49 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Transit Patterns, San Francisco”

  1. So, CTA just released version 2 of their train tracker system in Chicago: http://www.transitchicago.com/traintracker/

    And it is quite an impressive set of ways to find your train. You can see all trains on a live map, find the stations nearest you, track trains by run number (which are displayed on the front of any train and periodically announced), etc. IT’s REALLY cool. Hopefully ST does something similar when they roll out train times.

  2. Amazing video. Speaks to the issue that even within a centralized dense core there is not “there..there”.

    So there are nodes at the perimeter. Linear nodes. Cluster nodes. This is the contour topography of multiple fluctuating maxima I suggest is more like the whole Salish Sea region rather than (only) hub and spoke.

    1. Dude, this is the city, the whole city, and nothing but the city.

      It’s the cohesive city, the continuous city, the bustling city, and by some metrics the densest city in North America.

      This has nothing to do with your dream of sprawling suburban dullarddom.

  3. I have been reading the New York Times every day since the age of 2 and a half.  Below, I have given the links to three stories from the last two days, and the money quotes from each article.

    A story on Pakistan’s railroad system.


    “Most Pakistanis prefer to take the bus. Those left on the trains are often frustrated, sometimes mutinous.”

    A story on tall residential buildings in New York City.


    “The cheapest apartment in the building, a 351 square-foot studio, costs $1.59 million, according to the offering prospectus.”

    Living next to the High Line.


    “The neighborhood is commanding prices of $2,500 to $3,500 a foot …”

    1. Shame that your ability to process information contextually has not improved since you were 2 and a half. :-(

      Keep working at it. We believe in you.

      1. d.p., this blog told me that trains, tall residential buildings, and the High Line, are solutions to problems. The New York Times is telling me otherwise. All I’m trying to do is figure out who is right? Is that so wrong?

    2. Decades of neglect have taken a heavy toll. On paper, Pakistan Railways has almost 500 engines, but in reality barely 150 are in working order.

      Neglect your infrastructure and service will suffer. Sounds like the last head of the railroad re-appropriated all the maintenance money for himself. Truly tragic.

      There’s a pent-up demand for condos with helicopter views.

      Restrict supply and you get 1.5 mil studios.

      With so many families flocking to neighborhoods like West Chelsea … there is a relative dearth of large apartments downtown.

      Again, supply and demand.

      1. The $1.5 million studio thing isn’t just supply restriction. The product is status and investment as much as housing. If buyers can’t find status in ludicrously expensive condos they’ll look to mansions, cars, boats, clothing, art, or whatever else people covet these days (essentially the status symbols people use in every American city aside from NY). If they can’t find investment value in expensive condos they’ll look to real estate, art, gold, the stock market, Ponzi schemes, etc.

        It may be that buildings like this relieve pressure on the housing market across an entire city (for example, the new mega-condo building probably helps keep prices a little lower in the last decade’s mega-condo building or in certain suburbs). They probably don’t make housing (or anything else) any more affordable in the immediate area.

      2. To be sure, housing whose primary purpose is status is a pretty small portion of the New York metro’s total housing market; it gets a lot of press because rich urbanites always get a lot of press and you can’t get much more rich or urban than that. Outside of New York there’s even less pure status housing. I’m not claiming the housing market works totally contrary to standard microeconomic principles aside from the status factor.

        Gentrification exists and sometimes co-occurs with additional density, and gentrification also drives up prices on everything else. However, you’d obviously expect gentrification to cause new housing development, and indeed much new housing is following high prices in neighborhoods that are already past the point where there’s any gentrifying left to do, so the co-occurrence doesn’t actually contradict normal economic principles. Also there are tons of cases of gentrification with little or no new housing (particularly where there are strict zoning laws) and plenty of cases of new housing without gentrification… so any claim that gentrification and new housing always go hand-in-hand is just not close.

        To bring it home, surely there’s some similar element to NY condo status in some of the new housing near downtown Seattle and SLU, say if the residents didn’t live there they’d live somewhere cheaper and blow more money on cars or gas (I know several people living in walkable neighborhoods without cars that made choices like this). If the new Amazon campus was built with very little housing nearby the housing that was there might remain cheaper than if more was added, but only because it would be a crummy place to live, with no neighbors but an office park, with amenities overwhelmingly serving workers, not residents. And prices in nearby neighborhoods would rise even more, covering the difference. It would basically be keeping housing cheap (in one small area) by making everyone miserable. As it is, our new downtown housing tends to be yuppie-class, not plutocrat-class, and yuppies are still economic creatures.

      3. “Neglect your infrastructure and service will suffer.”

        Building new freeways (Puget Sound Gateway) before you’ve figured out how to fully fund projects you’ve started is the “free”way equivalent. And then there’s the fact that I5’s pavement quality is so crappy you can see the problems from space. Perhaps we should be focusing scarce gas tax revenue on finishing what we have already started and maintaining what already exists?

  4. Those Orion buses just don’t hold up under deer pressure. The deer only wanted a ride downtown.

  5. Look what neighborhood is in the news. For those not familiar with Bellevue, Somerset is a very upscale, exclusive, NIMBY, transit-unfriendly neighborhood. In this story, a home buyer had to offer $100,000 over asking just to get this run-down house. It seems $600,000 is a fixer-upper in Somerset?


    1. The views from Somerset are worth half a million on their own. Non-fixers in the area go for around a million. I saw one listing for a 4 bedroom on 1/4 acre with a koi pond and a lake view for 1.5 mil.

      But if you think that’s high, try to buy a view property on the tail of the 11 around Madison Park.

      1. So “views” have an intrinsic value then? No need to build more space needles? ;-)

  6. One thing about San Francisco of which I am jealous is that they have instant run-off voting (allowing voters to rank the candidates, instead of being forced to pick just one). It is this aspect of their elections, not the districting, that makes them free-for-alls.

    If the districting proponents here had included some actual reform measures in their petition (contribution limits, electoral reform, ethics regulations, something, anything), their petition, complete with pre-gerrymandered maps packing the progressive majority into two of seven districts, wouldn’t taste quite so sour.

    As it is, at-large elections seem to be our only tool right now for getting furniture off the city council, short of them retiring.

    Only one county council race involving an elected incumbent looks to be an actual contest, and maybe it really isn’t. Another includes an appointed incumbent who got to draw the map under which he is seeking election. There’s something just really wrong about that. (Though I otherwise have nothing against him, personally.)

    Two of four city council races appear to be actual contests. The gushingly pro-transit Brian Carver is challenging Richard Conlin, and appears to be the most seriously organized challenger in all the races outside of mayor. Mike O’Brien also has a couple challengers who might step it up, but one of them has a website so cartoonish it is hard to take him seriously.

    One wonderful side effect of at-large Seattle elections is that voters turn out all over town, affecting the outcome of county and state races. In particular, County Executive Dow Constantine may have a stiff challenge from a candidate who opens his issue page with a statement that King County spends way too much money on transit.

  7. I was reading up on Super Capacitor use in Light rail, and discovered something I did not now… In Paris, Heidelberg, and China, they are used to allow stretches of track WITHOUT overhead Catenary! Very nice. Maybe useful in areas where overhead wires might not work, but where you still want to run a LR train.


    In 2009 in Paris a light-rail vehicle (LRV) was fitted with a bank of 48 supercapacitors mounted on the roof both to store braking energy, and to enable the LRV to operate with overhead catenary only on parts of its route, running on stored energy between electrified segments and recharging quickly at segments equipped with catenary.[145]

    In addition, the supercapacitors enabled the LRV’s to operate in an area of Heidelberg without overhead wires. The EDLC equipment cost an additional €270,000 per vehicle, which is expected to be recovered in the first 15 years of operation.

    In April 2011 Rhein-Neckar Verkehr ordered 11 more LRVs equipped with EDLCs.[146]

    In 2012 the tram operator TPG in Geneva began tests of a light-rail vehicle (LRV) equipped with a prototype supercapacitor energy storage unit mounted on the roof to recover braking energy.[147]

    In August 2012 the CSR Zhouzhou Electric Locomotive corporation of China presented a prototype two-car light metro train equipped with a roof-mounted supercapacitor unit providing both regeneration of braking energy, and the ability to operate without overhead wires while charging the supercapacitors at stations, which the supplier believes could potentially be used in 100 smaller and medium-sized Chinese cities.[148]

    Other public transport manufacturers are delivering modern light-rail transport systems with supercapacitor energy storing technology, including mobile storage.[149]

    Hong Kong’s South Island metro line is to be equipped with two 2 MW energy storage units using supercapacitors, which are expected to reduce energy consumption by 10%

    1. Hong Kong’s South Island metro line is to be equipped with two 2 MW energy storage units using supercapacitors, which are expected to reduce energy consumption by 10%

      Amtrak’s new electric locomotives will have regenerative braking (finally), but will simply be feeding the reclaimed juice to the grid rather than storing it on-board. Energy savings should be similar.

      I know Metro’s new trolleys will have off-wire capability, but I believe that’s with conventional NiMH batteries rather than supercapacitors.

      1. GE was building electric locomotives with regenerative braking (sending electricity back to the grid) about 100 years ago.

      2. European trains send power back to the grid instead of wasting it as heat through giant resistors on the top of the Loco like we do in the U.S. Of course if you’re already on the grid putting the energy back makes the most sense; why would you store it and lug it around when you’re connected to the grid. The 1st Hill SC is supposed to use regenerative braking energy I believe to power it’s self over a section that won’t have overhead wire. Not sure what the logic there was. My guess would be a gross distortion of the engineering reality because of some Federal subsidy kicking back pork to someone’s district supplying the system.

      3. “The 1st Hill SC is supposed to use regenerative braking energy I believe to power it’s self over a section that won’t have overhead wire. Not sure what the logic there was.”

        What Metro said is that this area has so many trolley wire intersections that they didn’t want the headaches of adding another wire to the mix. E.g., if one goes down it might take all the others down with it.

    2. Isn’t Sound Transit testing regenerative braking? What’s the latest news on that? Would that use regular batteries, or supercapacitors?

      1. They are, but I haven’t heard anything about it lately. I’d assume it’s with batteries.

  8. The San Francisco map also seems to reflect where the fastest/most frequent transit is. Market and Mission may be where the most activity will always be, but it also reflects where BART is, with trains every few minutes, underground speeds, and not too many stations. In contrast, the Muni Metro lines aren’t very bright at all, nor the Haight and Geary bus lines which we know are well-used. That tells me that there’s a latent ridership on the west side which would materialize if the issue of speed were addressed. (And Muni Metro is not that frequent per line, since you can’t use the L if you’re in N-land.) It’s not just that more people would be attracted to transit, but that people who are using transit would be able to accomplish more errands in a day. The difference between the number of trips they take and the number of trips they wish they could take (or are avoiding the west side because of the time it takes to get there and back), is the latent ridership.

    1. I’m not sure the data is complete. The L train isn’t even on the map, and at least one popular west-side bus route (the 28, running along 19th) barely registers compared to routes farther west that I don’t think are as popular.

      Maybe this data is from APCs that aren’t rolled out across the whole fleet?

      1. Looking closer, I don’t know if any Muni trains are on the map. The K, M, and N pretty clearly aren’t! Doesn’t look like the T is, either.

  9. I’ve been playing around with Inkscape again and I have another map for you.

    This is my idea of how to restore revenue trolley bus service (an actual numbered route)to the wire on Broadway between Pine and Jackson (this is part of my “Use It or Lose It” attitude for Metro regarding its redundant infrastructure components that they haven’t removed in years because they’re too cheap or incompetent–and “deadhead/emergency only” doesn’t count).

    Coincidentally, it also rectifies the most obvious numbering gap in Metro’s system.

    I give you…(drumroll Please)…Route 6.

    1. So it’s the 9X, but with fewer stops and a much shorter trip on Rainier.

      I think there is a better way to reorganize service in that area, one which relies on Link connections (and some bus transfers) to get people downtown but gives much more north-south frequency for less money.

      1) Implement TMP Corridor 3 (or a variation thereof). This is a combination of the 36, 60 (minus the Harborview deviation), and the 49. This could be trolley without any new wire.
      2) Take the 7 out of downtown, and run it instead along Boren to Fairview. Terminate it in South Lake Union (probably by circling Harrison -> Westlake -> Republican -> back to Fairview). This would require some new wire or running the 7 diesel. Honestly, dieselizing the 7 wouldn’t be a horrible outcome — it’s not a good fit for trolley equipment in the first place.
      3) With the saved funds, make the 14 frequent.

      This would add a north-south line on Boren that isn’t there today (and for which there would be substantial demand) and put a legible, frequent corridor along 12th and Broadway, all for less money than today’s service. We’ve got this terrific asset in Link… let’s leverage it.

      1. Are you suggesting this “Route 6” in lieu of Route 9 or in addition? I would like to see Route 9 have fewer stops along Rainier so that it could substantially shorten the travel time.

      2. “dieselizing the 7 wouldn’t be a horrible outcome — it’s not a good fit for trolley equipment in the first place.”

        What does this mean? I thought the 7 was the most suitable route for trolley service because it has so many runs that you get the most return on investment, plus less use of fossil fuels, plus it has no nonstop segments so the trolley speed is not a limiting factor.

      3. Zach, I hadn’t seen that proposal before, and it turns out to be very close to the one I’m working with (a few minor differences).

        Mike, there are disadvantages, as well as advantages, to electrifying routes. And the best trolley routes minimize the disadvantages and maximize the advantages. Shallow curves and special work slow down trolleybuses a lot more. Speeds over 35 mph are pretty much out. Deadhead routes are very limited, which matters more and more the further the terminals get from the base.

        So the best routes for trolleys are frequent, short, hilly, and only reach low speeds. The 7 is only 1 for 4 in that respect (although it would get more hilly with my Boren proposal). On top of that, Rainier has a lot of shallow curves where trolleys have to slow down to avoid falling off the wire. If I were dictator, I would dieselize the 7 and 44, and electrify the 8N, 11, 48S, and a 13 extension up Fremont Avenue.

      4. No, it’s actually two of the four: frequent (as frequent as just about anything…) and slow.

      5. All four matter. Shortness matters because the longer the route, the worse the efficiency penalty for having to deadhead along the wire. (A diesel 7, for instance, would deadhead on I-5, which it would reach via MLK in a couple of minutes, and would save 15+ minutes per deadhead.) Steep hills matter because they put diesels at a big disadvantage in terms of speed and added maintenance cost.

      6. Oh, now I see you were talking about the 7 in particular. Apologies. Several stretches of Rainier allow faster operation than a trolley can achieve (if possibly not with full legality), and several more stretches require the trolley to slow down to 15 or 20 where the diesel can maintain 30. Parts of the 7 are too fast for trolleys to be ideal.

      7. Thanks for breaking this down for people, David.

        I tend to think people get a little too obsessed with the “environmental benefits” of trolleybuses around these parts. There have been more than a few routes, on more than a few weekends, where I’ve been happy to see a diesel coming because it means I’m going to get there much faster.

        Want our transit to have environmental benefits? Make it useful enough that people flock to it. Too much of our trolleybus network is of the slow, labyrinthine, light-missing, teeth-pulling, public-alienating variety.

    2. Um, Broadway between Pine and Jackson is currently undergoing a facelift for …(drumroll Please)… the First Hill Street Car.

      (Just thought I’d update you on the current Seattle Transit scene.)

      1. [T]his is part of my “Use It or Lose It” attitude for Metro regarding its redundant infrastructure components that they haven’t removed in years because they’re too cheap or incompetent–and “deadhead/emergency only” doesn’t count

        Congratulations on your appointment as GM of Metro, or was it election to the Metro Board. Sorry, I’m not up on these HR comings and goings at the agency. When was the happy event?

      2. Okay, okay, okay!!! So I was a little bit hasty about the whole “redundant infrastructure” bit. Just my own personal opinion, nonetheless. I’m not trying to become the new Metro GM or something. Just thinking out loud.

  10. Wow, the #5 Fulton seriously needs some priority mid-day! I guess it’s USF. And who knew the 48th Avenue and Haight-Noriega are such a work-horses!

    It’s interesting that the N appears not to gather stats between Market and 19th, because you get these lurid blobs between 19th and about 35th frequently, but nothing east of 19th lights up. The dots (representing collection nodes?) are there, but never swell.

    Clearly lots of Castroites are partying until midnight (push me over with a feather!), and the Owl service on Geary is much loved.

    And finally, a pun. What do you call it when you just miss one of those Daly-City bound Bay Area trains at 2:30 AM?

    A passed BARTiciple.

    1. I don’t think that’s actually the N train, I think it’s the NX bus, based on the location and how often it occurs. I don’t think any of the Muni trains are represented at all.

      1. Al,

        It probably is; you’re right that none of the other letter lines seem to light up.

      2. My guess is that the info comes from some equipment installed only on newer buses, and that many of the system’s workhorse all-day routes run pretty old equipment during the day… certainly when I was in SF a bit ago I rode the 28 a lot, and it was mostly old, loud, creaky buses. With all the Muni trains and routes running old buses reporting this map would be off the hook.

  11. Some legislative spelunking here reveals:

    House Bill 2172 passed by the Washington legislature and signed into law by the Governor in 2003.

    Promoting the purchase of fuel cells for the use of distributive generation at state-owned facilities.

    When planning for the capital construction or renovation of a state facility, state agencies shall consider the utilization of fuel cells and renewable or alternative energy sources as a primary source of power for applications that require an uninterruptible power source.

    When planning the purchase of back-up or emergency power systems and remote power systems, state agencies shall consider the utilization of fuel cells and renewable or alternative energy sources instead of batteries or internal combustion engines.

    The director of general administration shall develop criteria by which state agencies can identify, evaluate, and develop potential fuel cell applications at state facilities.


    Seems like this law should be put to use for state facilities related to transit.

  12. I’m noticing that electronic information signs are being installed at a number of bus stops along Rainier. I saw one at Andover and one near Dearborn. Also I saw a billboard that simply says take Route 7 downtown and had the SDOT logo on the bottom left of the sign.

    I’m a little conflicted as to how I feel about seeing these 2 items. Isn’t the #7 already one of KCMetro’s most productive routes? Does it need promoting? While transit information is generally very useful, the #7 is (at least during daylight) a very frequent route. Does it need an expensive electronic sign on it when there are so many other pressing things that the money could be spent on including RR-D?

  13. Would the information signs be helpful for dealing with bus bunching? If folks see that will be another bus along in a few minutes, they may opt to not board a crowded bus and wait for its follower.

    1. That depends on how much you trust the signs. If you do opt to let the crowded bus go by and the follower that the sign says is supposed to come in 2 minutes doesn’t actually show up for 30, you end up looking pretty foolish.

  14. Really nice bike lane design that would fit along a street with a lot of retail interface and driveway cuts:

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