77 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Streetcar Construction”

      1. lol …


        First of all most of the crew now knows me because if I am not talking photos I am always walking by the construction site. Regardless, photos like the one you used by example are taken from bridge plates that cross the construction zone for driveways or pedestrian crossings.

        I never get in the way of the active construction (especially around the excavators) as it would not be fair to the crews working if they have to look out for me in addition to what they are actually doing …

        Some of the photos are taken when the construction is not being performed (like on weekends) … but I still take them from publicly accessible locations.

        The biggest help has been to just be friendly with the construction crews … some just laugh it off (as in why would anyone be interested) and others are just happy that their efforts are actually appreciated.

        I actually created the short link (that I posted above) because they all wanted to know where they could go see them online (and it was easier than explaining flickr to them)

      2. As a lesser punishment, mic, your thread will be highjacked.

        Fare Policy Trivia Torture:

        Q1: Which agencies charge twice the regular fare for paratransit rides that they do for standard fixed-route rides?

        Q2: Which agencies charge a premium paratransit fare for service outside the ADA-required area?

        Q3: Which agencies provide a low-income discount for paratransit?

        Q4: Which agencies charge a premium fare for same-day bookings?

      3. Q1. Cape Cod RTA and San Diego to name a couple.
        I didn’t want to steal all the prize money, so left the easy ones for others.

      4. So, you want prize money? In that case, find me 20 agencies that charge the same as, or less than, Metro for paratransit rides. Happy hunting!

        Hint on Q3: The answer can be found on this blog.

      5. “others are just happy that their efforts are actually appreciated…”

        I know several people in the construction industry. They are immensely proud of the work they do and love to talk about it when they feel like you’re genuinely interested. They definitely appreciate it when people show an interest. (If you get to know them, you get to hear lots of interesting stories. )

    1. http://zoom.it/Ge29

      Check out the stops at Pike and Pine. The short ones. The ones so close to the lights they actually just out into the crosswalks. The ones the streetcar can’t pull into and open its doors until every car in front of it has made it through the light. On the street with the single travel lane. At rush hour. The ones the streetcar also shares with two bus routes.

      The ones that will guarantee it takes the streetcar 3 or 4 light cycles just to go two blocks.

      This thing is a nightmare.

  1. Mercer Island to Uncle Sam: I-90 tolls would be illegal. While I support tolling on I-90 I also agree with the sentiment, “ tolling a federal interstate to pay for an unrelated project would set a significant and troubling national policy precedent.” But this article makes it clear that the reason I-90 tolls were approved under the “Value Pricing Pilot Program” (VPPP) is to control congestion, and encourage more transit use. Maybe it’s just an accounting shell game but I don’t think the State should earmark the tolls to bail out a different sinking bridge.

    1. Ohio tolls the turnpike (I-76, I-80 and I-90, depending on where you are), and they are going to use it to pay for other projects. No one seems to be raising the same concern as people from MI, so I would imagine that the issue is really already resolved, and the MIers are wrong.

    2. They wouldn’t be paying for a different project with tolling revenue; they’d be offsetting some of the sales tax dollars transferred every year into the highway fund, freeing up that money for other things.

      We’re not demanding that Mercer Island residents pay for other people’s transportation, we’re giving them the opportunity to pay for their own.

      1. Their bridge is already paid for. Tolling is a user fee: charging I-90 users a fee which then pays for a bridge they aren’t using is a ripoff.

      2. oh you say its paid for huh? ok fine then. we just won’t spend money on your bridge and then laugh when that bridge sinks like the last one. maintenance is costly too.

      3. If the proposed I-90 toll were going to pay for I-90 construction or bridge maintenance, that would be a different argument. In fact, all this money will go to the 520 bridge project.

        WSDOT can argue that everyone in the region benefits from the new 520 bridge, and that’s probably true. They could choose to tax everyone in the region, and that would be fair.

        Putting a toll on I-90 does not tax everyone in the region fairly – it puts the heaviest burden on the people who make heaviest use of I-90, while everyone else in the region – all supposedly benefiting from the new bridge – gets off scot-free. What’s worse, the heaviest users of I-90 are exactly those people who are least likely to benefit from the 520 project! It is absolutely unfair.

      4. So, if you use I-90, you don’t care what happens to 520, right? OK, then, lets speed up construction and just shut it down. It will probably save money. I’m sure I-90 wouldn’t be effected.

        Yes, everyone benefits, but folks from I-90 benefit more than most because the roads are parallel and serve much the same area. If I drive I-5 from Lynnwood to Shoreline I could care less about 520. But if I drive I-90, I want 520 to be as smooth as possible. If they raise the fares to $20 one way, or shut it down, then I’m sitting in a parking lot, and I don’t like that.

      5. We could just not toll it and wait for them to complain that it’s unusable due to all the people who don’t want to pay the toll on the 520. Then offer them their own dedicated lane for a small per-use fee.

    3. Many of the Interstates around Chicago and Northern Indiana are tolled from border to border. I-90, I-294, I-80, I-88, I-394. If they can do it, we can do it.

    4. Unless the TPA and Nickel packages are perfectly proportional in their funding of SR99 and SR520 relative to the amount of statewide driving done on those spans, people are already paying for roads they don’t use via the gas tax.

      Assuming tolling is a congestion mitigation system first and a revenue generator second, why should tolling revenue be any different? (And don’t tell me “because it was that way in the past”. These variable tolls are not my father’s flat rate tolls)

      1. Like I said, “Maybe it’s just an accounting shell game” but the legislature consistently harps on the idea that I-90 tolls will be used to pay for 520 construction and specifically to “bridge” the funding gap for the west side landing to I-5 segment. I take that to mean toll rates will be set to meet a required revenue number rather than just focusing on managing congestion like the HOT lane pricing on 167.

    5. In new York through way tolls (I90) are used to pay for the Erie canal….the potential lawsuit is a waste of money.

      1. Mostly, but not quite. I-90 is a toll route from the Wisconsin border to approximately the Chicago city limits. The next 22 miles are toll toll-free. The toll route resumes where I-90 branches off from I-94 via the Chicago Skyway, taking a more direct route to Indiana than the free route via I-94.

        The toll portions of I-90 in these states were planned and built before the Interstate funding mechanisms were in place. They were later incorporated into the Interstate network.

      2. I-90 isn’t tolled all the way through Ohio. It diverges from the Turnpike in Elyria and continues as a ‘free’way through Cleveland and to the PA border.

      3. …and after it crosses from the PA border into NY, it’s tolled again. There’s a short untolled section in Buffalo, and then it’s tolled again all the way through New York and all the way through Massachusetts.

        I-90 is basically a toll road from Wisconsin to Boston. It predates the Interstate system and is frankly more useful than most of the Interstates. Most Interstates were toll-free because *they were so useless that nobody would have been willing to pay tolls to use them*.

      4. Maybe seem useless to the average Joe but Ike wanted it built for G.I. Joe. With the demise of the railroads Interstates became commercially useful. Over the last 30 years or so the railroads have taken back a huge portion of the freight business they lost but in the mean time all along the Interstate system towns and industry has grown up that is or never was served by rail so the roads still move “tons” of freight but people aren’t keen on being shuffled like inter-modal traffic so passenger rail hasn’t seen the same Renaissance.

    6. So if I-90 is not tolled, toll-haters will use it rather than 520, and 520 won’t have enough revenue to complete the bridge replacement. Oh wait, that’s happening now. So the end result of not tolling I-90 is that 520 never gets rebuilt and will eventually have to close when it becomes too unsafe. Would Bellevueites and Kirklanders like to go back to having only one bridge? No tollee, no bridgee.

      1. Not quite. The bridge replacement is funded as is the rebuild of 520 from the east shore of Lk Washington out to Redmond. The part that still needs funding is Montlake to I-5. So, if no funding source is identified we could potentially end up with 520 remaining two lanes from the bridge to I-5. But lack of funding hasn’t deterred WSDOT from tearing down the Viaduct and starting on the Deep Debt Tunnel so I’d bet dollars to donuts they’d come up with a way to complete 3 lanes each way but with a really ugly Portage Bay bridge and no fancy lids, landscaping or transit improvements.

  2. Great video. Looking forward beyond the First Hill line to the rest of the streetcar system we’re going to build. However, there’s another aspect of this project that is overdue for some serious discussion.

    The line is slated to be operated with trains from the Czech Republic that will look very much like the South Lake Union cars, but with one important difference: they’ll have a hybrid propulsion package featuring batteries for off-wire operation, in addition to standard pantographs.

    This technology is in use in several other systems around the world, and I’m willing to have us contribute to its development. But I think that present plans to leave the First Hill Line with no southbound overhead wire whatever are irresponsible in the extreme.

    My own research online indicates that none of the unwired track anywhere else features grades anywhere close to Seattle’s. And specifically, the southbound First Hill track features a very steep climb from Union to Swedish Hospital, and another uphill stretch between Yesler and Jackson.

    With little or no lane reservation, streetcars will be subject to stopped traffic- during which time batteries will be forced to power functions from lights to ventilation and air-conditioning- as well as propulsion- while receiving no re-charge.

    A breakdown or blockage in either direction will be a nightmare to clear.

    So I’d appreciate some response in this posting from people with knowledge and experience in traction power overhead and street rail operations. If I’m wrong, I’d like to have some peace of mind. If not, the many transit officials who read this blog deserve the information they need for change-orders.

    Mark Dublin

    1. First of all I agree that it is a bad idea … if for no other reason than the South Lake Union streetcars cannot be interlined with the First Hill Streetcars if the Center City Connector is built.

      However, I do not believe the entire southbound track will be devoid of overhead … just the Capitol Hill/First Hill segment due to the complicated ETB wire junctions at Pine, Madison and Jefferson.

      Regardless … the only hill southbound is from Union to Columbia … the Yesler segment is pretty flat … not that big a deal if the streetcar batteries have the capacity to travel 5mi on batteries.

      Route elevation: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gordonwerner/8332182502/in/set-72157630154155804

      I think having the ability to run on batteries is good … especially if there is a problem the streetcar can at least get to the next station and not get stuck in an intersection … but I think that it would make more sense to do the engineering work now to figure out how to rewire the ETB junctions to accommodate the SB streetcar line up on the hills … just in the off chance testing proves that the batteries will not handle the hill up from Union.

    1. For First Avenue and other places in this region, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel is a good model: a rail facility operable with buses until demand necessitates rail only.

      Fully-reserved right-of-way serves all modes. But eventual problem with buses for rapid transit is their inability to be coupled. Resulting need for following distance means platoon length increases with speed- a four car light rail train occupies 360′ at any speed. But a six-coach platoon needs about a third of a mile at sixty.

      This kind of staged convertibility costs more than simply going to rail. But counterbalancing advantage is express capacity decades in advance of trains. Voters might be more likely to approve a railway they didn’t have to wait thirty years to enjoy.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Making a long tunnel work for buses is expensive; traditionally it roughly doubles its cost versus a tunnel for rail. This is due to ventilation as well as needing wider lanes. Modern ventilation overkill requirements for rail may narrow the gap.

  3. Appreciation for Metro:

    The 21 now has a westbound bus stop on Lander, a block and a half west of SODO Station. Thanks, Metro!!

    If it isn’t too much trouble, I hope the number “50” can be added to that stop. The 21 and 50 share some major destinations in West Seattle. It would be really cool if riders headed that way could just wait at the joint stop for whichever bus comes along first.

    At any rate, hooray!!

      1. While we are at it, including SODO Station as a time point on the 21 schedule, and doing likewise with SODO Station and Columbia City Station on the 50 schedule might help. Posting the bus schedules at the stations would be a cheap bonus gift.

        The angry former 39 riders wanted a smoother transfer between the bus and the train. Providing the pick-up times for the buses at the stations would be a beginning. Maps to the bus stops would help newbies, but that would take a little more effort, with less impact.

    1. Good news- there is also a new stop for the 50; it’s one block over, between 4th and the Busway on S Lander.

      1. MikeB, are you talking about westbound? That stop has been there, but it is hidden between trees.

  4. Can someone tell me if they know (speculation is fine) what will eventually happen to Convention Place Station? I’ve been told TOD multiple times before but that really doesn’t answer the question about how the station (which is bus only) will be serviced when the tunnel eventually reverts to train only.

    1. Most likely will be a combination of 3 functions (my opinion only).
      1. Entry/exit from reversible lanes for buses to surface street routes.
      2. Maintenance/Emergency access to the DSTT North End.
      3. Staging/Layover areas for routes that typically layover in SLU, which is fast becoming some premium curb space. 10 years ago, not so much.
      It’s highest and best use is to branch off a Link Green line using the current platforms, cut/cover then elevated to a station above the SLUT at Denny, then another at Seattle Center then off to Ballard with more stops along the way.
      This recaptures some of the lost capacity of DSTT/Ulink headway mismatches, and negates the need for a second subway under the CBD. It also gives same platform transfers for several lines sharing the tracks. But we’ve hashed this all before, and ST/SDOT are not in a listening mode on this idea.
      I don’t see any TOD compatible with either of those ideas unless massively subsidized to force it to pencil out.

      1. Well, I guess a 3/4 Bil exhibit hall is ‘massive’ enough to qualify.
        Woo hoo, now we can have twice as much empty unused public space. This may turn into a black hole someday, if we can only reach critical ma$$.

      2. Now, count up all the events and days for 2013 that can’t fit in existing convention spaces (Convention Center, Safeco, Key Arena) – 6 events and 20 days.
        Yup, we need more space, and hurry. Is there no end to Seattle politicians desire to pour money down rat holes.

      3. Actually there are a fair number of events that would expand into whatever space the Convention Center has (say PAX) furthermore there are conventions and events that never come to Seattle because there are no suitable venues available at the times of year they are held.

        Yes expanding the Convention Center costs money but it comes back in the form of direct and indirect economic activity.

      4. It would be nice if a convention center expansion also came with a freeway park expansion (to the north). I would love to see more of the freeway capped (to better link Capitol Hill and downtown).

      5. The cities that chase super-sized convention centers using end up holding the bag. There simply aren’t enough mega-conventions to go around, and the mid-sized conventions that used to love your city now balk both at the down-payment required to reserve your bigger, debt-ridden facility and at the general loss of charm from having to use a small portion of a way-too-big space.

        Boston wasted a fortune on its failure of a mega-hall on a windswept former railyard. Fortunately, clearer heads prevented the convention authority from closing the “competing” Hynes center (smaller, much better located), which would have driven smaller conventions out of the city altogether. Guess which facility is now booked year-round, and which sits empty.

        You’ll note that those who claim Seattle is “passed over” because of inadequate size can really name any actual examples of conventions that passed us over. PAX, meanwhile, keeps coming back, despite the quick sell-out; you need not spend hundreds of millions to lure those who have already selected you.

        WSCC needs to double in size like Issaquah needs a freaking subway.

        (p.s. Isn’t there a construction site and something new going up behind the convention center building at 9th and Pine anyway?)

      6. I remember reading that when the state turned down the opportunity to expand the Convention Center around 2008, it walked away from an investment that would have been repaid after just a few years of conventions. I don’t know if that was true or not but it’s a shame if it was, and we shouldn’t make that mistake again.

      7. it walked away from an investment that would have been repaid after just a few years of conventions

        Just the way the Kingdome was fully paid off after just a few years of well-sold sporting events. Or the way the 99 tunnel will be repaid after just a few years of tolls. Or the way the Iraq war paid for itself through oil receipts.

        Never believe any such claim, especially when they start talking about all the unspecified secondary economic growth they plan to take credit for as part of their calculations.

      8. Honestly, really huge conventions are best off expanding outside a convention center, into the meeting rooms in the bazillion hotels which they will fill up.

  5. Regional Rail for New York City

    Most proposals for commuter rail expansion in New York focus on the ends: extending lines further out, extending electrification, extending multi-tracking. The only improvements at the center, East Side Access and the ARC tunnels, are stub-ends, in line with the current thinking that commuter rail exists to get people from the suburbs to the CBD.

    Although this form of operation seems natural in New York, many other cities have instead improved their regional rail system by combining stub-end lines to form lines that go from one suburb to another, through the central city, making for convenient travel between inner suburbs.

    Almost all subway lines work like this: nobody expects the A to run from Upper Manhattan to Midtown and discharge all riders, with a separate line running from Midtown to Queens.


    Regional Rail (Map Proposal) NYC


    Regional Rail Working Group NYC

    A Brief Introduction:
    Our commuter rail network

    A great but untapped resource for reducing car use and improving the environment is the extensive network of commuter rail lines serving the NY/NJ/Connecticut metropolitan region. At present this system is focused almost entirely on hauling suburbanite commuters to and from the Manhattan business district, a task it does fairly well. But the commuter rail lines could do much much more. By greatly increasing frequency, and integrating fares with other transit units, the commuter rail lines can be transformed into a truly comprehensive web of regional mobility — a Regional Rail network.


    1. The “inner suburbs” of NYC are hardly suburbs at all. The density of Jersey City is >16,000 people/sq mi!

      1. Shows that you can have a widely spread “city” that covers a vast geographical area…so long as you create the regional transit to go with it!

      2. John, you also need a huge freaking population. The New York metro area covers a large geographical area because there are *so* many people that it’s nearly impossible to build upwards further in Manhattan.

    1. Transportation Energy Futures Study Reveals Potential for Deep Cuts to Petroleum Use and Carbon Emissions

      Trip reduction through mass transit, tele-working, tele-shopping, carpooling, and efficient driving.


      Three major strategies were explored in the study: reduction of energy use through efficiency and demand management; increased use of electricity and hydrogen from renewable energy; and expanded use of biofuels.


  6. “Reject Prop 1” just can’t stop at Prop 1, can’t they?
    Really? Killing public transit once isn’t enough for you? Are you going to start your own public transit agency to begin to repair the damage you have done to the county? Or are you going to personally pay to move the city of Tacoma to another county? Or are you just going to keep screwing over those that either refuse or cannot afford to buy your cars? Think about it.

    I hate this page with a passion.

    1. Welcome to Pierce County. Enjoy your stay. I’m hightailing it to Seattle after I graduate.

    2. Well I wish they’d grouse more about the lobbyists and less about the transit people actually need.

      Notice I said need.

      These guys just want to nuke transit it seems. No sense reasoning with the admins of that page.

      1. I tried to prompt a thoughtful discussion on their page, but that was shot down quickly. Now I’m unable to post on their page. Their groupthink is in full force there.

  7. So I have to say, I rode my motorcycle down Broadway last night from Denny to Pike, and I’d have preferred the construction of the streetcar line to have made the pavement surface a bit more uniform or homogeneous. As a motorcyclist, the seam between the asphalt surface and the concrete base for the street car was quite uneven and unprofessional. …especially for new construction.

    1. I expect they’ll repave that after some time. Asphalt roadways generally get a base laid down, then traffic while the base is compacted and hardens, then they’ll put on a finish coat.

    2. It isn’t quite finished yet. I too rode mine up there and totally agree but that is that not up to Stacy and Witbeck quality.

  8. I love those street/interurban railways of yore. It is too bad that Mr. Bailo wasn’t around 90 years ago. Maybe that brilliant curmudgeon would appreciate what we once had. And can have.

    I won’t hold my breath, though. The dude is wackier than me. And, that is not a compliment. He loves Kent, after all.

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