Sound Transit

This is an open thread.

49 Replies to “News Roundup: From a Landfill”

  1. I don’t suppose Mr. McCollum could get a job as an actual transit driver? That just might help with his obsession… but unfortunately, he’s probably unqualified.

    1. And I would much rather have CO2 going into the atmosphere than the methane leaking from the landfill. Hoping someday we will have neither but it is way better to convert that methane if it is around.

    2. It seems to me a near-perfect situation for that guy would be a position with a tourist railroad. He wants to operate trains, interact with customers and perform maintenance work? From my experiences with a local organization, that’s exactly the kind of person tourist railroads would love to have on board.

  2. Kudos to Pierce Transit for being courageous enough to innovate and move their fleet to renewables. This also helps our economy because the fuel they are purchasing is sourced locally from a local company(PSE). The money stays (more or less) in our local economy.

    1. Sorry to say – PSE is now owned the Macquarie Group, the largest Australian investment bank.

    2. It’s fantastic. They are in a position where they can move to fuel cell electrics running on natural gas or hydrogen or both. Either of these would move them towards a completely pollution free transit system!

      1. Dynamometer test results for Pierce
        Transit’s CNG buses show that particulate
        matter was below detectable limits
        of the instrumentation, which indicates
        a significant advantage for CNG. Average
        emissions of nitrogen oxides from
        the CNG buses with Cummins L10-260G
        engines were 54% lower than those
        from comparable diesel buses with L10
        engines. Average carbon monoxide
        emissions were 94% lower. Hydrocarbon
        (HC) levels from the CNG buses were
        significantly higher than those for diesel.
        However, 90% to 95% of the total HC
        count may be attributable to methane,
        which is considered nonreactive in the
        formation of atmospheric ozone and,
        therefore, is not used by the EPA as a
        basis for emissions regulations.

      2. John, that publication was from 1998, before Tier 2. Allowable HC and NOx emissions are far lower today than they were when that publication was published. And saying “HC doesn’t count because it’s methane” is ridiculous; methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 (although it breaks down faster). Today, current diesels and CNG are a wash in terms of emissions. And diesels perform far better in the truck and transit bus applications. That is why we haven’t seen any agencies convert to CNG in about a decade, and why the only CNG bus sales have been to agencies that already had expensive CNG infrastructure in place.

    1. Unfortunately, both of those articles emphasize gondolas as recreation, not transportation. The really sad part is that they can be both. The ferry system is expensive and slow, but fun as anything. Folks used to take it back and forth (before they forced you to get off the boat). Lots of people live in isolated places like Bainbridge Island because the commute is so nice. I know a guy who moved there and he mentioned this little tidbit about his commute “I was riding in today, and noticed it was crowded. Wow, I have to sit next to someone. I laughed at myself, remember what it was like to ride a bus when it is crowded (standing the entire time or worse yet, having to take the next bus).”

      Meanwhile, the federal government is willing to pay for things like streetcars, which are almost entirely based on the “transportation as entertainment” concept. They have other advantages, but the most common argument for them is that they are popular because they are fun (and will thus improve the neighborhood). Fair enough. Let’s also not forget that the fifty year old monorail is still making money. Meanwhile, people spend oodles of money to improve their ride and complain bitterly if it is unpleasant because the city doesn’t do enough about things like potholes.

      When you consider cost, gondolas are simply the appropriate public transportation for certain areas. The fact that they are actually fun to ride is a bonus. It may turn out to be a huge bonus. It is quite possible that we are entering an age where the entertainment aspect of transportation becomes more important. Businesses may do more work over the internet, enabling people to work from home way more often. Smarter robots may replace a lot of manual labor. But people will still want to get from one part of town to the other. Having a fun way to do it will simply add value to an otherwise essential service.

      1. Yesterday I made it home from work a bit early, so I walked the kids down to the Monorail, then rode the streetcar to Veggie Grill for dinner. We absolutely could have just walked to the #8 and saved time and money (I have a work-funded ORCA card) – but we probably wouldn’t have made the trip in the first place. It was completely about the trip, not the destination.

        Then again, for most trips this isn’t the case. So if we build something like a gondola system it should be useful first, entertaining second. But no matter how we build it, it will be entertaining and it will build its own ridership based on this.

  3. Road diet for NE 75th: not really a “diet” for most of the day, but an expansion. It will expand 2 lanes + parking to 3 lanes + bike lanes with no parking. And it’s long overdue, and will be a huge improvement. It would also speed up route 78.

    Transit agencies as nonprofits: please no. For reasons related to how the federal tax law defines charity, that would just make them even more likely to prioritize shortsighted notions of “social justice” over actual working transit (that promotes actual social justice). One of these days we just need to accept that transit is a piece of public infrastructure in any large city that is not supposed to directly generate money and that needs to be publicly funded and operated, just like the water and sewer systems, the road network, or the fire department.

    1. Last I checked we all pay for the water and sewer we use. I shudder to think of a transit system in a large city that was wholly reliant on taxpayer funding.

      What we should do is stop subsidizing large employers on the backs of those who pay per-ride, and make Boeing pay full price for the 952.

      1. Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that there be no user fees or that general tax funding provide the entire budget. I’m suggesting that we stop pretending that transit should be entirely self-sustaining. It shouldn’t, because there are society-wide benefits to subsidizing it (and subsidizing transportation generally).

      2. Well I certainly don’t think there’s any reasonable way a transit system could adequately serve a city without subsidy.

        But I do think Kevin Desmond sells us short when he suggests at a Council meeting that we should be happy with our fare recovery ratio of ~27% because it’s similar to other West Coast cities.

        I need to write up a review of Driving Excellence by Mark Aesch, but I think he’s absolutely right that you should strive to provide a service worth paying the fare for, and rely on the subsidy to close the gap between that revenue and the cost of providing service. Instead we have a mindset of raising fares to meet a fare recovery target on a system designed by politicians.

    2. Good point about NE 75th. This is a welcome change. Basically, streets with an odd number of lanes are much better than those with even numbers. Most of the time, we go from 4 to 3. People complain, and think that traffic won’t move as quickly. They ignore the fact that studies show that unless there are very few side streets, three lanes move as quickly as four. If you have driven a lot, you know why. Eventually, someone takes a left turn, and stops traffic. Those in the left lane (which is often the fast lane) have to move quickly into the right lane, or traffic backs up. Often the traffic is a mess, as folks barely miss causing an accident (people in the right lane are forced to stop). Worse yet, there is an accident, and the whole thing comes to a halt.

      The same sort of thing can happen with two lanes. Someone takes a left and people behind are either forced to wait, or swerve into the parking lane (or bike lane, or intersection). This is a dangerous maneuver, as some folks don’t like to do this (or decide they want to do this after losing their patience).

      Of course, all of this is terrible for pedestrians. Crossing four lanes without a light can be suicidal. Often someone in the inner lane will stop, but the person in the outer lane has no idea why. So, the car behind that guys swerves around and slams into the pedestrian. That is why the city won’t add crosswalks to four lane roads unless there is a traffic light.

      Adding a turn lane is a great idea; whether it is for a “road diet” or this type of change (a “road bulking up”?).

  4. I’ll bet that if Governor Inslee were to speak to the legislature about the Chatman/Noland study vis-a-vis the positive financial effects of public transportation, it would be a game changer in hammering out a transit package that staves off draconian cuts to Metro Service:).

    1. He moved in well after the layover zone was established and in active use. It’s been an all-day layover for almost 30 years.

      I can see cause for complaint if Metro established a layover zone after you moved in, but if the layover zone is there when you move in, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

      Part of the reason Blue Ridge residents no longer have all-day bus service is a similar guy who lives across from what was the 15 terminal, and is now just a stop on the peak-only 15 Express.

    2. The story made it sound like the buses idle there all day, when they actually just park there (with their engines off). Also, the layover is across the street from the house, not directly in front. It’s just another King 5 “journalism” piece.

      1. It is odd that they chose to do this story. There might be a story if the buses were blocking a million dollar view, or the layover was in the middle of some idyllic residential neighborhood, but he doesn’t have a view, and he lives across the street from the BNSF tracks, and just down the street from giant petroleum storage tanks and a sewage treatment plant. That said, I do believe, whenever possible, layover areas should not be in in front of, or across the street from people’s homes.

      2. You’d be surprised. Trolleys that are parked but turned on make various noises, including power steering noise; climate control blower noise; sometimes hum from the propulsion system; and intermittent air compressor noise. Metro has gotten complaints about idling trolley noise at several terminals in residential areas; the one I was particularly warned about as a driver was the route 3 Madrona terminal.

      3. They aren’t supposed to be left on while parked.

        Drivers who break that rule usually do it so they can have heating or air conditioning. (I plead guilty on one occasion when it was 95 degrees out and I had a half-hour layover with an A/C coach — but I was laying over next to the tracks downtown, so there weren’t neighbors to be bothered.)

        Despite the occasional complaint, many drivers will tell you that being able to leave trolleys on is a good reason to pick them in the winter.

        It can also happen for other random reasons; for example, a coach that receives a jump start will often need to be left running at its first one or two layovers of the day, or a coach with an air leak may need to start a couple minutes early to ensure the air is at full pressure by departure.

      4. I had to find the layover article because I half-heard Dori Monson on KIRO Radio today ranting about this guy’s predicament. At the time, I was trying to figure out what neighborhood he was talking about. But from the sound of his tirade, the buses were in the resident’s yard and Metro mechanics were regularly doing vehicle maintenance on the street. The picture he painted was of transit operators acting less-than-professional in how they acted during their breaks. And he said that the buses were never, ever turned off when they were there.

        My irritation was more with these “news” outlets “reporting” stories with only one, unchecked side to the story. I guess it just stands out more when it is a subject that you more fully understand.

        There was no comment from Metro in the radio story. There was no discussion of what other options were available to avoid parking across the street from someone’s home. And the host was someone who spends most of his time complaining about the money government spends, while then occasionally complaining that Metro doesn’t spend more money to alter the routing to avoid this resident’s house.

        And we wonder why the public is so uninformed on transit issues……

    3. How about all the layovers in Seattle just outside apartments buildings? Can we expect King5 to do a follow up on those folks and see how they feel about it?

    4. People have been complaining about the terminal next to Fred Meyer in Lake City, too. I’ve noticed new-ish signs saying that “Metro has received comments from neighbors” and telling bus drivers to “turn off the coach immediately upon arrival” to “be good neighbors.”

      Apparently people can gripe about buses and “force” Metro to do something, but the auto repair shop that moved in down the street from me can make air-driven impact wrench and 5,000 RPM “performance rev-up” noises from dawn until after dark with impunity. I’d much rather have the bus, thanks.

      1. Again I ask: is it too much to turn buses off when not in use? Why is this a problem?

      2. @Matt:

        According to posters upthread, and also my own observations, buses are usually turned off when parked for meaningful amounts of time. Even the original rant seems to suggest that the real issue is that someone has the temerity to park on his piece of road.

  5. There’s something very fishy about the Metro bus camera story. What are the odds that both bus cameras weren’t working? In another Publicola story regarding Metro bus camera fiasco, they said, “We have a call out to Apollo Video Technology, the Bothell company that provides Metro’s cameras; their website promises “industry-leading quality, proven reliability” and “long-lasting performance.”

  6. Time to get all of my [ot] questions out of my system. Thanks to everyone who replies. :D

    Another random question: Why are some Metro buses green and others blue?

    Also: Are all of the single-segment Metro-operated Sound Transit buses the walk-up-stairs-to-board type, like used on the 542? (I don’t know what they’re officially called; they are shorter buses that don’t have an “accordion” in the middle but still have a back door.)

    1. Metro’s current livery has always had three separate base colors: teal, a deep purply blue, and forest green. In most cases 1/3 of each fleet of buses is painted each color. Personally, I like the variety, although I like the blue and green much better than the teal.

      The buses you’re talking about are 40-foot buses. All but one of the 40-foot ST buses that Metro operates are high-floor. (The one is an experimental New Flyer hybrid purchased in 2003 for evaluation. ST kept that one but didn’t buy more, and Metro operates it because it’s mechanically similar to Metro’s large 60′ hybrid fleet.) ST has a fleet of low-floor 40-footers operated by Pierce Transit, but the newest batch of high-floor buses are actually newer (2008). I don’t know why ST continued to buy high-floor buses at such a late date, but its bus fleet planning has always been a bit of a mess due to the need to fit somewhat gracefully into three different agencies’ fleets.

      1. Are the new high floors the MCIs? If thats the case, isn’t that sort of a special situation? They’re not really a city bus.

        Also woe be the passengers that have to wait for a wheelchair load and unload on those.

      2. No, the MCIs are only operated by PT. The buses I’m referring to are the last batch of Gillig Phantoms, which were also the last Phantoms Gillig ever built.

      3. Wasn’t the reason why ST chose the high-floors because you had more seating than the low floor? I seem to recall reading that here on one of the comment threads.

  7. Economic Value of Transit…my comment on article:

    Any type of fast transportation system will produce “agglomeration”. A network of highways linking business parks, malls and entertainment complexes in the suburbs for example. Or medium speed rail linking towns across a state.

    The difference is simply one of scale. You can cram a lot of people together and put them on a 35 mph light rail system. Or let them spread out into single family homes and use cars at 65 mph. Or they can live in a web of small towns linked together by 125 mph medium speed rail (MSR).

    My preference is for spreading out with MSR which is the perfect marriage of agglomeration and a pleasant lifestyle!

    1. The problem is that freeways don’t scale. Two lane highways and freeways of three (or so) consistent lanes do a very good job at moving people and goods. But once the system gets large, it bogs down. You can see this in L. A., which has built an enormous set of freeways, linking together a very large, sprawling city. When the city wasn’t so big, the freeways did a great job. But now the city is getting diminishing returns from its freeways.

      New York City is a bigger city, and a big contrast. It is simply easier to get from one person to the other in New York, than it is in L. A., despite the fact that there hasn’t been a huge investment in Subways over the years. They have basically been using the same system they have used for the last 100 years. Part of the reason New York functions better is because rail systems work better in densely populated areas. Cars can only move so many people — eventually you are better off with rail. But the other reason (that is often ignored) is that so many people travel by foot and by elevator. The mark of a good transportation system is not how far it can move goods and services, but how many people can interact with it. I can drive through Moses Lake very quickly. But in Manhattan I can interact with 20,000 people in a lot less time. I take an elevator down, walk a few blocks, then take an elevator up. If my walk involved a detour to Central Park than it sounds really pleasant to me.

      The other difference, or course, is that cities produce a lot less of the global warming gases. They are, generally speaking, better for the environment. There are numerous ways we can improve the situation for folks like you, John, who prefer a suburban lifestyle. But we can also encourage folks who would prefer an urban (or at least more urban) lifestyle to get a chance to enjoy it. Doing so will be better for everyone. After all, the nice suburban lawn doesn’t look so nice if you can’t water it.

      1. The problem is the downtown “city” itself. If traffic were evenly dispersed over a mesh network, with multiple points, rather than all trying to cram down the same pathways to one central location.

        I mean I think I’m making the same agglomeration argument as the author who says that transit allows us to move more people to more locations within a city. Fine, I say. Stretch the city out, and suddenly you can do the same thing at a larger scale with express buses and cars. Stretch it out further and you can do the same thing with MSR.

      2. Manhattan is a mesh network for the people who live in it. People walk on gridded sidewalks and ride gridded buses and subways and (occasionally) drive cars on gridded streets. The only people who have to “cram down the same pathways to one central location” are suburbanites who work downtown, and that’s their problem.

      3. The 2012-13 INRIX Traffic Scorecard Annual Report ranks Austin as one of Top 10 Worst Cities for Traffic in America, based on an examination of 2012 driving.

        The Scorecard ranked Austin the fourth worst traffic city, with motorists wasting 38 hours each year in traffic — the equivalent of a week of vacation.

        Los Angeles came in first, with 59 hours wasted in traffic; Honolulu is second (50 hours wasted); and San Francisco came in third (49 hours wasted).

        Rounding out the Top 10 Worst Cities for Traffic are: New York (50 hours wasted); Bridgeport, Conn. (39 hours wasted); San Jose, Ca. (31 hours wasted); Seattle, Wash. (35 hours wasted); Washington, D.C. (41 hours wasted); and Boston, Mass. (31 hours wasted in traffic).

      4. So what is the problem here? Is it the city’s responsibility to provide enough lanes and parking spaces to eliminate congestion, thus requiring a doubling of road lanes and a large increase under-$1 in parking spaces? Or is it a tragedy of the commons, the inevitable result of a “free” limited resource like roads? Or is the city’s main responsibility to provide transit that bypasses congestion, and those who insist on driving anyway are on their own?

  8. @Mike Orr

    Subways (and buses) which follow a fixed linear route, are not gridded.

    Only cars, and taxis, which can vary their routes in two dimensions, are gridded.

    suburbanites who work downtown, and that’s their problem

    Agree, which is why NYC has been shedding jobs to New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut for decades.

    1. I wonder why NYC is still the largest city in the country then. Or why the reverse commute is so small it barely registers. Or why Wall Street has not left New York yet. Or why all that post-9/11 new housing in lower Manhattan is filling up.

Comments are closed.