106 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Al-Jazeera on Seattle Bicycling”

  1. Why is there no transit service to Golden Gardens in the summer, particularly on weekends?

      1. They both go to the upper staircase of the upper portion of the park, which while technically correct and the closest one can get, is not the portion of Golden Gardens that people think about.

      2. It’s impossible to run the 17, 48 or 61 from Sunset Hill to GG–the road is too narrow and there are too many tight turns.

      3. For a lot of us going to the top of the stairs is not useful. A funicular would be great though. Knowing the local transit they’d only run it during the week even though it would only go to a beach. Something a lot of people want to do on the weekend.

      4. Replace North Sounder with one long gondola. But then, Golden Gardens would be overrun with the invasive species (homo sapiens).

      5. Replace North Sounder with one long gondola
        Ha! That’d show the mudslides! :)

        (Cost estimate, anyone? Given the huge subsidies to BNSF…)

    1. The 46 was cut in the re-org, but it was mostly just a UW commuter bus; minimally useful for recreational visitors to Golden Gardens. I wonder how expensive it would be to extend a handful of 44s (maybe one per hour) up to the park. It’s a major attraction, and a good number of the live-aboards at the Marina are carless and frustrated.

      1. Once upon a time, Metro offered to split the 17 route during middays with one bus an hour going to GG and one bus an hour going to Sunset Hill. I don’t know why it didn’t happen.

        Back in the 1980s the old 43 used to operate several times a day to GG with a diesel coach. Trying that trick today would likely cause a lot of havoc with scheduling.

      2. I don’t know why it didn’t happen

        Because hourly one-seats to everywhere is a recipe for an empty transit system.

      3. I’m pretty sure Ballardites told Metro what they thought of making each leg of the 17 hourly, and that’s why Metro pulled it.

    2. Golden Gardens isn’t enough of a draw to justify spend extra service hours to go just there, especially since those willing to walk up and down stairs can still reach Golden Gardens on the 48 (or 61).

      The tail of the 33 to Discovery Park is almost empty – I would not expect a hypothetical tail of the 44 to be better.

      If you’re looking for an alternative to get to Golden Gardens that doesn’t involve stairs, I would suggest riding a bike down the Burke-Gilman trail from Ballard.

    3. I wanted to see how Trip Planner would tell me to get from Kirkland TC to Golden Gardens today. It said to take the 255 to downtown, then transfer to the route 358 and take it to 85th, then take the route 48 to the end of the line in Loyal Heights, then walk the rest of the way. Then I went back and changed the setting to how to get there with the fewest transfers, and it gave me the exact same suggestion! What it should have done is told me to take the 255 to the Montlake Freeway Station, then walk up to Monlake Blvd. to wait for the route 48 there. My point? I am smarter than a computer.

      1. Any answer from a computer can only be as correct as the least accurate piece of information that any human involved has put into it- instantaneously and to many decimal points. Delivered and distributed before any human who knows the truth can correct the error.

        The calculating methods and instruments of 1912 were more than good enough to assure an ocean liner a long, safe career. But today’s most advanced computer could not compensate for a budgetary decisions to compromise a ship’s structure and to chance a shortage of lifeboats.

        Same with certain recent local decisions regarding airliner batteries. Smarter than a computer is a dangerously low standard of competence.

        There are metalsmiths in the mountains of Afghanistan who can make a working fully-automatic assault rifle on a foot-powered lathe. And the Tacoma Art Museum presently has three historic Russian tribal work boats precision-made from wood and leather.

        I’d rather have this country aspire to a population as smart as either of the above sets of people and their tools.

        Mark Dublin

        I wonder what the training requirements are for the employees who write the answers for the Trip Planner. The work schedule for all of these people should include one full day a week riding service and making notes.

      2. “I am smarter than a computer.”

        That’s not saying much, since computers are actually pretty dumb. You have to tell it everything you want it to do. It can’t figure it out on its own.

      3. No, that is saying much. Some of the brightest minds on earth go into computer programming. Graduates from MIT, Standord, IIT in India, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Oxford have written programs telling computers what to do. And in this case, Trip Planner, backed up by all this education, told me that the way to get from Kirkland to Golden Gardens with the fewest number of transfers was wrong, and I was right.

      4. Mark,

        No one writes answers for the trip planner. It knows the routes and uses graph theory to figure out the route. Manually entering answers for each possible trip for each time of day would be absolutely ridiculous.


        cool story bro

      5. Schuyler, there’s clearly something wrong with the transit planners representation of the network, or a problem with the trip data if it thinks that the Montlake flyer stop is not a valid connection with the 43’s timepoint at Montlake Ave. and SR-520. GIGO.

      6. Also, there’s a reason why the trip planner results page has a link for “Send Feedback About These Results”. I wouldn’t be surprised if the trip planner were held together by the software equivalent of baling wire and duct tape.

      7. aw,

        Absolutely. I am not surprised at the crazy routing though, even if the software is perfect. Making a transit routing system work is a Hard Problem from a Computer Science perspective.

        FWIW, I never use Metro’s trip planner. IDK why anyone would. Google’s is way better. Also, it correctly routes you from the 255->48.


      8. Google’s trip planner is generally better, but it’s frustrating that it doesn’t have community transit.

      9. Google and Metro’s tripplanners are now often not offering Link as a valid connection point for many trip solutions when often times it’s actually a quicker routing. Don’t know what’s up with that.

      10. Up until electronics, a “computer” was a job category for a human. Computers were trained in the arithmetics of large volumes of data. They were employed in everything from creating tables of planetary motion to wartime ballistics.

        Here’s a fascinating book on the topic:

        When Computers Were Human

    4. The reason there’s no transit service to Golden Gardens is that the 46 was perpetually low-ridership. Metro tried to reorganize it and add mid-day trips and special reverse-peak trips, but nothing worked and it was axed. Elderly people in the apartments/condos complained, but they weren’t riding the bus even when it was running.

      1. This.

        A park is an appealing destination, but doesn’t support enough ridership to run all-day, fixed-route bus service. This has been proven time and time again.

    5. Chicago has transit to basically all its parks and tourist attractions, many of which are scattered in odd locations like Seattle. Seattle should have this too: it’s ridiculous to have an Olmstead Park system without better transit to the parks. But the low ridership issue is the problem. I think the overall transit network is part of the problem. If the core routes had full-time frequent service and weren’t so slow, people would use transit more generally, and it wouldn’t be as difficult to get to the starting point of these park routes, so people would do it more, even if the park routes themselves weren’t as frequent.

      1. Chicago indeed does have pretty good transit service to a lot of lakefront parks. But Chicago is flat and dense right up to the lake (or at least right up to the edge of the lakefront parks).

        By walking distance the 48 stops closer to the beach at Golden Gardens than Chicago’s Montrose bus stops to the beach at Montrose Harbor — and the eastern end of the Montrose bus much, much denser than the western end of the 48. Of course, the Golden Gardens walk is a lot harder. The Montrose bus has a summer-only weekend/holiday extension to Montrose Harbor, but it really is harder to do that down Golden Gardens Drive (I won’t speculate whether you could get a 60-footer up and down the hill).

      2. Anyway, we have good transit access to our parks that are, like Chicago’s waterfront parks, near neighborhoods with favorable characteristics for transit. The waterfront could be a lot better, but it isn’t that far from 3rd. SLU Park has great transit access. Cal Anderson does, too, of course, and Volunteer Park isn’t bad; the Interlaken corridor has excellent transit access. Cowen Park has great transit access, as do a number of attractions near/in UW that can be park-like. Green Lake has great transit access even though it isn’t that dense; same with the zoo (but less so for the other half of Woodland Park). Judkins Park has great transit access, and so does the I-90 lid. People don’t think of Myrtle Edwards as having great transit access, but thanks to the Thomas Street overpass, RR D and other LQA routes are as close to Myrtle Edwards as any CTA route is to North Avenue Beach. Lincoln Park is right on the C Line. Kirkland and Bellevue’s downtown parks are each short walks from the concentration of transit entering their downtowns.

        A step down from those, both ends of the Arboretum have reasonably close frequent transit. Magnusen Park has a couple odd half-hourlies, as befits its location in a part of Seattle where everything is an odd half-hourly. Carkeek Park has an entrance near RR D, but it’s sort of hard to find. Boeing Creek is a bit of a walk from the 5 but it’s a pleasant one (I just took the 5 up there today to go running). Seward Park has the 50. Over on the eastside, St. Edward’s has the 234 for whatever reason… and someone mentioned Cougar Mountain in the transit hikes thread. Even the Bridle Trails Park is a fairly modest walk from the 245 and 255 compared to the amount of walking you could do within it.

        A lot of these parks could use pedestrian and signage improvements near their entrances more than anything, especially for entrances that aren’t the major car entrances. The Carkeek entrance near the D Line is a great example. The bridge over the train tracks that gets you between the main part of Magnolia and the Ballard Locks is completely unmarked from the major roads. The Arboretum and Magnuson Park have internal pedestrian difficulties. In Chicago a lot of the pedestrian facilities across LSD are really cool (near the Museum Campus they’re particularly impressive), and parks have big obvious pedestrian paths — in Seattle walking into many parks you’re walking in the back door.

        There are a couple big holes in transit access to parks. Alki in the summer is the biggest, which is a shame, because it’s such a great place to walk. Golden Gardens in the summer is probably a hole, but a hard one to fill. I don’t know the eastside well enough to know whether many of its parks are popular and important, or just look big on maps, but some of them have pretty skeletal service.

      3. Carkeek Park has an entrance near RR D, but it’s sort of hard to find.

        Hard to find? The D’s final stop is literally right across the street from that entrance. And there are signs.

      4. The Lakefront parks have reasonable transit solutions including walking from the RedLine or the Sheridan Rd. Buses. Other parks in Chicago, are a bit more dicey. The Conservatory in Garfield Park has a branch of the Green line that serves it and I alighted there several times to see the Chihuly exhibits. But if you wanted to go to those “Forest Preserves” that’s really challenging to do by transit.

      5. Ha, every time I’ve gone running up toward Carkeek I’ve missed the southeastern entrance somehow. Probably something I’m doing wrong. I’m from Chicago, so maybe I’m spoiled by its monumental park entrances, or in massive oxygen debt from climbing hills.

        The Water Taxi is quite a hike from the main part of the beach (which is what I was really talking about), and the closest transit access from West Seattle is the 50… which, given a second look, isn’t that bad by Seattle standards, except the Sunday schedule, which is miserable by any standard.

      6. “The D’s final stop is literally right across the street from that entrance. And there are signs.”

        Is it? I was going to go to Carkeek, and I thought I’d have to take the 28 and study Google Maps to find it.

    6. Years ago, and I can’t remember the route number, there was jitney service to GG. I would take it on weekends and it was usually empty. What happened to the jitneys Metro used on some routes in the early 1990’s? There was a great circular route from Ballard on Leary Way NW through Fremont, up Fremont Avenue N to Woodland Park Zoo, then on Phinney Avenue N, left on NW 65th Street to 24th Avenue NW back to Ballard–and vice versa. I think the jitney that went to GG was an extension of this route. I wish I had kept a schedule.

      1. That was the 86, and it ran empty most of the time and was discontinued for low ridership. Metro doesn’t run many vans anymore because they aren’t much cheaper to run than buses, and routes that can only fill a van (except DART) have been mostly eliminated in the recent drive to get rid of low-performing service.

      2. Lots of private businesses, from hotels to car dealers to Microsoft, use vans as courtesy shuttles. I can’t imagine it costs them anywhere near the $125 per hour per vehicle it costs Metro to operate a bus.

        Does Metro have union rules which stipulate that the driver of any passenger-carrying vehicle needs to be trained and paid like the operator of a 60-foot articulated bus? If so, that would explain a lot of it.

      3. With the narrow DART/subcontracting exception, yes. The union does not want to boot half of its members into a lower wage tier.

        And I agree with the union on that. Driving a hotel courtesy shuttle is not the same thing as driving a transit van. Transit van service requires considerably more driving skill, and comes with the same customer relations issues you face on the 7 or 358.

        Also, honestly, at least with the vans Metro operated, I felt safer driving the 60-foot articulated bus than the van. It had far better visibility, which is everything when you’re driving a large vehicle on downtown streets.

  2. Has anyone else been noticing that their Car2Go card is interfering with their ORCA card?

    1. Or, as someone mentioned several weeks ago, wrap the less-used card in foil when you’re not using it.

    2. I use a tri-fold wallet with my ZipCar card in one panel, Car2Go in the 2nd, and ORCA behind my Driver’s license in the 3rd. I unfold the wallet and hold the appropriate panel over the appropriate reader. Works like a charm.

      1. That’s what I had been doing, but it always makes me nervous that stuff will go flying everywhere. I’ll have to give the foil method mentioned above a try.

  3. There’s a city council meeting on Tues at 2:30 for putting a bike lane on the 520 Portage Bay Bridge. Residents near the bridge don’t want another lane in their views. Me? I’d love a view of people walking and biking.

    1. I have to work Tuesday, but if we ever want a low-stress bike route from the U-district to Capitol Hill, this sounds like the best chance we’re going to get in a long time.

    2. Wrote to the Council. I was ecstatic when I first heard the idea for a flat trail connecting Capitol Hill to Montlake. This is something that really needs to be done. I just wish it didn’t depend on rebuilding the 520 west approach, which may or may not get built and even if it does it’ll be a couple decades away.

    1. Usual fantasies. Nobody has figured out how to deal with the liability problems, which are what sunk self-driving trains (in places with grade crossings). The liability issues will, likewise, sink self-driving cars in places with grade crossings.

      1. They might have cars which “go automated” on the expressway, but not on normal streets. That is a possibility.

      2. Exactly. They all had to be *completely grade-separated*.

        Can you imagine trying to grade separate the entire road network from pedestrians? I can’t.

      3. There are many differences between autonomous cars and trains.

        – Incrementalism. There’s no cost savings for an autonomous train unless it’s always autonomous. An autonomous car that requires a human to drive off the freeway would still benefit the driver. Another incremental feature: a switch to autonomous cars is car-at-a-time, which is more granular than train-at-a-time and much more than line-at-a-time. The granularity means that initial high costs and liability risks are borne by enthusiastic individuals rather than sober governments.
        – Labor. Transit drivers’ unions oppose autonomous transit vehicles and are a somewhat powerful force in transit policy. Maybe taxi drivers would oppose autonomous cars because of the specter of autonomous taxis, but they just don’t have that much influence.
        – Big business. The potential market for autonomous cars is really big and attracts some big, powerful, and innovative companies that move fast. They can appeal to the public for political support and actually count on getting it.

        The worst thing would be for cheap autonomous cars to usher in a new age of sprawl, VMT increases, and freeway building because people can get so much done while commuting that they don’t care about travel times anymore, with massive externalized costs in road building and maintenance and to the environment. That’s why it’s important that we make sure maintenance is funded and paid for by road users, and that we get real pollution taxes in place.

      4. “Can you imagine trying to grade separate the entire road network from pedestrians?”

        Yes I think about this all the time and have mentioned it repeatedly in discussions about topologies!

        However, from what I’ve seen, self drive cars with their 360 degree multi eye sensors are far more pedestrian aware than humans with their forward facing set of two eyes.

      5. In a lot of places we’ve separated the entire road network from pedestrians by making it so inconvenient and unpleasant to walk along roads that people just don’t.

        If you go one step further and grade-separate, guess where lots of new businesses will locate? Along the grade-separated roads, in places that are really inconvenient to walk to.

        And that’s not even to mention the outrageous expense of the idea. If you wanted to do something as enormous and stupid as this you might as well save some money and just ban walking entirely.

      6. In the short term, cars that can only be driven autonomously on the freeway won’t help anyone who isn’t driving their own car. Taxi fares won’t be any cheaper than today because as long as the driver has to drive while the car isn’t on the freeway, he still has to sit there while the car is on the freeway.

        What this change will do is make some people who today ride the bus so they can read or text their friends during their commute decide they can get the same advantage in the comfort of their own car. And it will also effect people’s choice of where to live in that being 20 minutes away from work on the freeway is a much more pleasant commute than being 20 minutes away from work on surface streets – which means people living further away, and more sprawl. Meanwhile, the only incentive remaining to ride transit is economic, so fewer people ride transit.

        Nevertheless, the long-term benefit of completely driverless taxis and transit buses is so huge that I’m willing to accept the temporary setbacks of self-driving only on freeways if that’s what it takes to make things happen.

      1. I think for me I have to accept the existence of coal trains for the benefit of jobs and Congress; however, I think we should also extract a tax on them for our troubles and that this tax should go towards renewable projects like funding programs in fuel cells here.

  4. The rents on the Via6, featured at the end of that video (kind of amusing how he talks about bikes while cars are whizzing by in the the street behind him).

    Seems rather pricey…


    For example for an 850 sq. ft. apartment the price range is $2390.00 – $4315.00 or three to five times that of a similar apartment in Kent. And here I have access to trails like Soos Creek, Interurban and Green River as well as multiple bus lines and Sounder for transit.

    1. It makes sense that a new building there will command much higher rents than similar-sized units in existing buildings in Kent (or even in existing buildings nearby), and of course, also that a lot of people would rather live in Kent and pay a lot less.

      The high-end prices are probably top-floor view apartments… even so, who pays that much to rent? I wonder if they’re going after Amazon corporate housing.

      1. Kenny,
        I live in Belltown, and my rent hasn’t gone up in two years. That’s how new apartments effect affordability.

      2. Kenny,

        There’s no “urbanist mantra” that says “no luxury apartments should ever go on the market.” There’s always going to be a market for luxury apartments in a city with as much money sloshing around as Seattle. Look at averages, medians, and direction: as more and fancier units come in, existing units will not be able to charge as much simply for scarcity, as Mark Y.’s experience indicates.

      3. “I live in Belltown, and my rent hasn’t gone up in two years”

        Yes, it’s so affordable down there for the working class now.

      4. Rents reflect the vacancy rate. We’re assuming that the new buildings have more units than whatever they replaced, so they create more supply. Allowing more density in outlying neighborhoods is another important factor, because those units will intrinsically cost less than identical units downtown. But the outlying units need to be within walking distance of a neighborhood center and trunk transit route so they aren’t car-dependent. The reason Seattle is so expensive is that we’ve way underbuilt and underdensified over the past twenty years, in spite of the population increase and changing preference toward urban living.

    2. You can get more square footage (876sf or 1016sf) for less price if you don’t think you need an apartment on the corner of the building. Does the ‘similar’ apartment in Kent have a view?

      1. If you like looking out over a greenbelt and seeing grass and trees that change with the seasons…then yes.

  5. “A network of downtown bike trails”

    Uh, yeah.

    You’d be forgiven for thinking Seattle is America’s Copenhagen after watching this.

    1. Is there a single segregated cycletrack which runs along a major street and is between the sidewalk and the parked cars in all the Puget Sound?

      1. Now that I think about it, I could make the case for there being some segregated cycle tracks here in Kent in the form of extra wide sidewalks with the outer half being dedicated to bicycling.

        So this sidewalk, you can just make out the line on the sidewalk:


        This is 212th just East of where it intersects with the Interurban Trail.

        There are also a few of the concrete barrier segregated trails on various roads, but I can’t pinpoint one just now.

        However, I will say that none of these segregated tracks or shared sidewalks run alongside a major arterial with lots of commercial and retail shops and so on or for any extensive length.

  6. Had an interesting bout with Car2Go on Friday. Ended the trip, tapped my card on the outside and was informed there was an error. Looked on the inside and the vehicle’s interior screen informed me that there was no cell connection available. Parked a block from Northgate TC I doubted that. So I moved it another block (still paying of course). Same issue. Moved it again. Still no “coverage”. My phone indicated great signal strength. So I called customer service from my phone and told them of my predicament. The rep was helpful and was able to send a signal to the car to lock the doors. Apparently there was coverage. I got credit for the time between when I first parked the car and when the trip was ended. Small snafu; thankfully I wasn’t in a hurry. The car was placed out of service. Just looked on the map and it’s back in service.

    1. Which street do you park on when taking Car2Go to Northgate P&R? It would be really nice if we could simply pick up and return cars in the P&R itself, rather than having to scrounge for spots on neighboring streets.

  7. Gosh, I love how David L is always calling the Green Line in Boston awful, and Ben is always claiming that no level junction on earth works well enough to handle Link…. and yet on the Green Line, I would have merged twice and gone two more stops in the time it took this fucking train to crawl from I.D. to Stadium.

    Seattle being incompetent at everything is not the same as something being impossible.

    Fuck Seattle and the slow-ass horse it rode in on.

      1. No, Martin is right. My self-censorship filter, porous as it may normally be, was completely off yesterday.

        My apologies for the “class” lapse.

        Regarding the portal in question, Al continues to be right. Whenever I’m pressed for time, the pointless drag of the south portal is infuriating.

        There is no junction whatsoever in the tracks. Trains have 100% priority and buses are physically blocked from intruding. When the train makes its sharp turn after leaving the platform — how was that not fixed in the years of tunnel rehab? — you can see the more than 1/3 mile of smooth sailing ahead. And then you crawl that 1/3 mile at walking speed.

        It’s absurd that people defend Link’s anti-urban biases (unwalkable stop spacing, supposed unavailability for in-city branching) by citing the negligible time savings from the distant reaches of suburbia… while the trains continue to pull teeth at 4 mph for multiple minutes at the very heart of the line.

      2. Thanks, d.p.

        I find the ID crawl equally irritating. It seems like the US applies rail safety standards that if applied to cars would have everyone going 25mph on the interstate.

      3. You could be right, though there is clearly some grandfathering where high volumes require it and a history of operational precedent proves its feasibility. Heavy-rail junctions in New York and Chicago, and subway-surface transitions in Boston and Philly, are taken as quickly as the tracks and antique signaling will allow.

        On the other hand, San Francisco trains crawl through the Embarcadero loop junctions, installed in the modern era am governed by Automatic Train Control.

        It’s insane that we would mandate new technology and new standards that can only slow things down, when any reasonable definition of “progress” would involve refining technology and standards in service of faster operations.

      4. (That said, are we sure that’s Sound Transit’s excuse here? As you know, I’m pretty skeptical when they cite “best practices” and “mandates” to justify decisions that clearly violate best practices and implementation possibilities in place around the nation.)

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