This is an open thread.

98 Replies to “News Roundup: Finalist”

  1. Is there any particular reason why the U-Link tunnel was completed relatively easily and without incident, as opposed to the highway 99 tunnel? Was it due to the size of the boring machines? The location of the tunnel? Was it just luck?

    1. Some is due to Sound Transit’s previous experience. They’re more careful. WSDOT caused some of their own problem, remember. And the boring machine design WSDOT chose was cheaper, but many experts warned it couldn’t do the job. So there’s a lot of poor decision making.

      1. Did WSDOT select the machine, or the General Contractor? I thought it was the contractor’s decision as to what tool they selected to do the job. That’s typically the case.

      1. Not everyone has texts turned on. Since she is donating most of her salary to activist groups, email might be more likely to reach her. That, or show up to a meeting of Socialist Alternative. They don’t bite.

      2. Since she is donating most of her salary to activist groups, email might be more likely to reach her.

        What is the purported relationship between her donations to activist groups and her preferred method of communication?

      3. Srsly??? She’s married to a wealthy husband and it’s not like she is making a pittance. Collectively, they’re doing incredibly well. I can’t imagine that she doesn’t have text messaging. Hell, the City of Seattle probably has issued her with an army of free other mobile devices.

      4. Kshama might be separated, but she is still married and still getting support from your husband. She even listed her husband as her source of income on her public disclosure form.

        I admire her focus on the poor, but it is somewhat bothersome that she doesn’t seem to want to respond to the general public.

      5. Her criticism is fine but it’s not particularly helpful without a follow up that starts: “So my idea to save bus service is….”

      6. “Kshama might be separated, but she is still married and still getting support from your husband. She even listed her husband as her source of income on her public disclosure form.

        I admire her focus on the poor, but it is somewhat bothersome that she doesn’t seem to want to respond to the general public.”

        Whose husband is Kshama getting money from? Stephen’s, William’s, djw’s, or mine? I suspect that she is required to report *her* husband’s income, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she is getting any of the money.

        But back onto the more relevant discussion: I don’t expect any councilmember to respond to every email, much less random texts. Councilmember Conlin was one of the best at responding, but most of them I don’t get a pulse out of unless I catch them at a public forum or suck them into a blog discussion. I would rather wait a month for a smart answer from Councilmember Sawant than get a poorly-thought-out shoot-from-the-hip answer on the spot.

      7. It’s not a difficult thing to answer. Her “#taxtherich” and “#nometrocuts” response was pretty off the hip and target at “class struggle” bullshit. The fact is, Kshama does not have the interest of Seattle residents at heart or that of the poor. She only seems consumed by inciting struggles rather adequately addressing severe issues, which with her cult of person, she could easily advance many social justice advocates to help support Proposition 1 and ensure that the poor are indeed protected. She clearly has a very big lack of understanding and pragmatism. More to the point: she opposes funding Metro.

    1. Seattle votes for a grandstanding left wing TEA Partier, shocked to discover as useless as grandstanding right wing TEA Partier.

    2. Many of us have been critical, and remain critical, of sales tax as a funding source for anything. Many of us have been critical of flat car tabs.

      It is on balance, including the new low-income fare option being proposed, that this proposal does a lot more for the working poor than it does to hurt the working poor.

      It is also the only funding sources we have available. Vote, yes. We need the buses much more than we need that 0.1% in sales tax (that already excludes food except at restaurants). The car tab can be shifted into a progressive VLF once the legislature lets King County do that.

      And if this doesn’t pass, expect that the low-income fare program will be delayed indefinitely.

      1. Many of us have been critical, and remain critical, of sales tax as a funding source for anything. Many of us have been critical of flat car tabs.

        Virtually all of us have; that’s why we wanted the MVET.

        The rest of your comment makes clear that you have an understanding of the political dynamic that allows you to avoid making the perfect the enemy of the good. I wish Sawant would indicate that she, too, has such an understanding.

      1. I would guess her economic knowledge is limited; she has only the words ‘no’ in her vocabulary, and has absolutely no idea, beyond taxing the crap out of BA & MSFT on how to fund her socialist schemes. She has an antagonism toward reality that makes her difficult to accept.

      2. I want to like her too, but if she continues to prevaricate reality based policy propositions and solutions for the 99%, she’s a one term aberration.

    3. Some, cold, hard working-class math:

      One-zone-peak monthly passes will increase in price to $99, regardless of the election outcome. Low-income monthly passes will cost $54, but that option will only be available if the tax/tab increase passes. That’s a $45 monthly savings for individuals who buy a monthly pass and are 200% of the poverty level or less, or $540 a year. Assume they own a car, and subtract $40. That still leaves a $500 net annual savings. How much taxable stuff would someone need to buy, due to the 0.1% sales tax increase, to offset that savings? $500,000.

      No working class folks are spending that kind of money on non-food items. Not even most of the millionaires are doing that.

      1. When you put it that way, this does seem like a good deal for low-income folks.

        I’ve never really understood the argument that a sales tax is super regressive anyway. If you have a low income (heck, even if you have an average income), you’re probably spending most of your money on things like rent, utilities, groceries, bus fare, and health insurance, none of which are subject to sales tax. Pretty much nothing that a person truly needs (save clothing and toilet paper) is taxed. If you can afford luxuries like a dinner out, a fancy smartphone, or a new car, you can afford to pay some tax on that transaction.

        A flat car tab fee is most definitely regressive though. The vast majority of households in the area own 1-2 vehicles, regardless of income or assets. A MVET would be much fairer, but that seems not to be an option available to us right now.

      2. Most northeastern states exempt all non-luxury clothing from sales taxes as a way to mitigate those taxes’ regressiveness. The non-optional cost of clothing a family can eat up an ungodly portion of a working household’s budget.

        States overly reliant on sales taxes have never even considered such a move, and their apologists never allow non-food necessities to enter into their mathematical understanding of “burden”.

      3. The problem with the retail sales tax, or similar taxes like a VAT, is that the “consumption curve” is flatter than the “income curve”. Low-income households spend a greater proportion of their income than high-income households. The poorest households might actually spend more than they earn, when you include things like debt and government benefits. And so a sales tax will have the same effect as an income tax whose rate declines as you earn more money.

        You can certainly design a more progressive consumption tax. For example, imagine if when you filed your taxes each year, you took a tax deduction for your deposits to savings or investment accounts (or loan payments), but you had to add the amount that you withdrew from savings or investments (or received as loan disbursements). Whatever amount you had left (which represents your annual spending) would be taxed using a rate structure that’s similar to what we have for income tax, though you could make it even more progressive. For example, you could say that the first $20,000 in spending is tax-free, but anyone who spends over $200,000/year will pay a 50% marginal tax on that spending. The effect is to reward savings and discourage overconsumption, while still placing the greatest tax burden on the people who have the most ability to pay.

        There are other tax structures that are easier to implement, and that don’t require individual households to file tax returns, but that have the same effects.

      4. There are numerous ways that a low income person can spend money on a sales tax, both directly or indirectly. Take this example. A mom comes home and realizes her oven doesn’t work. A quick call to the landlord and he says he’ll fix it tomorrow. The mom then calls Little Caesars, grabs a pizza (or two, “pizza pizza”) makes a salad and the kids are happy (tax for the pizza, none for the salad). The landlord has to pay tax for the new oven. He passes on the cost (and the sales tax) to every tenant.

        Now, consider a progressive income tax with a starting point of say, 100 grand. The pizza folks, the landlord, and the oven installer don’t pay a dime. There is nothing to pay or pass on. It is possible the regional manager of the pizza or appliance store might decide to pass on the higher tax, but they would be in competition with other regional managers, who don’t earn less than the threshold. You don’t pass on a tax if your competition can avoid it. This is in sharp contrast with the pizza or the oven, which will be taxed the same as any pizza or oven costing the same amount in the city (or state).

        Then you have the sin taxes. Cigarette taxes, alcohol taxes and gas taxes are regressive. We accept this just because we want to discourage the use of such products, but it is important to recognize the regressive nature of those taxes, and not have them overwhelm our system. They should be balanced by progressive income taxes, which is something our state doesn’t do.

      5. Pigovian taxes should not be progressive. If you want to compensate for their “harm”,
        give rebates or some other in-kind compensation if you feel it is socially valuable or necessary to do. It’s for this reason why I have no problems with a flat car tab tax or standard
        carbon tax or any other tax meant to curb negative behaviour.

      6. I wasn’t suggesting that we make sin taxes progressive. I only mentioned that they are regressive. They aren’t flat. A two dollar tax on a pack of cigarettes or a twenty cent tax on gasoline means nothing to someone who pulls down a hundred grand a year (let alone a million) but takes a big chunk out of the cash reserves of someone earning minimum wage. That’s why I said it needs to be balanced by more progressive taxes. Meanwhile, this state has a mix of regressive sin taxes (high alcohol, tobacco and gas taxes) along with a regressive sales tax. At least the B and O tax is a bit progressive and the property tax is flat.

      7. The relevant debate for this ballot measure is not how sales tax affects poor people, but how a 0.1% increase in the sales tax will affect poor people.

        Suppose someone making $25,000 a year after tax manages to spend it all on sales-taxable items (an impossibility, but let’s establish some ceiling numbers). The most additional sales tax they would pay in a year from this increase would be $25. Realistically, nobody in this income range will come anywhere close to that number. Ten round trips on the bus with a low-income fare will make up for any additional sales tax for that year, and then some. Anyone who claims the sales tax portion of the proposal will be hard on the poor is seriously math-challenged.

        The impact of the $40 car tab increase is at least a couple orders of magnitude larger than the sales tax increase in its hit on poor people’s pocketbooks. But even that effect gets evened out with a mere 20 round trips on the bus with a low-income fare over the course of a year, or the savings on just one monthly pass.

        The sales tax increase is minisculely regressive considered in a vacuum. The car tab increase is obvious regressive, but not large. But even before considering what the money is being spent on, the vast majority of poor voters will profit from the passage of the tax/tab increase.

    4. Councilmember Sawant most certainly does not oppose funding Metro. Nor has she said how she will vote on the tax/tab proposal. In the meantime, I would sure love to know where County Councilmembers Pete von Reichbauer and Reagan Dunn stand. It will be a harder uphill climb if this goes onto the ballot by a 7-2 vote than by a 9-0 vote.

      1. Sure, but Sawant matters too. She’s a popular political figure, as evidenced by her rather remarkable electoral victory. What she says matters. I see no reason to think winning this election will be easy. Have a major opinion leader on the left griping about the initiative rather than endorsing in and working to pass it could be a real problem.

      2. Of course we’re working on getting her to make the right decision. Dunn and von Reichbauer are opinion leaders, too, and they have to take sides next week. Can we talk about how to get them to vote Yes, while we still have time for them to vote Yes?

        Do they need some sort of cover, like an agreement that paper transfers need to go away, or something along those lines? Has anyone heard any hints from them?

  2. Except for “We the Living”, I’ve never had much use for Ayn Rand as a writer. But have to give her some credit for foresight. Recent North American railroading events involving fossil fuel make her downright prophetic.

    One memorable passage in “Atlas Shrugged” detailed what happens when the flagship express passenger train called The Taggart Comet gets dispatched into the nation’s only transcontinental railroad tunnel by incompetent cowardly staff bullied by a Federal bureaucrat named Kip who has to get to a conference. And insists that a steam locomotive be coupled up when the line’s last diesel falls apart.

    After just about everybody aboard gets asphyxiated miles underground, an Army ammunition train plows into the wreckage at top speed and detonates. Ms. Rand doesn’t mention difficulties of getting Greyhound buses to the scene, but obviously none are needed. Great scene. But that train of tank-cars coming uncoupled and destroying a whole town in Quebec a month or two back would steal the Oscar from it.

    Speaking of the Army, I wonder if the Corps of Engineers has contingency plans for when a mile of tank cars or coal gondolas comes uncoupled upgrade from the bridge across the Ballard locks?

    Reason I like “We The Living” better than Ayn Rand in general is that it’s based on a young woman’s honest observation of the condition of Russia after a world war and a civil war fought on its own soil. Her “Atlas Shrugged” attempt to translate her resulting worldview to Dwight Eisenhower’s United States deserved worse criticism than it got. But anybody close to any very large endeavor where cut costs slash the real world can relate to the Taggart Tunnel disaster.

    Whether-sorry, Alisa Zinov’yevna- the perpetrators culprits work for governments, private corporations, or the proliferating hybrids of both. But luckily, We the Presently Living have fought ourselves farther along toward the remedy: a country with at least the idea that ordinary people are capable of getting their own jobs right, and seeing to it that their organizations let them do it.

    The Russia of the 1920’s, devastated by its own history and one decade out of the Middle Ages, could be forgiven for its wretched condition. The United States of America, and lately our northern neighbor, don’t qualify for any such excuse.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Yeah moving a million tons of coal on a trains seems like a bad idea, moving oil on trains seems like suicide. I don’t totally get it.

    2. I’m thinking that since the rail lines north and south of the Ballard crossing are closer to the level of saltwater than the bridge, a train load of uncoupled cars on either side of the bridge would worst case roll away from the bridge.

      We move an enormous quantity of liquid fuels every day in our cars and trucks, I’m not sure trains are the problem.

    3. Moving fossil fuels en masse by any means is risky. I’d be surprised (though not shocked) if rail isn’t safer in terms of number of collisions per gallon-mile than trucking — the Oakland freeway collapse in 2007, for example, involved a gas tanker. But yeah… trains, ships, trucks, and pipelines carrying oil have all been involved in serious environmental and human tragedies.

  3. The Northgate pedestrian bridge article is mislinked, although the mislinked article might be more entertaining (albeit duplicate).

  4. I dislike Kshama Sawant’s sloganeering…it sometimes comes across as an Onion profile of a socialist. What exactly is a “chronically underserved” neighborhood? Maybe someplace like Magnolia?(although, I doubt that’s what she’s talking about). I think KCM has been pretty fair (and transparent) in their system design, especially considering their real world (versus idealized) constraints.

    1. The whole “solidarity” and “struggle” thing can probably go. It’s a bit creepy and some of her phrasing can be very much like war-like jingoism. The issues of inequality are serious, but let’s be direct and levelheaded about it. Overdramatisation or using “code” phrasing has no purpose, but to freak reasoned people out.

    2. That jumped out at me too. Her past rhetoric would suggest that she sees the poorest neighborhoods as the “chronically underserved” ones. And in a sense they are — they have even worse crosstown service than the others, and typically more service quality issues. But they don’t have the worst overcrowding and the most pass-ups. At the moment, the wealthier urban neighborhoods earn those dubious prizes. Would she add frequency first to the 40 or the 4S?

      1. The part that bothers me the most is the claim that the 0.1% sales tax and car tab fee to fund Metro are essentially redistribution to the 1%. I’m not sure what the overall income breakdown of Metro riders is, but it’s certainly more broad than the top 1%.

  5. Not a big fan of exempting road projects from sales tax but perhaps if we extended sales tax to gasoline it might make up some of the difference while improving funding for transit? R’s will never go for it, of course.

    1. Right now, the oil companies keep all of the increase in the cost of gas at the pump, unlike every item subject to sales tax. The gas tax remains the same regardless of how high the price of gas goes, but if the cost of blue jeans increases 10% so does sales tax revenue on blue jeans.

  6. Have been hoping for some more comments on subject of trains coming uncoupled under dangerous dirty loads. And also leaving passengers aboard for six hours without making any effort to help them continue their trip on buses. We’ve got an Interstate system, for God’s sake!

    My worst problem, among several, with the continent-wide transportation of fossil fuel is that neither the United States nor Canada presently has the railroad system of a first-world country. Couple this with the self-evident truth that the private companies who run both the fuel and the freight railroad industry would rather spend their money on forcing Government to let them run operations to third-world standards than do the required upgrades.

    A couple of months ago, I’m afraid I made an enemy out of a young union official from Longview when I needled him about his local’s T-shirts’ connection to the coal industry without explicitly naming the cargo. He very rightly set me straight on what it means to be offered one’s first decent job in three generations- which he and his colleagues, if allowed to work to their own standards of both rail operation and terminal construction, would likely perform so nothing fell apart, leaked, or uncoupled.

    But what am I supposed to view the best, most decent worker in the world if
    -his standing orders are to run uncovered hazardous loads past my home? Under work standards ‘way down the list below shareholders’ profits? And in a general enterprise doing massive and irreparable damage beyond what any skilled operator would permit to his or her machine- to the basic operating machinery of the planet?

    Reason Ayn Rand has always resonated with me is a lot of shared roots- same ethnicity and category as a high girl I loved in high school, who introduced me to “Atlas Shrugged”, and whose dad really did own a factory, just like Ayn’s. The poor man was the only exploited worker in the company, and died before his time because of it. If only his daughter ever showed my thinking the same courtesy.

    Would like to raise a glass to the memories of Ruben Losh and to Ayn Rand’s father Zinovy Rosenbaum. Who both knew in their hearts that, Government or Business, it’s sadly possible to wear an expensive suit and still be a “zhlob.” And that for any system to survive, or deserve to, it needs to meet the standard of Yiddish word “Mensch.”

    Mark Dublin

    1. And also leaving passengers aboard for six hours without making any effort to help them continue their trip on buses. We’ve got an Interstate system, for God’s sake!

      You are absolutely right. How much could it cost to charter a few buses? Cheaper than the terrible PR I imagine.

      1. The Bellingham station was available to Train #516 (Northbound), providing a safe place to discharge passengers to buses.

        Do you know if train #517 (Southbound), was in an area with even a grade crossing to do this safely? Maybe the conductor was trying to get the dispatcher to allow him to move the train, but wasn’t having any luck? I don’t know.

        They just can’t “put it in reverse”, you know.

      2. What is with the limitless subversion of common sense to arcane rule-following? I swear, you would leave people in a burning train car, if it happened to be parked at a platform 2 inches shy of regulation height.

        It seems that the uncoupling happened at the sharp turn immediately adjacent to historic downtown Ferndale. More than a dozen people stepped off the train and easily walked to the ground transportation they had procured (and which had no trouble locating them).

        So yes, the street was accessible.

        Only if there were a fully wheelchair-bound passenger aboard would it have been difficult to transfer all passengers to a shuttle bus. And even then, I’m sure said passenger would have preferred to brainstorm an exit strategy than to sit for six hours in purgatory.

        The west coast continues to exhibit a disturbing habit of rewarding those who hide behind protocols to avoid ever having to genuinely solve problems. This country is going to hell, one incentivized inaction at a time.

      3. “It seems that the uncoupling happened at the sharp turn immediately adjacent to historic downtown Ferndale. More than a dozen people stepped off the train and easily walked to the ground transportation they had procured (and which had no trouble locating them).”

        Ah, you were on the train?

        Sorry, I didn’t know that.

      4. “What is with the limitless subversion of common sense to arcane rule-following? I swear, you would leave people in a burning train car, if it happened to be parked at a platform 2 inches shy of regulation height.

        The west coast continues to exhibit a disturbing habit of rewarding those who hide behind protocols to avoid ever having to genuinely solve problems. This country is going to hell, one incentivized inaction at a time.”

        Sadly, this type of thing happens on the east coast as well, and this first quoted sentence of your response isn’t too far from the truth. The problem is that there are some pretty strict rules about letting passengers out at locations that aren’t a station platform, which have been created due to several decades worth of lawsuits filed over the years. Sadly, these rules are created and enforced by people that never actually ride on a train, so the practicality of the rules and how they perform in an actual emergency are pretty bad.

        However, as far as the train crew hiding behind rules to “avoid having to solve problems” the fact is that the operating rules don’t really give them a lot of liberty. Even in the case of some serious problem with a car, they are supposed to evacuate the passengers to other cars rather than let them out of the train.

        Ever try to get a King County Metro bus driver to let you out somewhere where there isn’t a designated stop? Most of the time, they won’t because there are some rules in place about safe places to let someone out, and a place that isn’t a designated stop may not be a safe place. Experience and lawsuits dictate on the side of caution.

        At least the train had made it south of the border when the derailment happened. Otherwise, everyone would probably still be stuck in some sort of bizarre legal limbo due to clearing customs at Central Station so legally being outside Canada, yet leaving the train while still being inside Canada.

        There definitely needs to be some reconsideration about what to do when a train gets stranded. At the very least, allow some planning for what should happen when a train gets stranded in a location such as this. Ferndale is nothing compared to some spots in terms of trying to access the train with emergency vehicles, etc.

      5. I’ve witnessed, in my time, some MacGyver-level problem-solving in the face of unexpected hiccups. One particularly memorable experience (too complicated to detail) was in Chicago, which isn’t surprising when you consider that much of that town is held together by duct tape anyway, and there’s often good reason to presume “the book” handed to you isn’t trustworthy enough to go by.

        As long as people are encouraged to think on their feet, and to actually care about the concrete outcomes that separate doing your job assiduously from merely “doing your job”, better solutions can be found to any problem.

        But the West Coast seems to take the precise opposite approach: Who cares if it’s obvious to everyone that transit operations, the zoning codes, the City Light maintenance prioritization, or whatever, are yielding shit results? The rules have been written, and their arbitrary contents must be respected at all times. Never challenge, never skirt, never fix, and most certainly never exceed. It’s a Pass The Buck society.

      6. Had this train been in latin america it would have been emptied in 15 minutes and collectivos would be showing up (with street vendors hanging off the sides selling cheetos).

      7. @d.p., what you say seems sad. Do you have any suggestions for how to fix it, to get people to take responsibility? It would probably start with a change in style of management, but I think the problem goes deeper, at least to the organizational culture if not into the wider society.

      8. “Otherwise, everyone would probably still be stuck in some sort of bizarre legal limbo due to clearing customs at Central Station so legally being outside Canada, yet leaving the train while still being inside Canada.”

        That happened to me in Vancouver around 2000. We were on the platform about to get on the train and it wouldn’t start. They couldn’t let us back into “Canada” without approval from Customs, but Customs had gone home. It took an hour or two to get ahold of a customs manager on the phone, who then gave us blanket approval to reenter. Amtrak chartered ten buses which I took (and which took another hour to arrive), and also booked thirty hotel rooms for those who wanted to wait for the next day’s train.

      9. I’ve witnessed, in my time, some MacGyver-level problem-solving in the face of unexpected hiccups. One particularly memorable experience (too complicated to detail) was in Chicago, which isn’t surprising when you consider that much of that town is held together by duct tape anyway, and there’s often good reason to presume “the book” handed to you isn’t trustworthy enough to go by.

        Nonsense. Chicago is one of the few cities in the USA that is held together by railroad, and thus one of the few places where those that write the rule book might actually have some sense of practical railroad operations.

      10. But all that legacy infrastructure is underfunded to various degrees, Glenn, so what ends up being important are all of the mid-level operations managers and the low-level employees who take pride in being able to figure out on-the-fly solutions to the myriad problems that arise.

        My favorite experience was on the L, while traveling with someone in a wheelchair. An employee at the Loop platform had the foresight to warn us of a broken elevator at the Midway stop. He said that going through the phone-tag command chain was often ineffective, so his advice was to wait until the second-to-last stop, then bang on the driver’s cab, mention the broken elevator, and ask the driver to please pull into the rarely-used third platform that had a ramp.

        Amazingly, this worked like a charm. In Seattle, they’d probably have mumbled some responsibility-shirking excuse, then left us stranded waiting for an Access van while we missed our flight.

        From what I’ve both witnessed and read, the operators of Metra and Chicago regional rail show similar resourcefulness. But don’t get me started at what happened to my friend on CalTrain.

        The West Coast — and its manuals — just plain suck in crises.

        Your depth of understanding of railroad operating rules is truly awesome.

        …Says the man who would strand 100 passengers for six hours, right next to a road where eight people were able to easily reach their taxis.

      11. @dp

        Let’s ask the question again:

        – Do you know if train #517 (Southbound), was in an area with even a grade crossing to do this safely? Maybe the conductor was trying to get the dispatcher to allow him to move the train, but wasn’t having any luck? I don’t know. –

        Were you on the train?
        Do you have some first-hand knowledge of what was happening?

        “..right next to a road where eight people were able to easily reach their taxis”

        Again, you know exactly where this train was stranded, and that they were “able to easily reach their taxis”.

        That’s the whole point of my question. Do you know what happened, were you there?

        Of course, that’s not the point, is it?

      12. The human brain possesses an amazing capability known as “deductive reasoning”.

        Within the boundaries of Ferndale, WA, the Cascades route runs immediately adjacent and accessible to primary roads for approximately the middle 1/3 of town. Furthermore, the two major curves in the track are along this portion — train cars are far more likely to come uncoupled on a curve than on a straightaway, are they not? The only remotely sharp curve is the one in the midst of the historic town center.

        The most likely stretch for the uncoupling to have occurred, therefore, would be between Hovander Road and Vista Drive. The southbound Cascades is likely to have been stopped along the lengthy straightaway adjacent to (and level with) 2nd Avenue north of the historic center.

        I remember this section from my last Vancouver trip. The local redneck kids waited by the track in order to flip off the train. Charming town.

        But really, this is all extraneous mental exercise. All you really need to know is that more than a dozen people were able to simply step off the train, with luggage, and enter other vehicles on an easily accessible road, while the train crew — despite a proclivity toward excessive caution and an impotence to offer any other form of aid — saw no risk or valid reason to hold this dozen passengers hostage.

        Because, almost certainly, the road was right freakin’ there.

      13. I like to form my opinions AFTER I have the data in hand.

        Obviously for you, that’s not a necessary ingredient.
        Of course, d.p. must publicly uphold his reputation.

      14. So do I. But in a world with imperfect or incomplete reporting, one can ably reason using the best data available.

        The train was able to be exited without difficulty. This is reported fact.

        The world is under no obligation to act oblivious and ignorant just because you do.

      15. You broke your own link.

        But I’m just going to venture a guess that your link said the train was on the siding 1000 feet north of central Ferndale and immediately adjacent to 2nd Avenue.

        Like, exactly where I said it was.

        And where passengers would easily have been able to exit.

        Because many of them did.

      16. And this article provides another clue.

        To quote “The coal train was finally repaired at 1:40 a.m., and passed to the left of the Amtrak train, Lane said. “.

        If that’s the case, the coal train could have been on the track between the Amtrak train and 2nd Ave.

        Maybe those passengers had to slog their way through the ballfield to get to their rides?

        The conductor on #517 was trying to get permission to move the train, but was unsuccessful.

        Again, specific information isn’t publicly available from the people in the know who were there.

      17. Your first link explicitly says the coal train stopped on a “single-track stretch”. It passed to the left later. It was not blocking pedestrian egress. You are wrong.

        As for the availability of buses…

        The train was sitting there for six hours.

        Ferndale is only 95 minutes from Seattle on I-5, once rush hour has ended.

        Find. Another. Mother. Fucking. Bus.

        [ad hom]

  7. Speaking of knowledge, is there someone who knows the status of the mudslide mitigation work?

    Another mudslide in Mukilteo.

    Would be nice to know if this is a spot they’ve already done, or one they still need to do.

    1. Yeah, it’s POP, fare evasion happens. Hopefully fines, efficiency gains, and increased ridership make up for it. The one time I saw fare inspectors on Caltrain in the Bay Area I’d say they caught about a quarter of the passengers without a ticket, including a whole family with kids. Coming from Chicago, where Metra conductors check every ticket every time and kick the rare offenders off the train, this was really surprising to me.

      But it is likely, as the official says, that at least some of those people were confused or absent-minded (just as many people that get parking tickets are). Actually, last time I took Link down to SeaTac (to do some mountain biking — this dry winter has been great for it) I forgot to tap in on my way home… I realized this as the train started moving, so I got off at Tukwila and tapped in there. I didn’t get caught, but I think Link has APCs, so I’m a tiny part of a fare-evasion statistic.

      1. Al, I’d like to hear your guess as to what percentage you think ride Link and Rapid Ride for free. About 25%?

      2. Since Link has relatively routine fare inspections, not even close. Maybe 3%.

        Since RapidRide has no system-wide option for off-board payment, fare evasion tends to be limited to the same lowlifes who refuse to pay on any bus… maybe 3%.

        Got any other wrong trees up which you’d like to bark?

      3. I wonder what percentage of the people who forget to tap actually have monthly passes and aren’t cheating Metro/ST anything?

      4. I’ve hopped on the swift before without tapping because I was in a hurry (doors were closing) or I forgot. I have a pass so it made no difference when the fare inspector came by.

        I’ve been on Link quite a few times when the fare inspectors came by, they catch about 2 people on the entire train from the airport and half of those seem to be unaware tourists.

    1. In addition to your multiple other talents I’m sure you are a world-renowned artist. Since you could no doubt execute a Doodle better than the lowly blog staff, I await your submission.

    2. Here’s a fun one, Sam: Do an investigative journalism piece on what happens to someone who rides Link without paying the fare and gets caught three times. Let us know when you are done, and how it came out.

      1. Nothing happens. Local government has taken the position that they don’t want to repeat the expensive cycle of arrest, prosecution and incarceration that often ends up releasing offenders back onto the streets within days, without any change in behavior. To the poor, Link tickets are paper tigers. “But Sam, after three tickets you go to jail!” Um, no, you don’t. Nothing happens. It’s all a form of enforcement theater to scare the rest of us into keep paying.

      2. Sam, as you keep telling us with your often-excellent post suggestions, don’t just guess off the top of your head but actually go out into the real world and investigate!

      3. Well, well, well. And let me throw in even a few more well’s for good measure … well, well, well, well, well, well. Look what we have here. A comment from me from a few years ago on this very topic, where I suggest someone look into what happens to Link and RR fare evaders. And now you DARE to ask me to investigate this, when I was the FIRST one to do the asking?

        “Sam says:
        April 4, 2012 at 10:23 am
        I would like to see the Seattle Times do an investigative story on Link and RapidRide, researching of the hundreds or thousands of non-payment tickets that have been written by fare enforcement officers, what percentage have been paid? And what happens if someone doesn’t pay their ticket? My gut tells me very few people pay the tickets they’ve been written. I think the fare enforcement officers are nothing but a form of fare enforcement theater.”

        And remember, this was from a 2012 roundup that had a story about some Canadian system that discovered absolutely nothing happens to their fave evaders who don’t pay the tickets they were issued.

      4. That wasn’t a “dare”, Sam. That was an assignment.

        This is a dare: I dare you to give up your night job and apply for the position of Fare Inspector. Let us know if ST hires you.

      5. Well, if it’s a huge faux pas to suggest to people who bring up story ideas that they be the ones to investigate it…

        I think someone should do a survey of people in Seattle and around the region to find out how many are aware of the upcoming Link expansions. How many know exactly what’s going on? How many vaguely know it’s expanding but not where? How many have a wrong idea (e.g. over 520, or up to Ballard instead of UW, or having stations every half-mile instead of what we’ve actually got) and will be surprised when it actually opens? And how does this correlate to location?

        Also, Sightline had a recent piece citing Transit Score saying that the transit score of the Rainier Valley had gone down recently – but they suspected that might be an artifact of the previous score being taken after Link opened but before the bus routes had been changed. They didn’t have any data from before Link’s opening, though. It seems to me that a transit score is something that can be assembled in retrospect; someone should do that.

        Also, talking about transit scores, someone should assemble Transit Scores for U-Link, North Link, and Lynnwood Link using several different models for possible route restructures. How much do they impact it? Do they show any deficiencies or flaws in the Transit Score methodology; and if so, how can it be amended?

  8. Tonight’s cancellations on Sounder Northline illustrate why loads like coal and oil and other flammable poison gooey black stuff should be routed elsewhere. Like down pipes and chutes directly to their markets, bored at a ninety degree angle for their first four thousand linear miles or so. Maybe if the business interests behind the current “Bulk Terminal” – they won’t say “coal”, and nobody mentions oil at all- had to deal with hundred percent effective mudslide prevention as a condition of their permits, they’d find above suggestion their only profitable alternative.

    Mark

  9. Sunday’s big game is a ‘mass transit Super Bowl’

    Those attending the big game Sunday won’t be able to walk to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., or get dropped off by a cab or limousine. If they drive, special parking passes will cost more than $150, and there are only about 11,000 parking spaces. About two-thirds of the 82,500 spectators are likely to arrive either by rail or by bus.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/01/31/transit-shines-with-mass-transit-super-bowl/5064491/

    So, here in the middle of the New Yorsey suburbs, mass transit is working wonders. I should know as I spent my college years on NJ Transit. Although New Jersey doesn’t really have significant suburbs, you could still get around the corridors by rail, bus and private express bus. And now they have some of the most powerful medium speed trains running between Philly and NYC servicing the towns of NJ.

    1. “Although New Jersey doesn’t really have significant suburbs”

      Surely, you must be joking. New Jersey suburbs go on…and on…and on…

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