54 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: ‘Electric’ Trains”

  1. From severed limbs, to 70 year olds being pushed into traffic, angry, violent cyclists are in the news. The studies show that road diets improve safety for cars, so why wouldn’t it improve safety for bicyclist? I think it’s time we start looking into measures that will help bicyclists to ride more safely, like putting bike paths on path diets, and introduce bike traffic calming measures, like putting bike path traffic circles and speed bumps and bulbs jutting out into the path every few hundred feet along the Burke Gilman and other bike trails.

    From Bellingham, Bicyclist allegedly shoves 70 year into street.


    From NYC, Cabbie says it was bicyclist’s fault a British tourist lost her leg.


    1. This cabbie is blaming someone else for his own reckless driving. He was making an aggressive move aimed at a guy on a bike, and, oops, missed and hit a pedestrian instead. How is he not responsible for the damage caused by a vehicle under his control? This idiot shouldn’t just have his cab license revoked, he should have his driver’s license revoked for life and serve jail time. It’s as if he got in a violent argument with someone on the street, shot a gun at him, missed and hit someone else, and then blamed the person he shot at. Maybe the other guy started the fight, but when you escalate it by trying to use your car as a weapon, then run up on the sidewalk, that’s your responsibility.

      If the story from Bellingham is true as reported, I hope the pusher is caught and punished seriously. That’s some fucked up shit.

    2. SeattleTransitBlog has recently joined the KAT Society. KAT was founded in response to the proliferation of TrollEmesis™ on the internet and is a fiesty group.

      The original suggestion was to name it the “F#@! All Trolls (FAT) Society”, but saner heads prevailed, with many wondering who would want to “do the deed”. And, some perspicacious member pointed out that the acronym better suits the target demographic than they? So instead “Kill All Trolls” was chosen as an alternative.

      Part of the KAT credo is to sacrifice one complacent, fat middle-aged white guy per week.

      You are our first honoree.

  2. In the comment section of July 1st, I presciently wrote this,”Ben, while Queen Anne may be very pro-transit, the neighborhood, especially the top and sides of the hill, are anti-growth. It seems to me that Interbay, like Bellevue’s future Spring District, has much more potential for growth in the decades ahead than Queen Anne.”

    From a KING5 story two days ago, NIMBY Queen Anne residents oppose development.


    1. Your prescience about the Queen Anne neighborhood being pro-transit is dubious. The QA Community Council has long been on record in support of breaking the speed limit on Nickerson, through the middle of the SPU campus, and against pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements. But maybe that just points out how normal sane people don’t go to neighborhood association meetings, and these associations really don’t represent the feelings in their neighborhood. If Peter Steinbrueck’s drubbing in the mayoral race doens’t make that point clear, I don’t know what does.

      But then, If MattTE and Bruce don’t show up to the meetings when development is being discussed, they have only themselves to blame when the QACC takes anti-development positions.

      1. Rich NIMBYs on Queen Anne are like rich NIMBYs in every neighborhood. They want their neighborhood to be a gated enclave that nobody else can visit, and every other neighborhood to part like the sea before their speeding cars.

        I don’t know a lot about the specific case here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a pretty lousy development. So many of them are, as much because of misguided regulations as anything. I’m not one of these “no regulations” people, but I think our regulations need to be overhauled so that “building to the code” results in things we actually like.

      2. If we allowed developers to build the sort of places people want to live in, they would build them, and that would make the no-growthers (sprawl advocates, really) very unhappy.

      3. The QA Community Council has long been on record in support of breaking the speed limit on Nickerson, through the middle of the SPU campus, and against pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements.

        Not to mention opposing the suicide prevention fence on Aurora.

        But maybe that just points out how normal sane people don’t go to neighborhood association meetings

        As a longtime member of the Belltown Community Council, I can say that’s a) true, and b) a damn shame. With all of our city council members elected at-large, Community Councils (and the shadowy city-sanctioned District Councils) are how the city remains responsive to the needs of individual neighborhoods. But in my experience the intelligent, reasonable people who could be effective leaders prefer to whine on Facebook instead, and council meetings are dominated by folks who are not normal, to put it mildly.

      4. Thanks for pointing this one out – I missed it. Earlier this year there was a movement to stop a retirement home with a new retail space and little parking. I couldn’t have asked for better development in that location, but the NIMBYs were in full force – probably led by a neighbor next door to the development, but he managed to keep his name off the campaign. I will say that for all of the complaining I do about the Seattle Process, it did not kill this project.

        I wrote a letter in support of that one, and if this project’s a good one (hard not to be in that location), I’ll write a letter for this too.

        One minor point: I don’t think the QACC has much pull with specific developments. But they probably will with big issues like zoning. I’ve been to a few meetings, and they always seemed to be run such that the board makes all the decisions and the audience (all six or so the times I went) have little say. This means to really affect the process you need to be elected to the board. I don’t have the free time for such a venture, and likely won’t for at least the next 18 years.

      5. Let’s see. Lowrise-1 zoning, reasonably walkable to QA Ave, on a bus line, and they’re replacing a lot with mostly parking and grass with townhomes. Sounds good to me. It’s no condo tower with retail at the street, but isn’t currently zoned for that use. Futere QA’s big complaint is loss of trees (on private property, and not considering the loss of trees involved in pushing development to the exurbs), and loss of parking (waah – you don’t own your street parking).

    2. Funny that the densest urban neighborhood in Washington opposes density.

      Maybe it is time to build MSR to Marysville, instead of cramming 6 million people into a shantyville of aodment leantos.

    3. I don’t think it’s far to say these Queen Anne residents oppose development, so much as they oppose BAD development. Have you looked at the site plan?

      1. Other than our bad land use codes dictating the painful parking-under-townhome design, it actually looks pretty good.

  3. In an old sci-fi novel called “Venus of the Half-Shell”, Phillip Jose Farmer postulated a planet whose in habitants were shaped like bicycle wheels, with brains, eyes and also turn-signals in the hub.

    Worst danger was falling over. Without limbs, they had no way of getting back up, or helping each other get up.

    Here on earth, few if any of us are born with either chain drives or transmissions- any more than lungs that either exclusively breathe air or cigarette smoke. Travel modes- like democratic government- are tools requiring training and practice.

    Also intelligence, alertness, manners, and common decency.

    Increased number of people over car-driving age who now ride bicycles for an ordinary work day’s travel has one depressing effect: an increasing number of bike riders who still keep all the bad driving and life habits they used to save for their cars.

    Now that we have bicylce-mounted police- very likely our most effective and best-physically-condition city police force- it might be a good idea to have this division also police bicyclist. With authority to confiscate a violator’s front wheel if warranted.

    Another historic note: it’s very likely that one of the major forces for converting linear hog-wallows and horse-latrines into paved streets and roads came from the bike lobby. In those days, there wasn’t any highway lobby yet,

    Mark Dublin

    1. In Kent I ride on the sidewalks and avoid cars.

      The bicycle is best in sparsity, not density.

      1. Pretty much every crash I’ve ever been in has been when riding on the sidewalk, which is why I haven’t done it in years unless the regional path is routed on it. “Sidewalk furniture” is not kind to someone first learning how to ride and some pedestrians love to pay no attention to their surroundings while wandering around aimlessly.

      2. In general, sidewalks have numerous hazards and obstructions that streets don’t have. For instance: tree roots, signposts, lightposts, bike racks, people walking, cars waiting to turn out of a driveway, parked cars and boats (see the link in my post above for an example), unramped curbs, overgrown bushes (especially the thorny blackberry kind), bus shelters, people waiting for the bus, the list goes on and on.

        Granted, if you ride 5 mph, most of these hazards are non-issues, but unless you’re climbing a very steep hill, no one wants to go that slow – if you do, you may as well just walk.

        I do occasionally ride on sidewalks for short distances to access a local business on a busy street, but I only use sidewalks as thru-routes in very special cases, like 148th Ave. in Bellevue, where the traffic is high and the sidewalk is relatively smooth and wide.

  4. I lost the bet on what happens if a sufficient monthly passholder gets caught not tapping on. (Though I get a sneaky feeling it has happened to me before, but the fare inspector just looked, saw my monthly pass, and let it go.)

    In fact, this time I double-tapped, so I am told, before I boarded. What’s funny (and perhaps a legal verbosity challenge for ST) is that I followed the directions of the warning signs, in that I tapped before I entered the fare-paid area.

    What’s even funnier is that the person right before me also got caught, said her husband had both tickets, and pointed several rows away, giving a vague description that could have applied to multiple gentlemen sitting there. Given that she was sitting alone, it looked painfully obvious she had been caught red-handed, er, empty-handed. But the inspector never made it far enough to corroborate or disprove her weak story, as he spent too much time taking my picture and warning me of the consequences of double-tapping again, (ya know, the fine, the being barred from the train after that, which came across as rather harsh to someone who has already pre-paid with a monthly pass) But, this comment/story is all about Me.

    So, I pointed out that I had a monthly pass on my ORCA, and he said the problem is I could tap on and tap off, and repeatedly get away with not paying. At this point, I stopped being irritated and started feeling sorry for this guy who clearly hadn’t been trained for all the very finite list of oddball payment situations he might encounter, of which coming across a monthly passholder who had double-tapped should have been high on the list. He then proceeded to advise me to be more careful about watching the screen every time I tap. Painful. The riders around me listening to the conversation looked astonished that ST was actually refusing to honor my monthly pass.

    Besides, does anyone actually read the message every time they tap their ORCA? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler? Even when I am making a point of reading the messages, mostly when I am gathering data, the message is often too fast, and at an odd angle, so I don’t catch it in the split second during which it shows.

    But training is not the root problem here, and this comment isn’t all about Me, much as I would like it to be.

    There is an ADA issue that comes to the fore here. Namely, due to the duplicate noise emitted when someone taps on or off, non-sighted passengers need assistance verifying whether the message is saying “tap on” or “tap off” if they lose count. There is no warning to non-sighted passengers if they double tap. But there could be, relatively easily. ST and Metro are already taking advantage of the readers’ capacity for a high pitch and a low pitch, as well as the capacity for a single tone and a double tone. Multiply the two capacity variations, and you get four distinct noises. Use them for tap on, tap off, passback, and cancel. Simple. Using ORCA, made easy.

    That still doesn’t get to the question about Me, and what happens when I accidentally forget to tap at all. ST will tell me that tapping is necessary in order to get an accurate count and their proper share in the revenue split. In other words, they are confusing precision with accuracy, and as a result, losing lots of fare revenue. Yes, they can get a precise count on the number of passengers who are being farechecked, and the number of sufficient monthly passholders (including those who failed to tap or over-tapped) among them. Using this data and their reasonably accurate overall passenger counts, they ought to be able to extrapolate the total number of monthly passholders riding per month, including the projected number that didn’t tap properly. They will get more fare revenue by using this projection. Indeed, under the stick approach to getting monthly passholders to tap properly, they may not be getting any fare revenue when a passholder fails to tap properly. In My case, I was not pulled off the train and told to tap so that ST could get credit for the ride.

    In short, the key to reducing double-tapping is to warn people as they do so. The key to getting more and proper revenue from the fare revenue split is to count and estimate.

    But more importanly, ST needs to remove the warning from My record. After all, this is all about Me, the customer. I did nothing wrong. I pre-paid with a monthly pass. I tapped before boarding. I shouldn’t be threatened with a fine that goes on my criminal record as “theft of services” and could bar me from some apartments, or more scarily, from boarding ST vehicles.

    1. The buses don’t allow you to tap the same Orca twice in a raw a few seconds apart. If you try to do it, they give a “pass back” error. I’m surprised the Link Orca readers don’t work the same way.

      1. The buses don’t allow for cancelling a ride (which works against ST in the fare revenue split). Train riders don’t want to have to stand and wait several seconds to cancel. But I suppose the question arises, do that many people decide to cancel train rides? Is it just a joint-use issue that will go away when the DSTT becomes train-only?

      2. Why would you want to cancel a ride? Are you thinking of a trip within the tunnel where a bus happens to come first? If so, the solution is simple – wait until the train approaches before you tap.

      3. Would the cancel on Link just be a side-effect of the tap-on, tap-off used for distance-based fares? The software should probably just require a modest delay between the tap-on and the tap-off.

        Of course it’s probably not worth it to fix it because change requests for the ORCA software just eat up dollars the agencies could be using for actual transit service.

      4. aw is right that the cancel option is a necessary side effect of the distance-based fare system. Without the cancel option, someone could tap on at Westlake, catch a car ride to the airport, tap on later at the airport, and be charged for a ride from Westlake to Airport Station, as well as get farechecked and issued a fine for fare evasion. I’m sure there are more plausible examples, but I’m ready to call it a night.

        As for the cost of changing the sounds, I don’t think new features would need to be developed. I bet it is as simple as changing a setting in a central computer program. In particular I bet the high single tone (which would be the ideal for tap off) and the low double tone (which cancel ought to be) are already available, but not being used. If they aren’t available, then it should still be a simple matter to change tap off and cancel to the high double tone.

      5. You might want to cancel your Link trip because you don’t hear the announcement about delays or a service interruption until after you’ve tapped and get to the platform. I know in the evenings if there are service delays and I can see on OBA that a 7x is coming soon I will often head to the surface to catch it rather than wait for a train that may or may not come and likely be packed when it gets there. I have been burned too many times by ST’s bad rider information to trust it.

    1. There are a few glimmers of truth in the article. To quote:

      Low housing inventory, a growing population of young tech-company workers and changing attitudes about when to buy a home are all contributing to rent increases throughout the Seattle metro area.

      In other words, they admit that low supply and high demand increases prices.

      Recent University of Washington grad Ornella Bardinelli is paying more than half her income to stay in a Fremont apartment. She said she’s researched apartments in communities immediately outside the city, but finds those units are barely more affordable once she adds in the cost of commuting to work in Seattle.

      It turns out that living in the city saves you a lot of money on transportation.

      Smaller, more expensive units have become commonplace in the densest neighborhoods. The average monthly rent for all unit types on Capitol Hill — $1,395, according to an industry-analysis firm, Apartment Insights — buys about 500 square feet in some buildings.

      Since last summer, Zillow reports that rents have climbed 7.5 percent in Kirkland to a median of $1,958 per month, 5.8 percent in Lynnwood to a median of $1,607, and 4.7 percent in Everett to a median of $1,431.

      So high rents are forcing people out of the city… and yet the average rent in the suburbs is significantly higher, even before taking commuting cost into account. Interesting.

      1. The very few set of apartments within walking distance of Microsoft have very high rents since Microsoft employees are essentially bidding each other up for the right to live there. They are also competing with Microsoft itself when it reserves apartment space for corporate housing for interns.

      2. Kirkland has been super-expensive for as long as I can remember. I’m curious how the average square footages compare between Cap Hill & Lynnwood/Everett.

      3. I was going to comment along William’s lines — Lynnwood and Everett units are surely larger at every price point and and are nearly certain to include parking for at least one car, if not two.

        As for Kirkland, not all parts of Kirkland are the same. I’d guess almost everywhere in Kirkland you get at least one parking space with your rent, but in the super expensive area near downtown (where every new building is fiercely opposed due to traffic impacts) you pay a lot for a little space in a desirable location, as you do on the hill. The outskirts of town look a lot more like the rest of the suburbia of this region.

  5. I know it’s a beautiful day outside and we’ve all got lots to do before the Sounders game tonight, but here’s some interesting reading about a transit system restructure in Tallahassee that hasn’t gone as well as hoped. Prior to the restructuring, Tallahassee’s bus system was a classic radial model based on a downtown transit center where all routes converged in timed banks and riders could transfer to another bus that would take them to their destination. Most of the routes had been unchanged for 30+ years and over that time, several malls and business parks had opened out in the suburbs and downtown Tallahassee had lost much of its retail business to the big boxes in the suburbs. On July 11, 2011, StarMetro (the Tallahassee transit operator) restructured its system of 26 radial, coverage style routes into 12 grid based routes that largely avoided the downtown transit center and focused on providing more direct service to the newer commercial and residential developments that were located outside of the downtown core.

    From the report’s Executive Summary:
    StarMetro officials hoped to improve transit agency performance through the restructuring, to maintain ridership levels or minimize ridership losses during the transitional period immediately following the change, to improve operations, and to provide a framework for future service improvement and expansion. At a system level, the service restructuring in Tallahassee did not generate the higher ridership numbers or increased service productivity that its proponents sought. the number of unlinked passenger trips for particular calendar months dropped by between 4 percent and 19 percent, with the decline generally decreasing as time passed. Ridership at many suburban stops has increased, which suggests that many riders are availing themselves of the new destination opportunities that restructuring has provided, but many of the new decentralized routes have among the lowest performance in the system.

    The ridership statistics look even worse when compared to the increase in revenue hours offered after the restructure. The new plan increased the revenue hours by between 35 and 40 percent which resulted in ridership losses of 4-19%. In surveys conducted before and after the restructuring, it’s pretty clear where some of the ridership losses came from. Prior to the restructuring, 27% of riders had access to a car; after the restructuring, 14% of riders had access to a car. People opted to put their keys in their ignitions rather than their quarters in the farebox.

    StarMetro’s route map has been revised 2 times since July 11, 2011. The revisions moved several routes back to the downtown transit center and added other route deviations to add ridership, but at the cost of frequency.I know it’s a beautiful day outside and we’ve all got lots to do before the Sounders game tonight, but here’s some interesting reading about a transit system restructure in Tallahassee that hasn’t gone as well as hoped. Prior to the restructuring, Tallahassee’s bus system was a classic radial model based on a downtown transit center where all routes converged in timed banks and riders could transfer to another bus that would take them to their destination. Most of the routes had been unchanged for 30+ years and over that time, several malls and business parks had opened out in the suburbs and downtown Tallahassee had lost much of its retail business to the big boxes in the suburbs. On July 11, 2011, StarMetro (the Tallahassee transit operator) restructured its system of 26 radial, coverage style routes into 12 grid based routes that largely avoided the downtown transit center and focused on providing more direct service to the newer commercial and residential developments that were located outside of the downtown core.

    How relevant is the StarMetro experience to our local situation? Not very. Tallahassee is quite different from Seattle in population, demographics and geography. The apparent failure of StarMetro’s plan is more about lack of frequency and poor communications (read the report for details). Seattle has also done a better job of maintaining downtown vitality and adapting its transit system to changing land use patterns. The report also briefly compares Tallahassee’s restructuring to similar projects in Spokane, Fresno, Ithaca, Tucson and Madison. The systems in Ithaca and Madison have shown large increases in ridership since 2000, Spokane and Tucson have slight increases, Fresno is a disaster. Maybe there is something to learn by studying what Ithaca and Madison have accomplished. Madison, like Seattle, has a very challenging geographic layout for transit planners.

    1. Thanks for reminding me of reasons why I loathe long pdf files (having to reboot my machine for example).

      But if I read your summary, offering more inter exurban trips versus hub and spoke, at the cost of spreading bus stops thus requiring longer walks, made people use their cars more (when studied one year after implementation).

      Gee…there is so much going on there, I doubt any conclusion could be made…

      1. Really, Tallahassee’s failures simply reinforce the obvious point that everywhere-to-everywhere networks based upon connections only work if connection time is short. Short connection times can only be achieved either through (a) timed connections/pulses, or (b) frequent service (<= 15 min) on all lines. Tallahassee's restructures did neither, as connections were completely random (there was apparently no attempt to time them?) and because every line ran at infrequent and inconsistent (every 35 minutes? Really?) headways. Frankly, I'm not surprised that Tallahassee's attempts to move to a decentralized system didn't work out, as forcing people to connect from a 40-minute headway bus to a 35-minute headway bus at random is unacceptable.

        How does this apply to Seattle? If transit is to function as a network (which it isn't in Tallahassee due to long headways and non-timed connections), connection times need to be short. This means that
        -in the high-density core of the city, routes should be operated similarly to a grid, with frequent headways on every line, so that connections are short. David's proposal for the Frequent Network Plan is a great start.
        -in suburban areas, timed connections should be operated whenever possible. Of course it will be impossible to provide timed connections for every trips, but there should at least be an attempt for the busiest trips.

        (Yes, these points will be obvious to anyone who has read Jarrett Walker's Human Transit or Paul Mees' Transport for Suburbia, but I think that they're worth emphasizing because so far King County Metro has (for the most part) not implemented either timed connections or a frequent grid, resulting in long connection times and a failure to function as a multidestinational network.)

      2. For a long time when I worked in Kent, a mere 6 miles away, I used to take the bus, due to not having a car. I would get the 169 and then transfer to the 150. Then I would walk the 0.6 miles to my destination. Occasionally I would also take either of the stops before or after the closest to my workplace to get a latte or some breakfast, making the walk about a mile or more. (I didn’t have a bike at the time and when I got one, I would ride occasionally but not always because one, they did not have a shower and two, I was working crazy hours and just did not want to deal with biking when I would work from 9 am to 11 pm and then have to come back at 4 am to do other things…etc etc).

        The biggest inconvenience of it all was the long wait times at old Kent Transit center (before they built Kent station). I found it ridiculous that I would take a five minute bus ride to Kent, and then a second 5 minute bus ride to the Kent Space Center East area but I could be waiting up to 30 minutes for the interconnection between the two! (This was before the new 150 schedule with 15 minute headways during peak.)

        6 miles. Should be simple. And today, it probably is. But if you account for flexible schedules, late night hours, long walks, having to use a car for lunch, suddenly it’s not that simple.

        And by the way. I used to like that commute as crazy as it was…

    2. Spokane’s improvements have been more than slight. In spite of a recession-induced reduction in the number of service hours delivered, ridership has improved, thanks to a restructure that stressed comprehensible service layouts and improved frequency. Subsequently, the agency has executed multiple waves of large-scale stop consolidation and a “high-performance transit” study that will likely end in the agency to putting a package of improvements, including a brand-new high-frequency city center trolleybus service, to city voters.

    1. It ultimately comes down to what the primary purpose of the system is.

      If the goal is increase the number of car-owners using the bus to commute downtown to save money on parking, the radial network wins. If the goal is to produce a functional network for someone who can’t afford a car to get around the city, the gridded network wins.

      In a city where nearly everyone who is not dirt poor owns a car, it is not all surprising that the radial network would get more riders. But, if the goal is actual mobility, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better, as none of the people that switched from bus to cars when the network switched from radial to gridded, actually lost mobility. By contrast, people who do ride the new cross-town routes and can’t drive probably gained a lot of mobility.

      1. Another interesting tidbit from the report is that boardings at the downtown TC have dropped by 80% since the restructuring which means that downtown just isn’t a destination anymore. But the lines in the suburbs that have shown some increased ridership are focused on delivering riders to WalMarts.

      2. The problem is that frequencies on the cross-town routes in Tallahassee are so poor that they are almost useless if you’re making a connection to it (which is likely given that you’re unlikely to have a one-seat-ride to your final destination). Because the previous radial system involved timed-transfers, the time you save by not going into downtown is canceled out by the time you spend waiting for your connection–which could be up to 40 minutes since connections aren’t timed. So I’m not sure that mobility for crosstown trips has even improved.

      3. Depends on the trip. If you can make the trip on one bus that wasn’t there before, or only ran during rush hour before, that trip has gotten much easier. Even gridded trips that superficially seem to require a transfer, it is often possible force a one-seat ride by walking the shorter section and riding the bus for the longer section. Even with a walk as much as a mile, you still beat an untimed connection or a long backtrack downtown, even with a timed connection.

        It should also be noted that a connection which is timed on paper, but involves buses weaving through unpredictable traffic, isn’t worth much in practice. Even if the schedule says you have a 5-minute wait between two hourly buses, you still have to budget the time in your schedule for a 59-minute wait after the first bus arrives 6 minutes late.

    1. Nonetheless, hydrogen filled airships had a terrible record for safety, both structurally prior to WWI, and pyrotechnically in the 1920s and 1930s. Thanks to FDR, the US would not allow the export of helium.

      1. No, John,

        “Mainly because” they were too big and unstable in bad weather. And of course, the non-US ones were filled with hydrogen which simply compounded the vulnerability when lightning was involved.

  6. Today I found out that with the big Madison/Union/12th building going up, Metro has moved the nearby 12 stop to the east side of 12th, in the process creating what I’ve long hoped for, a stop where you can take whatever downtown-bound bus comes first between the 2 and 12. Of course, OBA claims this puts two 2 stops right next to each other, and today a 2 and 12 came in quick succession, but still.

  7. So, since it’s an open thread thought I’d point out the new season of The Great Food Truck Race is underway. Last week they were in Portland. Sort of interesting how the different street traffic congregated around bars, truck pods, Portland State U. and the Portland Convention Center, And then there’s Geoducks ;-)

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