This is an open thread.

57 Replies to “News Roundup: Hopeless”

  1. Regarding the Westwood Village hub – my wife will no longer make bus transfers there, and she won’t ride the C at all if she can avoid it.

    This is a woman who lived in the CD for the better part of a decade, and has no problem waiting for a bus at 3rd & Pine. She’s feeling intimidated.

    King County Sheriffs Department does a piss-poor job of keeping the peace on the bus system. A Metro driver is being assaulted every 48 hours, and in all the recent high-profile crimes aboard Metro (muggings on the C, driver shot in the chest downtown because she asked someone to pay their fare), the Sheriffs department has been nowhere to be found. SPD (a troubled agency themselves) has been having to respond across jurisdictional boundaries to fill in for the MIA Sheriffs on buses.

    1. Please explain why your wife feels intimidated at the Westwood Village hub for those of us who aren’t familiar with that area and what’s going on there. I often hear about crimes happening at 3rd and Pine bus stops, but rarely, if ever, hear about crimes at Westwood Village.

      About KC Sheriffs and KC Metro Sheriffs who are assigned to work directly for Metro. I’ve long argued they need to ride buses undercover regularly and more often. But they explain that it’s more efficient for them to ride around in their cars; that they can respond to incidents more quickly than if their officers are on a bus. That may be technically true, but now the word is out. The bad guys know there are no undercovers riding Metro buses. This policy proves a point of mine. That which is most efficient isn’t necessarily the most effective.

      1. I don’t remember reading any prior posts of yours talking about undercover police officers on Metro buses. But if what you’re saying is true — that there aren’t any undercover cops on buses, and that the cops prefer to shadow buses from their cars instead — then I think you’re absolutely right.

        Of course, I think your final statement is a red herring. :P

      2. Hey, I can out-troll Sam.

        So, if ATU thinks only operators are qualified to hold a hand-held ORCA reader for purposes of taking fares, why do they not protest when non-operators get ORCA reader devices put in their hands to patrol the RapidRide lines? Why aren’t fare enforcement officers qualified to be ORCA boarding assistants? And isn’t that more efficient that having non-operators standing around wielding clipboards to keep the peace? The hand-held ORCA readers look scarier.

      3. To address the Westwood issue more directly: Have you noticed the increase in permanently-stationed panhandlers at Westwood? Are they really drugger lookouts who moved out of downtown after finding new higher-productivity turf, or are they plain-clothed cops?

      4. Um, excuse me Brent, but T-word is very offensive to my people. We prefer the name Comment Section Blowhard-Americans. Please stop cyber-bullying me.

      5. Part of the problem with the area is it’s split into several secluded stops streetside – Rapidride / 21 over by the park at one end of the block, all the rest way down the street by the Rite Aid. Most of the pedestrian traffic is not on the sidewalk, but on the (excellent) Longfellow Creek trail that bisects the mall. So it’s not like when you’re in a crowd of people in front of StabDonalds, and at least have safety in numbers. It’s just you and one other guy standing in a shelter against the blank back wall of the Rite Aid, with zero pedestrian traffic. Then the other guy starts rambling, and you realize he’s armed and is in the middle of a multi-day bath-salts and lean bender.

        My wife also complains about sexual propositioning, but I’m bear-like and have never had that issue.

        I know Seattle Parks Department has been having trouble with safety issues in the back trails of that park (dog attacks, muggings, illegal dumping, illegal camping, drug use) since long before the Rapidride stop opened, but Parks hasn’t been concerned enough about it to send in ranger patrols (much to the chagrin of dog-walking neighbors).

    2. I’m not saying they never do it. KC Metro Sheriffs do ride undercover on Metro buses, but it’s a fractional part of their repertoire. It’s very rare. They are on the record as saying they don’t like allocating police manpower that way for the reason I stated. Personally, I don’t believe their efficiency excuse. It probably has more to do with riding in police cars is more comfortable and safe for them.

      1. Why undercover? I would think high visibility would be more preventive in this type of situation.

  2. I have a quibble with your comment on tunnel boring. Yes tunneling is inherently risky, but some tunneling is inherently more risky than other. I think it’s perfectly safe to say I told you so about the risks of boring through fill soil. The soil was always my concern, not the boring its self.

    1. Not that I don’t agree with your statement that this is a particularly risky tunnel, but according to the soil samples, the boring machine is supposed to be operating below the fill layer, in the original pre-regrade glacial till. There shouldn’t be anything unexpected or man-made in its way, unless it was put into a deep narrow hole by hand in the 1850’s.

      So when they say the obstruction might be something as strong as steel, it makes me wonder WTF is going on. That would have to be one huge boulder!

      1. “something s strong as steel?”

        Gee, like say, maybe TMA-2? Or, I guess technically speaking it would need to be TMA-3, but in any case, I wouldn’t let the sun hit it…..

      2. I didn’t know that thanks… although clearly those samples were either incorrect or missed something.

      3. Yeah, the samples were primarily taken from the streets, block by block. Mid-block, where this obstruction is, there’s no information.

    2. Actually, right now they are not boring in fill. Supposedly (if you believe the graphic in the Seattle Times) they are boring in native soil, although there is still fill above where they are working. And of course there could always be a metal piling or something that was inserted into the native soils for some unknown reason…..

      The leading theory right now is that the problem is a large boulder that is spinning in soft soils in front of the cutter face. The TBM can only break up such boulders if they are locked in place.

      Of course there are other scenarios, but nobody will really know until they get more data.

    3. The real risk is in local perceptions. If SR 99 tunneling turns into an expensive, well-publicized disaster, some portion of voters will be less inclined to support any type of tunneling, including ST3 light rail tunneling.

      1. Well, there are other problems too. It could postpone the closing of the viaduct, which would postpone the waterfront renovation, and put the viaduct at greater risk of an earthquake catastrophe as it continues to deteriorate. It would also mean that whatever traffic bottlenecks are being caused by construction would continue longer (after the state mitigation money has run out).

      2. Which is hopefully mitigated by the differences in tunneling. Bertha: Largest diameter boring machine in the world in very challenging soils vs. Link tunneling projects which are smaller bores, with well managed risk (Dropping First Hill station), and, so far at least, have had a pretty good track record. Metro’s DSTT, while different tunneling technology, was another relative success.

        Lets also not forget that mistakes made on 99 will be lessons learned for the area’s tunneling contractors who are getting pretty good at tunneling. I didn’t support the tunnel but I sure as hell don’t want them to fail now. Schadenfreude isn’t something we should be indulging in here.

  3. Can’t we just make Seattle the capital again? :)

    That new highrise looks interesting. Although taller than the Columbia Tower, it would appear shorter in the skyline due to it’s location down the hill, correct?

    Are there any plans for that giant vacant block between 3rd and 4th and Cherry and James? It’s been like that for as long as I can remember. A shame for right in the middle of downtown.

      1. Interesting to look at renderings for Civic Square… they’re apparently planning to build a plaza that borders something other than three streets and an office building. The plaza will have retail frontage, the office building opposite, and apparently quite direct transit access… on the downside, two sides will just be entrances to the street… and it doesn’t look like the building will do anything for its public street frontage whatsoever.

    1. I didn’t see which article was posted here, but there were two articles regarding the new tallest. The first just said 77 floors, the second said 77 or more and they would build as tall as possible. Columbia center is 967′ tall and it’s elevation is 106′ above sea level. If the build it so the top is higher than 1,073′ above sea level then it will appear taller than columbia center. Even if the structural height is less a crown or spire could push it higher.

      1. The Columbia Tower had issues with the FAA and flight paths (not that I’ve ever seen an airplane fly just over the Columbia tower, but rules are rules). If this project actually happens, I’d love to see them open that debate back up. From what I’ve read the issues were a bit muddy and it’s possible they could have built higher if things went a different way.

  4. It’s interesting to read stories about trains needing to rely more on technology for safety reasons (positive train control) at the same time air safety experts, commenting on the SF Asiana crash, are saying pilot’s basic manual flying skills are eroding due to pilots being too reliant on technology and automation, and say that atrophy of manual flying skills may be a cause of the crash.

    It’s also interesting reading this article about a judge in Hollywood blocking smart growth after I just read the STB post on the North Rainier Rezone. In the latter post, it’s argued the Seattle neighborhood transit hub is a “car sewer” and changes in zoning need to be made to make it less of one. But in the former LA Times article, opponents of the upzone around transit hubs said it would make traffic worse.,0,7235306.story#axzz2nEW5rKZF

    1. It isn’t just Hollywooders who make this argument. Nearly every upzone in Seattle has some rich folks worrried that allowing more housing density will make traffic worse, and reduce available parking, making new renters (like at Lowe’s, which will still have too much parking, except for bikes), resort to parking in the mansion district about a mile’s walk away. That argument makes no sense whatsoever in the context of the Mt. Baker neighborhood.

      It is a more politically acceptable argument than that it will bring down property values or increase the crime rate. (Yes, it probably will increase the per-acre crime rate, but the per capita crime rate will drop.) The property value argument doesn’t get trotted out much any more since it is actually incorrect when new ground-floor retail gets added to a neighborhood. The quality-of-life argument doesn’t even get referred to directly any more. But things like “views” do. We don’t push enough that the number of people with a great view tends to be a net increase every time a story is added to a building.

    2. Driving a train is very different from flying an airplane. Controlling the train is just accelerator and brakes – it goes where the tracks go, so there’s no steering. Controlling an airplane involves not just manipulating speed, but steering in 3 dimensions and worrying about lift, drag, stalls, etc. Flying and airplane requires a lot more skill that has to be regularly kept up than driving a train.

  5. Cool, will STB be interviewing the mayor elect’s new advisor?

    And a somewhat separate note, does this mean that the grade separated Ballard options (not C and E) get a boost?

  6. Positive train control. I guess I had assumed that in this day and age most trains already had controls like these…but obviously not even in sophisticated European trains or in heavily used Eastern state corridors! The NYC subway always had these brake trips under the cars. If the light was red, there would be levers in the up position, and if the car whizzed by and didn’t stop, it would pull the brakes. I don’t know about yellow signals, if there was anything to slow it down or stop it if it went too fast.

  7. +1 to ST for proposing to buy the Freighthouse Square rail spur off of Tacoma. If Freighthouse Square really is supposed to be the multi-modal transportation hub it can be, the heavy-rail trestle connecting the Sounder station to the BNSF mainline (and now the Lakewood and South Tacoma stretch) needs an upgrade. Looks like ST has that in the works.

    1. That section of track is, indeed, most appropriately owned by Sound Transit. The trestle upgrade (replacement and doubletracking) is on the Cascades and Sounder priority lists last I checked. Next step: dual platforms and an Amtrak station at Tacoma, which will most easily be done if Sounder owns the whole thing.

    1. (omg Hello Kitty transit)

      What is the American equivalent? Taylor /Swift/ trains? Selena /Go/mez streetcars?

      1. (Seconded on the freaking out over Hello Kitty transit!)

        Nice try, but IMO Hello Kitty equals not teen pop starlets. You need iconic female cartoon characters.

        Maybe… Explore your city with the Dora train? My Little Pony express (transit is magic)? With the latter, we might even be able to explore the brony/transit nerd demographic, if it exists. :P

  8. That lot in Bellevue, that is the exact location where Bellevue Station will be. And King County, which owns the lot, is going to sell it to the City of Bellevue? Why doesn’t ST already own it through eminent domain or purchase? Does ST own none of the land their stations inhabit or will inhabit?

    1. It doesn’t have to own it if the owner is a government entity who’s partnering with ST on the line and stations, because they have a memorandum of understanding on what the parcel will be used for. With private owners it’s different because the owner is either using the land personally or profiting from its commercial use, so they expect to be compensated for giving up those benefits.

      Of course, there could be a rich person who’s a huge transit supporter who wants to let ST use some land for a station without compensation. But in that case it would probably be less legal hassle to just donate the land to the city or county, as some people have done for parks.

      1. Didn’t Microsoft donate (or perpetually lease) land with the Overlake Transit Center? It doesn’t have to just be government but your point still stands.

      2. It may have, and that’s another case I didn’t think about, where the company owns the land, doesn’t intend a competing use there, and thinks the station is in the company’s benefit.

    1. I read that when it came across Slog this morning. The irony is unfathomable: the defense argued that because he grew up rich and shielded by wealth, he doesn’t know that his actions have consequences. So therefore they’re going to shield him from consequences of his actions and let his wealthy Dad front half a million dollars for a stint in a high-class rehab facility. Brilliant.

  9. At Third & Pike, I boarded the Rapid Ride D to Ballard. Also boarding were fare enforcement officers. I didn’t understand what the point was, as anyone with an ORCA card would have used it and those paying cash–what proof of payment would they have? I asked one of the enforcers who told me the two-hour paper passes received from the bus driver was their proof of payment. Say what? Are drivers now instructed to give passes to everyone who pays cash, regardless of whether they actually need/want one (someone taking a one-way trip does not need one)? Just what we need, more of those paper passes in circulation. Besides which, the driver kept the back doors open for the full two or so minutes the bus was stopped–long after passengers deboarded, which just meant more scofflaws could enter without paying, and plenty did. I’m not sure how they managed to get by the enforcers, but the latter were off the bus in no time. Without paying, a woman and child got on with a basket of stuff and sat across from me. She made herself busy fussing with this and that as the enforcer came by and he didn’t even bother to check her. You might tell me to MMOB–there are reasons why people cheat (they are poor, for instance), but it still rankles.

    1. It’s only a few more paper transfers on a few routes, only a tiny fraction of Metro’s total. When off-board payment machines are set up, they’ll issue receipts, which are the same thing.

    2. The reason why the driver left the doors open for so long is that passengers with valid transfers are allowed to board at the back doors, regardless of if there are Orca readers at the stop.

      1. “which just meant more scofflaws could enter without paying, and plenty did”

        Between 6am and 7pm, there is no need to board at the front and show the driver your transfer. (I can’t find the 6am-7pm hours on Metro’s web site but it is on the side of the buses and is part of RapidRide driver training. Hopefully Metro will ditch this confusing system of dual fare enforcement systems for RapidRide soon)

        Sadly, many people still don’t get it and continue to file on the front door to show me their transfer. Worse, I’ve heard reports from passengers that there are still drivers who insist on checking the fare during the day.

  10. First Oil trains will be moving through Seattle to Bellingham starting Dec 28th, with many more on their heals. Glad we got the slope stabilized for Sounder.
    …. Oh, they didn’t get it all?

  11. I don’t know who the bus driver is who is in the news now because he attacked a rider. But, I hope he doesn’t get into trouble for what he did. He stood up to the scum of the streets and defended bus riders throughout the city for not just bending over and taking the abuse from a punk kid. He has my support!

    1. The driver was [ah]. The rider was leaving, and he attacked him with a wheel block from behind, then followed him outside for more punches. Getting spit on is not lethal. (disgusting YES). 10# chocks to the back of the head is a lethal weapon. Nuff said. Firing is appropriate.

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