or eliminate the “I polluted my way between two businesses so I get a tax break yay” and similar given to motorists. Wins: pedestrians become less the second class citizens they are.

        4. Increase the Carbon tax. Eliminating the tax breaks for petrochemicals would be a good start. Wins: more breathable air, for starters.

    2. Sam,

      There’s a difference between mobility and access. Mobility is a measure of how far you can go; access is a measure of how much you can do.

      Most people who talk about transit will agree that mobility is not nearly as important as access. In fact, we can often get the best outcomes by maximizing access at the expense of mobility. Having ten restaurants within a 10-minute walk is better than having ten restaurants within a 10-minute bus trip, even if the latter means that you can technically travel a greater distance in the same amount of time.

      So basically, I think most people would actually agree with you that trying to maximize miles traveled is the wrong way to go about things. That’s why density is great — it allows us to wander and explore and discover a huge variety of things at a significantly lower cost to the planet (and our wallets).

      1. “Mobility is a measure of how far you can go”

        And how easily you can go. If a subway and a bus both go to the same place, but the subway comes every five minutes and runs underground, while the bus comes every thirty minutes and gets caught in congestion and streetlights, the subway gives more mobility. One of the best measures is the number of places you can get to in an hour via all the lines available to you, including wait time and transfer time.

  5. Someone asked for updates on this… there’s a Magnolia transit rider meeting Tuesday night at 6:30 at the Magnolia branch of the public library.

    1. Yes, that was me. Not sure if I’ll be able to make it because of work, but I hope to, and in any case I look forward to updates.

  6. When walking through Fremont this afternoon, I saw a perfect example of why bus stops immediately before a traffic signal are broken. I was at the corner of Fremont and 34th and watch a 28 bus make its way through the intersection. Here’s a chronology of what happened:

    When the bus pulled u): The light was red, but a #40 bus was blocking the bus stop. Because the area where there aren’t parked cars is only wide enough for one bus, the 28 had to sit there until the light turned green without letting a single passenger on or off the bus

    Next: When the light turned green, the 28 then waited for the 40 in front of it to get out of the way, then pulled up to the bus stop. Two passengers got off. One got on. He was quick and didn’t require the wheelchair lift.

    Next: Now, it was time for the bus to take advantage of the fact that the light was still green and get through the intersection. However, as the bus started to move, it then had to stop as two cars, one right after the other, proceeded to make a right turn in front of the bus from the left lane, then make the bus wait some more as they stopped for pedestrians in the crosswalk while making their turn.

    Next: When the two cars were finally out of the way, the light was still green – an ordinary-sized car could have made it through the light easily. But articulated buses are really slow accelerating from a stop, so by the time the bus had advanced 5 feet up to the intersection, the light turned yellow, so the driver had to stop and wait another cycle before it finally went through.

    All in all, it took the bus a full 2-3 minutes longer to get through the intersection than a car would have, in spite of spending a mere 10-15 seconds actually loading and unloading passengers.

    Bus stops after the intersection, by contrast, avoid this mess – as soon as the bus finishes its passenger loading and unloading, it can immediately take off.

    1. It seems like the nightmare scenario you describe could happen just as easily with far-side stops:

      – Two buses are stopped at a red light. No one gets on or off, since it’s not a stop.

      – The light turns green. The first bus goes ahead. The second bus does not, since there isn’t enough room, and it’s bad to block the intersection.

      – The same right-turning and pedestrian behavior stops the second bus from crossing the intersection until the next light.

      It seems like the real fixes have nothing to do with intersection location:

      – Reverse transit signal priority. When the bus approaches a light, it turns red. The bus stops, people get on and off. When the bus is ready to go, it gets a special green light that temporarily blocks all other traffic (except other buses going straight on the same road).

      – Simplify corridors, to minimize the chance of having multiple buses on multiple routes approaching the same intersection.

      – For popular stops, ensure that the stop is long enough to accommodate two buses.

      1. A bus that’s fully in a traffic lane while it waits to clear a light before accessing a farside zone is in far less danger of having right-turners cross in front of it than a bus that’s trying to exit a nearside zone.

        Longer zones at any stop where total frequency is more than about 5 buses/hour are a very good thing, but even with them you have a much better safety situation with farside than nearside.

        As I read asdf’s story, I physically cringed when I got to the bit where the cars turned in front of the bus, because it’s so familiar, and can be such a heart-stopping moment for the bus driver when it’s not totally, 100% expected.

      2. The side of the intersection the bus stops on absolutely does matter.
        First, it is absolutely impossible to implement any kind of transit signal priority at an intersection that is immediately proceeded by a bus stop – for signal priority to work, the traffic light has to know when the bus is about to pass through, which is implied by the bus transmitting its location. However, when there’s a bus stop right before the intersection, it is impossible for the light to know when the bus is going to go through just from the bus’s location. That depends on whether the bus needs to stop, how many people are getting off and on, etc.

        Second, any time the bus lacks an exclusive lane, it has to contend with the stop being blocked by cars, which for most intersections, tends to happen a lot more than the stop being blocked by buses. Put the stop before the intersection and a single car or two waiting for the red light is enough to force the bus to wait for the light to change and the cars in front of it to move in order to reach the stop. By contrast, when the stop is after the intersection, yes, it can still be potentially blocked by another bus, but unless there’s a breakdown or a massive traffic jam, the stop is not going to be blocked by cars.

        Third, stopping before the intersection creates a safety hazard by tempting drivers into making a right turn from the left lane in front of the stopped bus, rather than waiting for the bus to move before turning right behind the bus. When a car wants to turn right in front of the bus at the same moment that the bus wants to start moving, it’s an accident waiting to happen.

        Forth, buses, especially articulated buses are slow at accelerating – it’s a natural, unavoidable consequence of being a large vehicle. Which means if the stop is in front of the intersection, even if the light is green when the bus is ready to move, there’s about a 5 second window after the bus starts moving, where if the light turns yellow during that time, the bus has to stop. Because of this, even with a fairly long green, by the time the bus waits for the cars in front of it to move, then, pulls up to the bus stop, then stops, then waits 10 seconds to load or unload a couple of passengers, then starts moving again, the light will often turn red right as the bus starts moving. Again, this is not something that can be fixed by re-timing the traffic signal since it’s too unpredictable how much time the bus will spend at the stop. The only fix is to have the bus first get through the intersection, then stop on the other side.

      3. Fair enough. It pains me that illegal right-on-red from the left lane is so common, but I know that safety isn’t about what’s legal.

        I still think that mid-block stops with bus bulbs and extra crosswalks are the best of both worlds. The Ave has this setup for most stops, and it works brilliantly. It keeps both buses and pedestrians out of intersections. And it’s great for legibility, too — the bus stops in exactly the same place on both sides of the street!

      4. mid-block stops

        But they make getting anywhere on Brooklyn or 15th incredibly annoying.

        The walkshed damage done by mid-block stops — especially on double- and triple-length blocks like those in the U-District — is legendary.

        In fact, my biggest beef with Link in SoDo and in the Rainier Valley is that you can be forced to walk (or run) as much as 350 feet from the cross street before the platform even starts!

        Grids are good for transit legibility, coverage, efficiency, reliability, and access. The same principle applies to pedestrian grids. Stops should be at intersections.

      5. On the Ave, the blocks are short enough so mid-block stops don’t significantly detract from the walkshed. Another factor that also makes a big difference in helping buses move on the Ave is that the narrowness of the street, combined with the high frequency of buses with long stops where lots of people get on and off means that if you try to drive down the Ave., there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to find yourself stuck behind a bus. Which means most drivers avoid the Ave unless they’re searching for parking right there.

        Even though the pace the buses move through the Ave is glacially slow, the problem is mostly due to long lines of people paying the fare, not cars blocking access to the bus stop.

      6. North-south blocks in the U-District are 1/8 of a mile long. 650 feet. That’s hardly negligible.

        The one between 45th and 47th — the stop pair closest to the precise mid-point of one of those very long blocks — is an incredibly long walk from an mid-block destination on a street to the east or west.

        Mid-block stops are universally bad form. Stops should be where the grid is.

      7. Halfway between 45th St. and 47th St. is not a very long walk. An eighth of a mile is not a very long walk. It is virtually impossible to go anywhere on Metro walking less than this. If 1/8 of a mile is too far for you, you may as well just throw up your hands and drive everywhere.

        Furthermore, the pace that the bus actually moves between 45th and 47th is just barely faster than a walking pace anyway (*). Which means the amount of time you actually lose by walking is negligible. The mid-block stop here is really about 2 things. First, it provides an even stop spacing between the 50th St. stop and the 43rd St. stop. You could also get even stop spacing by stopping at 45th and again at 47th, but the buses are already slow enough as it is – no need to make them even slower. Second, the mid-block stop is about preventing a couple of cars waiting at the light from blocking the bus’s access to the bus stop.

      8. (*) If you just miss a southbound bus between 45th and 47th St., experience has shown that you can still usually catch it at 43rd if you run. Likewise, if you just miss a northbound bus at 43rd, there’s a decent chance that you can still catch it between 45th and 47th if you run.

    2. It seems the real solution would be to make the stop longer to accommodate two buses and then install a bus signal to get the buses ahead of the cars at 34th.

      1. The real solution is to fix the 26 and the 28. :)

        I’ve said many times that Fremont between 34th and 39th is the most illogical set of transit intersections in all of Seattle. There’s 5-6 bus routes that pass through there, and not a single one goes straight.

        If you consolidated all of that service, you’d end up with three service patterns, forming an asterisk: the 40, the 31/32, and the 5 (rerouted along Dexter). The 28 moves to Aurora along the express routing all day. The 26 (Latona segment) merges with the 71: starting at the UW Hub, it follows the 31/32 route to Latona, then the 26 route to 65th, then east along the 71 route.

        The end result is that Fremont has just as much service as before, but the chance of any particular stop getting two buses at once is significantly reduced.

      2. Your fix would be fantastic for people in Fremont, but would completely screw over people in Greenwood because their trip downtown would take forever and lose even more reliability.

        I have another idea:

        1) Route the 28 local from Fremont to 8th NW via Fremont, 43rd, Phinney, and 46th/Market, rather than Leary–there’s your bus up Fremont. Rely on the 40 to provide service along Leary.
        2) Revise the 5 to use the current 5 Express routing (but with stops).
        3) Get the 16 out of Seattle Center and away from Northgate Way and use the saved hours to increase its frequency to 15 minutes, replacing at least some of the 5 service taken away from Bridge Way.

      3. “It seems the real solution would be to make the stop longer to accommodate two buses and then install a bus signal to get the buses ahead of the cars at 34th.”

        That would help somewhat, but any proposal to do this would be DOA because that would mean taking parking away. A queue jump lane is also not possible there – the street is just not wide enough. The best solution would probably be to have the buses first cross 34th St., then stop. Taking this approach would actually increase the number of available parking spaces.

      4. David,

        I think the 40 is an interesting case study. Previously, there were two ways to get downtown from Old Ballard: you could take the 18 (Ballard Bridge plus LQA), or the 17 (Ballard Bridge plus Westlake/SPU). Now, both of those have been replaced by a new route which uses the Fremont Bridge.

        Arguably, this should be terrible; Ballard lost two reliable routes to downtown, in favor of one unreliable one. But in fact, from what I’ve heard, the 40 is one of the more popular parts of the restructure. People seem to really like having a direct route between Ballard and Fremont.

        (Yes, people can walk to RRD. But by the same token, people in Greenwood could walk to the 28 or 358. In both cases, I think it’s further than most people will actually walk.)

        Now, maybe it’s the case that there’s a stronger Ballard-Fremont demand link, whereas few people would want to go between Fremont and Greenwood. But in my experience, every time Metro creates better cross-town connections (like the 8, 48, and now the 40), they turn out to be hugely popular.

        So, sure, keep the 5X, so that commuters can take the fast route. But I’d bet money that a rerouted 5 would reveal a whole bunch of untapped demand.

        Separately, the turn on 43rd is bullshit. I’ve seen the 5 take over a minute just to make that turn. Approximately no one gets off at the 43rd/Phinney stop. The 5 should either turn at 46th or 50th; either one would provide a much more useful stop at 46th and Fremont.

      5. I’m pretty sure I agree with Aleks. Make sure there are plenty of 5X runs for commuters and run the 5 down Fremont Ave and Dexter. The 26 and 28 don’t really gain much by connecting their tails to Fremont, and I think the 5 might.

        I think the 43rd and Phinney thing is a coverage thing. West of there there aren’t any north-south routes until 8th (on some really steep hills with pockets of surprising residential density), and 43rd is the earliest the 5 can reasonably get from the bridge over to its main north-south corridor. People close to Fremont/46th can easily catch the 358.

      6. It amazes me that we spend so much time on this blog talking about how to improve speed and reliability… TSP, bus lanes, queue jumps, stop diets and stop placement, and on and on… and then people are in favor of taking one of the most heavily used routes in the city and completely destroying what speed and reliability it has.

        We’ve established that the trip through Fremont is likely to add 6-9 minutes to a 5 trip to downtown depending on the time of day, plus the risk of a bridge opening and the reality of Fremont congestion. This is too much cost to the bulk of Greenwood riders for the benefit of getting a few Greenwood riders four blocks closer to the center of Fremont.

      7. Forgot one of the thoughts that should have been in that post. The 40 example is inapposite because it really doesn’t add much time to the previous 17 trip, which faced unreliability of its own at the Ballard bridge and at the Nickerson approach to the Fremont bridge, which backs up regularly. The 40 is popular in part because it’s almost as fast as RR D, or faster when RR D gets overloaded. It’s not at all an addition of a bridge and 6-9 minutes to the previous routing.

      8. You could shave that same 6-9 minutes (and probably more) off the rest of the 5 with a few curb bulbs and the city’s most badly-needed stop diet.

      9. Yes, bus bulbs and a stop diet would help the 5 in a big way (although I’m not sure you’d ever get 9 minutes). But why make a speed and reliability improvement only to take it right back away, when you’d only generate marginal extra connectivity as a result?

        Have the 28 do the trip up and down the Fremont hill. I don’t feel nearly as bad about delaying the 28 by a minute or two, because the volume of passengers along 8th NW is so much smaller than the volume along Phinney and Greenwood.

      10. Except that having an (infrequent) 28 bus ascend the hill, only to turn left and descend again, would totally defeat the point.

        The 5 should go in a straight line, all the way to 50th. Then one left and one right onto Phinney.

        No more zigzagging up the part of Phinney (43rd-50th) that refuses to go straight. No more stopping every two blocks. No more complex strategizing and frantic OneBusAway-ing just to travel in a straight line.

        This is connectivity. This is ease. This is transit.

      11. It seems that we pick between “ease” and speed and reliability depending on what our particular agenda is, not based on the needs of most of the riders.

        The Dexter 5 is unworkably slow. Full stop, end of story. It will destroy ridership north of 50th.

      12. We already see this sort of destruction of ridership on the 16, which should have vastly higher ridership than it does based on the density of the areas it serves. The 16 should be like the 5, filling up artics every 15 minutes. Instead it sort of fills up 40-footers every 20 minutes… because it’s so slow and unreliable because of the Seattle Center deviation and a couple of other poor routing choices.

      13. It also seems that we defend a terrible, terrible status quo (5 reliability is attrociaous) only when it suits us.

        Between Fremont/43rd and Phinney/51st, the 5 takes six zigs and zags.

        Holding the present route up as a model of efficiency or access for those in its northern reaches is indefensible.

      14. I’m not defending the status quo; I’m suggesting to speed the 5 up and straighten it, by using the current 5X route (Aurora -> 46th -> Phinney). Two turns. Instead, you want to add a bit of speed by straightening the Phinney segment (which is only a minor source of 5 unreliability) but add the Mercer Mess, the Fremont bridge, and central Fremont chaos.

        Then I’m suggesting that the lower-volume 28, which unlike the 5 isn’t core service for several miles of a medium- to high-density residential corridor, handle the climb up the hill. It would also be a better candidate to provide coverage to the area around 43rd and Phinney, which would otherwise be quite far from any north-south bus stop under my plan for the 5, but which (as you correctly point out) doesn’t have huge ridership.

      15. Your 28 idea is one of the dumbest I’ve ever read, I’m sorry to say. Connecting a short, dark, atypically rain-slicked, pedestrian-hostile obvious gap in connectivity with an very infrequent bus that doesn’t even continue in a straight line is an oh-so-Metro idea.

        Crappy walk, crappy wait, or crappy connection.

        We’re trying to eliminate crap like that, not reinforce it.

      16. @dp – I’ve never ridden the 5 myself, but judging from what other people have said on this blog, the problem seems to be that it isn’t a short gap in terms of time. Maybe if there were aggressive signal priority, we could put the 5 through Lower Fremont and Dexter without disadvantaging everyone else – but as things are, it wouldn’t seem to work.

      17. Which is more important: covering that gap the way you want for a few prospective riders, or not delaying articulated buses full of existing riders by 6-9 minutes plus bridge-opening and Mercer Mess time?

        The idea of putting the 5 through Fremont is like the LQA deviation would be if there were a drawbridge instead of Mercer Place, along with 2 more bad traffic lights.

      18. I have no idea what the short-term solution is, but rerouting an infrequent bus and then applauding the new connectivity is not it.

        At the risk of repeating myself a billion times, the long-term solution is this. Then you can route the 5 in a perfectly straight line without expecting anyone to ride it end-to-end.

  7. If I’m not mistaken, public transit agencies like Metro and Sound Transit don’t have to pay the Washington State portion of the fuel tax, being able to apply for a fuel tax refund. We really do owe gratitude to people who drive cars for paying to maintain our roads. Transit agencies don’t pay their fair share.

    1. I don’t remember the details, but I’m pretty sure Metro has to pay SDOT extra money to maintain streets that get large amounts of bus traffic, but not that much car traffic, for example, 15th Ave. in the U-district.

  8. If the Pierce Transit proposition ends up losing, how should PT restructure?

    Will they have enough budget to provide lifeline “coverage” service across their service area?

    Could they instead focus all resources on 10 strong lines – a multi-destinational network – providing high-quality service on a network that hits all the major anchors in the county?

    The current PT system map looks like spagetti to the unitiated (like me, who has never ridden PT). Perhaps if the lines were rationalized, straightened and simplified, and increased in frequency, PT could attract more riders and voter support. I’m envisioning a really simple map of the county with a grid of 10 lines or so, that could be placed at every bus stop and used in advertising. But is there a way to do this while not stranding those who depend on the service currently?

    1. I would expect the service to remain pretty much the same with the following exceptions: Sound transit service could shift to metro south base as pt would be unable to service their st routes which would be unfortunate.

      1. As long as Pierce Transit exists at all, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to operate Sound Transit routes under contract. After all, Sound Transit is paying for it, so Pierce Transit’s budget crisis shouldn’t matter.

      2. If PT makes their threatened service cuts, it will be politically untenable for them to remain a Sound Transit contractor. All it will take is some politically-connected community leader to say “Hey, look at how Pierce ignores the poor while continuing to provide the service through Sound Transit to the more well-off”

        What I’m implying is that ST has a different ridership demographic from PT local service, and trust me, there are lots of individuals in Pierce County who will make light of this and run with it.

      3. PT doesn’t pay anything for ST service. They get money from ST. If for some strange reason PT didn’t want to accept money from ST then the routes would still be run but contracted through someone else. Most likely KC Metro but if PT declined they could go directly to First Transit. More likely would be PT acting like a middle man the way CT does.

  9. In Washington DC, the city is now a suburb to the old surburb…claims Tyson’s Corner!

    The argument goes like this: Fairfax County has far more Fortune 500 companies (nine vs. four), enjoys a much lower unemployment rate (4 percent vs. 8.7 percent), is bookended by two airports and, with Metro arriving, is slated to add dozens of buildings taller than anything in the District. And, the Virginia community is a battleground in the presidential election.


    1. The test of that will be housing values in the Tyson’s area once there is some housing there.

      Housing values in the non-derelict parts of the District are incredibly high (trust me, I know… I own a house there which is about to go on the market). Housing values in the suburban areas near Tyson’s are also incredibly high, but a big part of that is because those suburbs were the most prestigious place to live near DC long before Tyson’s was built (or, for that matter, before the District enjoyed its renaissance). If Tyson’s really has anything to offer other than proximity to Fortune 500 companies’ headquarters, we will see housing values in the new Tyson’s village be equal to those of the District.

      My prediction is that they’ll be somewhat lower.

  10. At Amtrak, we don’t use efficient lines with 100 car trains – We use only around 10 cars or les per train. That way, we can transport 90% less people, and save about 1% on fuel. Because of this, you get to pay $300 instead of $30 for your Amtrak fare.

    Amtrak – Inefficiency is so much fun.

    Take that, bolt bus.

    1. I don’t suppose the passenger experience on a truly energy efficient rail journey would be very good.

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