Friends of Transit, Washington Rail Vision Map

As a city’s transportation system pushed to its limit recovers …

This is an open thread.

179 Replies to “News Roundup: Nice Work”

      1. STB used to ask people to keep their links short, although that was before the current layout. I don’t believe in link shorteners because an article’s identifier and site should be transparent and consistent, and because shortened links will break if the company goes out of business or stops offering the service.

    1. Yes, increasing demand without increasing supply does that. Thanks for the Econ 101 lesson.

      1. Better to describe it as “increasing demand while making increases in supply illegal”.

      1. From my understanding they generally work long hours so long commutes would severely limit their already low amount of personal time.

      2. If you’re talking about Microsoft employees, a lot of them do. I work at Microsoft myself and live within walking distance; a lot of my coworkers also live on the Eastside. Others, though, prefer the active city life of Seattle.

        But if you’re talking about people at other companies, I’d agree with spoons. I know of at least two Amazon workers who say they’re required to stay at work all hours of the night.

      3. My experience in Redmond was most older tech workers lived in Redmond or the Eastside. Those who are 35 and younger chose to live in Seattle. It’s a quality of life thing. Don’t get me wrong, the Eastside has a lot going for it and I love Redmond and Kirkland in particular, but that doesn’t make up for all the offerings that Seattle has.

      4. Soooo………

        They go to all this trouble to locate tech in “the city”.

        But then it’s too expensive for people to live there.

        And it’s too expensive to park there.

        Then they spend billions on transit.

        But it doesn’t run at night or to where the cheaper housing is.

        Then they scratch their heads.

      5. You’re complaining to the wrong people, John. I’d be overjoyed to run transit 24/7 with affordable housing in easy walking distance of the stops. Please direct your complaints to the state legislature, Tom Eyman, et cetera.

      6. Yes, but I think it’s right to complain.

        I mean, here you have all these brilliant technologists and software engineers and systems analysts.

        But when it comes to designing their own home, the solution is to cram everyone together.

        To me that is the ultimate brute force. It’s like implementing Bubble Sort instead of a B+ tree because you don’t want to strain yourself to implement the best searching algorithm.

      7. And to me, making everyone live twenty miles or more away from everything because you don’t care to build denser buildings in the places people actually want to live is the very lazy solution. It’s like buying a new processor because you don’t care to write an actually-efficient search algorithm.

        While we’ll just have to agree to disagree about which way of life is better, I hope we can agree that the government shouldn’t ban either: the anti-density zoning limits in Seattle should be repealed.

      8. John, I’m a tech worker who likes living in the city, likes sharing walls with neighbors, and likes walking and biking. I quit my job at MS because I was sick of the commute, and there’s nothing interesting within walking distance of MS’s campus, so I was eating in the company cafeteria every day.

        Now I work at the Fremont bridge. Right on the BG Trail. I also live on the BG Trail. It’s a delightful ride every day. And I walk to a huge variety of restaurants for lunch, when I don’t feel like brown-bagging it. I can hop on my bike and get short errands done. I never could do that in Redmond.

        I like the city, John. I’m not the only one. I’m sorry that doesn’t fit your plans for us.

      9. Because many of them are people who don’t share your personal aesthetic tastes (not unusual) and find dense walkable urban living are desirable.

      10. John, time and time you are off the mark. It ain’t cramming anyone. And people want to live in dense places. Heck, you live in an apartment complex that is dense in comparison to most of your fellow Kentians. The fact is, genuine, urban places are desirable. Deal with it.

      11. I think it’s fair to say that Microsoft would not build a suburban campus if they were building it today. I’d venture that they aren’t all too happy with Redmond’s provincial attitudes, although those have improved in the last decade.

        However, it’s nigh impossible to relocate the Microsoft campus now, isn’t it?

    2. Some people who write here (who also happen to be tech workers) are always pointing fingers at: Kemper Freeman, culdesacs, NIMBYS, sprawl, etc. But after reading that article, maybe the person they should be pointing the finger at is themselves. The article was clear. Tech workers are pushing the poor out of their homes. No wonder they do so much finger pointing. It draws our attention away from the real problem.

      1. But what is the problem? Is it tech workers outbidding the poor for pieces of our one small pie; or is it Kemper Freeman, NIMBYs, etc. barring the oven door and keeping us from baking more pies?

      2. William, if you’re asking me what the problem is, then it’s clear you didn’t read the CNN Money article. Read it. It’s linked above. If you still don’t understand it, I’ll explain it to you.

      3. Sam, it’s clear what the problem is: nobody is allowed to build more housing, next to their jobs, for the tech workers. So they end up competing with everyone else.

        Make more housing legal, problem solved.

  1. The bill about small homes sounds fine. I don’t think it will affect Seattle much. Currently, section 22.206.020 of the Seattle Municipal Code sets minimum floor areas for housing units. The minimums aren’t very onerous. In a nutshell, every housing unit must have at least one “habitable room” (bedroom, kitchen, or living area) that’s at least 120 square feet. Every habitable room (except kitchens) must be at least 7 feet in each direction. Every sleeping room must be at least 70 square feet. There’s no minimum size for bathrooms, storage areas, etc.

    Under the current rules it’s perfectly legal to build a one-bedroom single-family home under 300 square feet (120 square feet for the living room, 70 square feet for the bedroom, a small galley kitchen, and a little more space for the bathroom). The thing stopping this home from being built is not minimum floor area regulations, but rather it’s minimum lot size rules. In most circumstances, lots in single-family zones can’t be subdivided smaller than 5,000 square feet. With land prices being what they are, it’s crazy to consider paying a quarter million dollars (or more) for a plot of land, only to build a 300 square foot cottage on it. And that’s just if you manage to buy a rare vacant lot in the city. In most cases you’ll have to bulldoze an even larger house to build your tiny one. For true reform, we need to attack the minimum lot size rules.

    1. Especially when you get those weird cases of a house on one half, and just a yard there by itself. Perfect place for another house!

    2. In addition to minimum lot size rules, setback rules, “single family” restrictions (which I swear are unconstitutional as an infringement of privacy rights), and “floor area ratio” maximums also act to prohibit sensible housing construction.

  2. The renting a bike in Vegas story is just awesome. I may have to try that next time just to see those looks.

    1. The clear lesson early in the story was to pack your own bike. Whatever the airline charges for shipping it back and forth is probably worth it.

      1. Whatever the airline charges for shipping plus whatever you get charged for disassembly/boxing twice, plus whatever you get charged for assembly twice, plus the cost of a decent container. You are not going to disassemble and reassemble your own bike — in particular you aren’t going to do this in your Las Vegas hotel room.

        I don’t have these numbers at hand, but I’m pretty sure these add up to:
        – More than the value of a typical European city bike (typical meaning well used)
        – More than the cost of readily available cheap bikes in the US

        I’ve never been to Las Vegas but if I ever do I think I’ll do what this guy did (except that I’ll pack my own lock and helmet). This sort of bike rental is available at a few Seattle hotels, and if enough people request it it will become available in Las Vegas, too, which as a flat, dry city is really quite adaptable to basic transportation cycling.

      2. I clearly have never done the bike-on-plane thing.

        Maybe work out a deal with someone on Craig’s List. Ooh, maybe the world needs an AirBnB for bikes.

      3. Al: It’s not as complicated or expensive as that. I’ve flown with my bike a number of times, and the only cost is what the airline charges. I get a used cardboard bike shipping box from a bike store, turn the handlebars, remove the front wheel, seat and pedals, and then pack it all in the box. I’ve done this several times for international bike touring, although the airline baggage charge may still not make it worthwhile for a short trip compared to bike rental.

      4. When I first bought my folder, I did indeed take it to Las Vegas to try it out. The author is accurate that people look suspiciously at bikes in Las Vegas. But also accurate that moving around (when it’s not 110 outside) by bike is by far the most efficient way to travel.

    2. Why would you need a bike in vegas as a tourist? It’s actually really walkable (especially when you consider how nice the weather usually is) and most of the interesting things are within a mile or so of eachother.

      1. For the convention center, specifically. Also the only reason one would ever consider using the monorail.

        Of course the monorail, being joke transit, would easily be overwhelmed by any convention big enough to book the entire (massive) convention complex.

      2. Walking can take a really long time there, given the long distances (on foot), crowded sidewalks and the need to cross pedestrian bridges which may or may not be convenient to where you’re going. I’ve learned over the course of a couple of trips to assume that any walk will take 20+ minutes.

        Then again, biking along the Strip would be either homicidal (on the sidewalk) or suicidal (in the street). My rule of Vegas driving is that everyone is drunk. Having spent a total of six days driving there in my life, and having personally witnessed four accidents, I think it’s a good rule.

      3. My rule of Vegas driving is that everyone is drunk. Having spent a total of six days driving there in my life, and having personally witnessed four accidents, I think it’s a good rule.


  3. I posted a link on this before, but here’s a more extensive article about the new Mumbai Monorail:

    Mumbai’s Monorail a Baby Step Forward

    Jointly constructed by the Indian engineering firm Larsen & Toubro Ltd. and the Malaysian monorail specialist firm Scomi Rail, the Mumbai monorail represents the arrival, decades overdue, of a modern mode of urban transport in the medieval, traffic-choked transport system of one of the world’s most densely packed metropolises.

  4. That’s an interesting regional rail map. How realistic is it in the foreseeable future though?

    We would need the state on our side to get any of that done and I believe the current Senate coalition is allergic to anything that has the word “transit” in it.

    On another note it might be interesting to discuss the viability of the routes shown if we haven’t already.

    1. I commented on his blog page:

      All of this is sorely needed. It’s time to start thinking Washington State and not just Seattle. HSR and MSR make even a 300 mile trek possible as a daily commute as countries around the world already do this. We can relieve the urban density problems and still let people enjoy the centralized resources like going to a Seahawks game from all parts of our state.

      Also I might make the Ellensburg-Pasco route HSR as Tri-Cities is poised for growth as a high tech area.

      1. So why is Monroe dropped from the Commuter line extension in the revised map?

        To my mind, Monroe makes far more sense then Woodinville.
        Most of Woodinville traffic flows into Seattle and the Eastside
        Monroe’s traffic is more evenly split between Seattle/Eastside and Everett.
        Taking a Commuter train from Woodinville to Everett, then to Seattle to get to work will take any commuter well out of their way, and spend multiple extra hours a week in transit.
        Woodinville will at some point be on a Link line (ST3/4?), whether that is From Bellevue via the ESR, Redmond via the Redmond Spur, or Northgate via a Lake City Way spur.
        Monroe will never be on a link extension as far into the future as I am willing to gaze.
        Snohomish Junction to Monroe is nearly perfectly flat (Monroe is 6′ higher than Snohomish)
        Snohomish to Woodinville has to go over the Maltby hill. Maltby is over 300′ higher in elevation then either Snohomish or Woodinville.

      2. Lex, that’s nitpicky. It’s close enough to understand. :)

        The reason we dropped Monroe is that splitting the line would mean two different services, basically.

      3. Then don’t split the line. F
        or the reasons outlined above, it makes more sense to keep Monroe and Drop Woodinville, unless you have other reasons for keeping Woodinville over Monroe?

      4. Ending in Monroe does make more sense. The only reason to go to Woodinville is if you are going to keep on going down the eastside to Redmond, Kirkland, or Bellevue.

      5. I agree with the pro-Monroe consensus. Any Woodinville line should be routed down SR 522 into Seattle to meet Link at Northgate.

        While we’re talking about branches, why does the Vancouver corridor branch to Annacortes? It seems to me that all service north of Everett should run at least to Bellingham; the Annacortes branch would be better run as a perhaps-bus shuttle.

      6. So we’re all agreed.

        High-capacity commuter rail from the tiny, remote, cul-de-sac community to the economically struggling, parking-lot-dotted 269th-largest city in America!

      7. Not to be nit-picky (okay, maybe I am), but apparently Leavenworth is now in King County. Not sure if this is a good thing–I enjoy the place–or if the fine burghers of that town somehow got it in their head that Skykomish is part of the Sudetenland…. ;-)

      8. D. P.
        I am not arguing the merits of the Expansion, I am arguing the merits of the chosen leg of the expansion.

        Without nearly unlimited amounts of money, and massive abuses of Eminent Domain, our only option for heavy rail expansion is to use existing heavy rail corridors. This limits our Station locations to Cities that are on (or reasonably close) to those corridors. For commuter rail service, there would need to be a reasonable population heading from the end points towards the center of the system, I would definatly not advocate for a reverse commute option as we see on Sounder South.

        Say what you want to about the 4th largest city in the region, and the 6th largest city in the state, also if you think Monroe, is a “Tiny, Remote, Cul-de-sac community”, well let me point out that Monroe is roughly comparable to Tukwila in population, while Snohomish and Sumner are also roughly comparable population wise. Are you advocating the removal of the Tukwila and Sumner sounder stations from Sounder South?

      9. This is Tukwila. This is Monroe.

        One is, for better or for worse, part of the contiguous sprawl that surrounds the clear and unequivocal epicenter of the 15th largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the country. The other is an isolated former-frontier-town-turned-bedroom-community that is literally surrounded by wilderness. Comparing their municipal populations as in a vacuum is absolutely asinine.

        Everett is a tiny city. Even if it were a healthy tiny city — which it is not — it wouldn’t need or support any kind of commuter rail. Its activity catchment is small and highly diffuse. It does not crave spindly “feeder” rail from Monroe any more than Lowell, Massachusetts (similar size, similar economic impact) crave “feeder” rail from Pepperell.

        I mean, come on! Everett’s rail to Seattle runs almost completely empty!

        Just because a pair of rails happen to exist in the ground does not mean that high-capacity passenger services can or should be supported on them. Transit planning is not about finding every misshapen nail and whacking at it with your preferred hammer. Rail nerds and anyone who thinks filing PAC paperwork will give credibility to their pathologically dipshitted fantasy-mapping need to fucking understand that.

      10. Ben: I might like to pick your brains about the process necessary to form your own PAC. I might want to do so, to advocate for stuff in my own area…

      11. d.p., I agree with everything you’re saying here. What I meant above is that if Sounder is expanded somewhere east from Everett, it should go toward Monroe not Woodinville.

        How useful that extension would be depends on US 2 traffic congestion (been on it once at the tail end of rush hour), the price of slots (shouldn’t be too bad, considering we’re on the westward end of the huge bottleneck), and whether that money could be better used elsewhere (probably).

    2. If Virginia can do it, we can do it. It just means ensuring that Republicans go away, except for the ones willing to be rational on transportation.

      1. Yeah well, the only ones we really have the power to “make go away” are the ones that we can vote for/against… if you know people who live in those districts, agree with you, and are willing to organize, let us know.

        Part of me hopes that the economic argument would convince reasonable republicans (if any can make it through a primary!)… some of these rail lines serve agricultural interests in the east part of the state, and upgrading these lines would seem to make those kinds of operations more viable (at least to me).

        It would also seem to me that some of the people living east of the mountains in larger towns like Ellensburg and Spokane would like the idea of a rail transit option being available a few times a day like what we have between Seattle and Portland… but whether there would be enough ridership and political support in those areas for this (and not just rail enthusiasts) remains to be seen.

        I look forward to finding out though.

      2. New Jersey has done this for decades. They are an all suburban state and have regional rail right to left.

        So, ok, no one takes a train to the mall. But for getting to centralized locations, you park at the station and jump on a fast train. Same on Long Island.

        Doing this in Washington State would be the greatest use of our resources…a boon to all.

      3. And by “centralized locations”, he means the 80-90% of all trips that end up in or immediately adjacent to New York City.

      4. I’ve heard that the Meadowlands rail spur was built due to complaints about the terrible transit situation between there and the city, yes.

      5. The 49ers stadium is, of course, moving to Santa Clara because that city’s leaders are credulous hacks who were willing to light almost a billion dollars of their citizens’ money on fire. Not because the location makes any particular objective sense.

        Despite the “rail access” — the stadium is at the midpoint between nowhere and nowhere, which comports perfectly with VTA’s service approach — that new stadium will be a guaranteed 4-hour traffic clustercluck every time it is used.

      6. NJ is also the most densely populated state and sits snugly between NYC and Philly. Comparisons to WA are a little ridiculous, IMO.

      7. We may not even have to change the legislature to get something like this. The Washington Transportation Plan update is happening this year, and the advisory group for it wants to hear comments. There are at least two things in the current state rail plan that exist for a cited reason (in the plan) of ‘we got 20 comments’. Nobody’s even tried to demand the rail plan go farther.

      8. FWIW, people in NJ have also been known to take the train to Philly, although there are endless complaints about the shortage of services in that direction as opposed to the NYC direction.

    3. That’s an interesting regional rail map. How realistic is it in the foreseeable future though?

      This depends entirely on what part.

      I really don’t think extending service to Boise is that realistic anytime in the near future, because the track into Boise from the west is gone now. The new main line goes south of town quite a ways. Once your only station is in the suburbs there start to be some serious problems in attracting ridership.

      Can we please please please drop the term “commuter rail”? It is a bit like calling the Washington State Ferries “commuter boats”. People use the train to get to places other than employment, and the operations should reflect this.

      Ever hear of the New Mexico “RailRunner” service? It is supposed “commuter rail” operating between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. When it was proposed everyone said there is no way New Mexico had anywhere near enough people to justify rail service. Rail service only works in Germany, France, and London, etc.

      RailRunner service is so popular on weekends that more trains are being asked for by passengers on overcrowded trains. The only thing they lack is operating budget to cover them – they certainly don’t lack passengers.

      Thus, we really need to stop thinking of these types of operations as “commuter rail” and more as part of an integral part of the transportation picture that meets more than job to home transportation needs.

      Obviously I am a bit prejudiced about these things because of where I live, but it seems to me we have a perfect opportunity to pry one loose from the highway lobby this time. The current Columbia River Crossing proposal is for a $3.2 billion bridge, which is actually “pared down” from a much larger project that would extend freeway improvements all the way through Vancouver WA. Those projects would happen anyway with the CRC, but in the current proposal they are separated out to make the project seem smaller to the legislative bodies in both states.

      $3.2 billion buys Vancouver, Washington several minutes in faster commute times to Portland. The light rail portion of this would be laughable if it weren’t so ridiculous: it already takes MAX over an hour to get from the Columbia River to downtown Portland. Extending MAX into Vancouver is hardly a solution to this problem.

      During the best of times, driving from downtown Vancouver to downtown Portland takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

      I’ve been on Amtrak trains that have done this trip in about 11. If the line is congested it will take longer, certainly. However, the line as it already exists is competitive with driving.

      This would be a huge opportunity to show how a good rail transit proposal is better than expanding existing highways. For the $3.2 billion that is being proposed for this bridge it would be possible to upgrade the BNSF from Portland to Seattle into one hell of a railroad, including enough capacity for reasonably frequent local trains between downtown Vancouver and downtown Portland.

      Sadly, that isn’t an option being considered. The highway lobbyists have convinced Salem that a 12 lane wide highway bridge is the only solution.

      1. @Glenn,

        It does not take MAX “over an hour” to get from Expo Center to downtown Portland. It is exactly one half hour scheduled from Pioneer Courthouse Square to Expo Center or vice versa. Going on to Vancouver would add about seven minutes for a running time from 8th and Washington to PCHS of 37 minutes.

        Yes, MAX seems slow because it kind of loafs down Interstate Avenue; if it went 45 instead of 35 it would make a big difference in the perceived travel time, though it would actually only save about five minutes per trip.

        Your idea for commuter rail certainly has much more rapid speeds, but it lets everyone off at Portland Union Station. They then have to get off the train, walk through the station and three blocks to the southwest corner of the Greyhound station and then wait for …. the Yellow Line or maybe a Green. So if someone got on the train at Vancouver at the same time as the MAX left 8th and Washington she or he would usually be at the station in twelve to thirteen minutes. Not always, but often enough to give credit. Deboarding would probably take an average of two minutes, the walk through the station another one and the three blocks to the MAX stop about five. So now we’re at 21 minutes. The Yellow and Green trains are supposed to be equidistant but southbound they aren’t reliable, so figure an average wait time of five minutes. Now we’re up to 26 minutes which is spitting distance from the 36 that MAX would take. Especially since it would take a couple of minutes extra to drive west to the train station for the vast majority of riders.

        MAX to Vancouver is NOT meant to capture a significant percentage of the existing trips to Portland. Few people are going to drive to the garage by the VA hospital and suffer an additional two stops; folks who will park-and-ride will mostly continue to do so at Salmon Creek or 99th Street TC. What MAX to Vancouver might do — and “no”, it’s not a slam-dunk — is reshape the growth which will come to Vancouver over the next two decades such that more of it is in a newly revitalized walkable downtown Vancouver. More of those trips will choose the MAX to access other parts of Portland; there might even be peak hour direct trains from the Yellow Line to the Blue. That used to happen; the 6:58 and 7:28 departures from Delta Park ran through to Merlo Road and went out of service at Elmonica giving people a one-seat ride at least as far as Nike.

        Finally, the per passenger trip operating cost of heavy rail commuter trains is at least three times that of LRT, so there would certainly not be 15 minute service throughout the day on it.

        Commuter rail on the extreme west side of Vancouver by the metal recycling facility will not produce a gentrified, dense walkable downtown Vancouver. MAX might if the city is brave enough to capitalize on it.

      2. There has been an untoward and objectionable refusal by both Oregon and Washington to upgrade the Amtrak/BNSF route from Vancouver, WA to Portland Union Station. It needs a fairly small list of improvements.

        The highway lobbyists for the CRC absolutely refuse to consider alterations to the BNSF bridge as part of solving the problems for *shipping*, which shows that they’re highway lobbyists who don’t give a damn about shipping.

      3. @Nathanael,

        What point are you trying to make about Portland Vancouver transportation? That it’s better to have commuter rail than LRT? That both should be provided?

      4. His point is that he knows lots of assorted facts about the national main-line rail network, but cares little about the places those rails pass through, which exist only in the abstract to him because they’re thousands of mile away and he refuses to ever set foot on an airplane.

        This is the location of Vancouver’s “potential commuter rail”. It is nowhere. It is not useful. It is not going to get more useful, even if you “upgrade” the route to shave 2 minutes off today’s whopping 14.

        This is dumber than the suggestions to “fix” Ballard transit by giving it a Chittenden Locks platform on Sounder.

      5. d.p.

        Just for the record, I agree completely with your consignment of Vancouver-Portland commuter rail service to the looney bin. As you say the station, situated as it is in the middle of an active railroad wye and several blocks from ANY housing existing or planned, is nowhere. Even if you extended the runs north and east of downtown Vancouver, the tracks run along the absolute edge of the built-up area; everyone would be parking and riding. Buses make a LOT more sense for transporting suburban Clark County citizens who work in Oregon.

        But let’s be very clear that if the MAX doesn’t come across the river with its redevelopment potential — and yes I know it’s ridiculously expensive to bring it — then the hundred or two hundred thousand immigrants to Clark County likely in the next couple of decades will all be sprawled out over the blueberry farms of north county and an opportunity to build a real city will likely have been lost.

  5. Just got my Snohomish County Jury Summons in the mail. It has detailed instructions of how to get to the parking garage, how to validate parking, and how your mileage reimbursment is calculated, but not a single mention of any transit. Being 3 blocks from Everett station and having its own Swift station, the county should update their directions to include these.

    1. Good idea. When you show up, why not mention it to the clerk of the court? (Or email now.)

    2. If they mention bus routes, people may want reimbursement for their bus tickets, when summoned to court or jury duty.

      1. Indeed. King County includes a bus ticket with the jury summons, and give out additional bus tickets for each day of service. They specifically advise jurors to take the bus if at all possible, because while there is a mileage allowance for drivers they will not pay for parking downtown.

  6. Whoa, interesting map. I could take local transit to Spokane, Pullman, Boise, Portland (in addition to Bolt Bus), and Ocean Shores?

      1. Keep in mind that it’s not Omak residents that are the big target – it’s access for people in the NE quarter of the state. Local transit and intercity bus connectors would reorient around this.

      2. I think the only way you would ever see service to Omak, is if the line was extended up US-97 to Penticton, which has a big tourist draw. Even then, I could only ever see it being a novelty train, like the old Mt. Rainier line, that runs once a week.

        Because honestly, beyond Chelan, there has never been and likely will never be, enough demand (tourism or residents) to justify anything more than the WSDOT Intercity Bus Program (points made in the blog post).

      3. Ben, respectfully, as someone who grew up in North Idaho, if you think Omak is anywhere near the “NE corner of the state” you should really get out more. :) Omak to Newport is the same distance as Seattle to Portland, and Omak to Spokane is the same distance as Seattle to Vancouver BC.

      4. Zach, it’s closer to the NE corner of the state than Wenatchee, so it increases the catchbasin. Don’t nitpick.

      5. Ben, there’s no one in the new corner of the state. Like what, 4000 people in all of ferry county?

      6. “catchbasin”

        What are you talking about? There’s like two roads in and out of Omak. It would take you so long to get there from really, anywhere, that you might as well just drive all the way to Wenattache.

    1. That’s the idea – reliable transit to all the population centers in the state that actually goes to the core of each town or city.

      1. Ben, I’m impressed, I don’t think that I’d be able to call Omak (pop. ~4800) a population center without cracking up.

      2. 2034 is way too pessimistic. The preliminary studies are already being done. If ST3 goes to ballot in 2016, it will have to have something for South King, and the already voter-approved and studied extension will likely be first in line. An elevated line over Pac Highway or I-5 is one of the cheapest and fastest types to build, just look at the TIB segment. So give it three years for planning and five years for construction, which is probably more than necessary, and you’re at 2024.

      3. Ben, we don’t even really have good medium speed rail Seattle-Portland. I’d back some expansion to Spokane, but we need hourly departure, 2.5 hour duration trains to Portland before any other intercity rail needs are considered.

      4. Steve, the current plan to get to that got quietly shifted from an implementation date of 2017 (it was a 20 year plan in 1997) to… 2035. We need to organize to ask for more, not tell each other we can’t do it.

      5. I’ll ask for more trains to portland, but I will fight against trains to Omak. I bet the residents there would agree with me, too.

  7. Knowing Omar Tahir Garrett (the guy who clocked then-Mayor Paul Schell with a bullhorn and then claimed hundreds of witnesses were lying, and had previously led a faction fighting over control of the building that is now the African-American Heritage Musem, mostly by trying to occupy the building), I don’t think he is after preserving that building. He is after controlling it. I wouldn’t be worried about his ability to use the law on his side. I’d be more worried about his willingness to break the law and organize a squat to prevent anyone else, including the landowers, do anything with the building. With his hand tipped, I expect SPD will be watching the property day and night.

    I also don’t think he is out to keep anyone out of Seattle, unless he happens to have a problem with their ethnicity (and I’m not sure that is really where he is coming from).

    1. What’s so annoying about this whole thing is that when actually interesting and useful buildings come up for demolition, no one cares. The apartments on 8th and Howell by the Greyhound block are a good example.

      Here comes something not very useful and not at all interesting, and yet there actually is a legitimate process to nominate it for saving. Ridiculous.

      1. Careful… no one seems to be claiming it’s architecturally interesting; rather they are saying that it is of great cultural importance. From my position of white privilege, I think they’re insane, but I’m at least willing to entertain the thought that I’m blinkered.

      2. William, I think you misunderstand me. I am saying there is a legitimate process to save “culturally important” buildings, which is fine (I don’t really have any problem with that), but it’s ridiculous that there is no system to save useful/otherwise interesting buildings.

        Cultural & architecturally important are only two things that make buildings important.

      3. Sorry, you’re right. That said, I’d expect the free market to do a pretty good job of maximizing usefulness — although you may have something a little different in mind than I do when you say “useful”.

      4. That said, I’d expect the free market to do a pretty good job of maximizing usefulness — although you may have something a little different in mind than I do when you say “useful”.

        Usefulness to a society is different from usefulness to its owner. For example, if there were oil under the smith tower, someone might decide the oil is worth more than the building. That’s not what would be good for the city. Sorry that’s a bad example, but I think you understand my point.

      5. The Hadreen site apartments are frustrating to me, too. They’re not particularly special, but it’s an older-style stone building, with units far more dense than are typically built today, and are pretty cheap for being downtown. I wish the hotel could just build around them, and get a height bonus for saving workforce housing.

    1. In southern Sweden, the trains for the map’s orange lines are Easter-egg purple. In Skansk Swedish, they say “Po-ga-toag”, meaning “Little Boy Train.” Electric streamliners, video readout tells passengers speeds like a hundred miles an hour on track like you’d see around Arlington.

      Would definitely decongest Highway 2 over Stevens. SWYLLT, Bruce- meaning “Smile When you Laugh Like That.”

    2. >> LOL @ that map.

      If you even had the money, why would you build this? I can’t even imagine how it would be useful.

      How many people would actually take that Wenatchee-Omak spur? Fucking no one, that’s who. There are 41,000 people in Okanagan county. If everyone with a commute there took the train every day, it’d look significantly less busy than Central link.

      Completely and utterly ridiculous.

      1. J. Reddoch, we should build a personal system for you!

        Would you even take it once a week? This map suggests running it all day, every day.

      2. And why shouldn’t we? We build state highway expansion out there that cost more than this would.

      3. No, they should not build a personal system for me – but to say no one would use it is a bit of an exaggeration.

      4. Why won’t anyone think of North Omak?????

        (Seriously, when the big boxes came to town–the WalMart and Home Depot–they located just north of downtown. WSDOT shortly thereafter put up a mileage sign south of town that said something like “Omak 8, North Omak 9.” Last I was in the area it was still there. It’s been a running joke for years.)

      5. It was because of that WalMart and Home Depot that the county actually had to put in a second traffic light. I think they are up to three signalized intersections now.

  8. For those that still aren’t convinced of the economics of rising rent prices in Seattle, I submit to you, Equity Residential’s Annual Report:

    “We seek to maximize the income and capital appreciation of our properties by investing in markets (our core markets)
    that are characterized by conditions favorable to multifamily property appreciation. We are focused primarily on the six core
    coastal, high barrier to entry markets of Boston, New York, Washington DC, Southern California, San Francisco and Seattle. These
    markets generally feature one or more of the following characteristics that allow us to increase rents:
    High barriers to entry where, because of land scarcity or government regulation, it is difficult or costly to build
    new apartment properties, creating limits on new supply;
    High home ownership costs;8
    Strong economic growth leading to household formation and job growth, which in turn leads to high demand
    for our apartments;
    Urban core locations with an attractive quality of life and higher wage job categories leading to high resident
    demand and retention; and
    Favorable demographics contributing to a larger pool of target residents with a high propensity to rent apartments.”

    1. “High barriers to entry where, because of land scarcity or government regulation, it is difficult or costly to build new apartment properties, creating limits on new supply;”


  9. Toyota’s Bob Carter says far fewer stations needed in shift from gas to hydrogen

    The reason, Carter said, is that a hydrogen infrastructure will be easier to install than people think. He referenced a study conducted by the University of California (which we’ve heard about before) that found that California would only need 68 hydrogen stations to refuel the roughly 10,000 H2 vehicles that Toyota hopes to sell in by 2016 or so. That’s a lot more than the nine that exist today, but the state has already approved funding for 20 new stations by 2015 and then up to 100 by 2024. Then he said this: “If every vehicle in California ran on hydrogen, we could meet refueling logistics with only 15 percent of the nearly 10,000 gasoline stations currently operating in the state.”

    1. John,

      So some manufacturer’s flack claims that hydrogen fueling an be accomplished with 1/7 the number of facilities that currently serve motorists? Doesn’t that mean that the average “trip to the gas station” will be a lot longer? Maybe not seven times longer but close. And doesn’t it mean that the individual depots will on average have to be seven times larger in order to accommodate the vehicle queues?

      It seems like it to me. Now from a land use perspective, this may be a feature, not a bug. But you can be double-darn-betcha CERTAIN that the public will disagree.

    2. The infrastructure needed for electric car charging is much smaller than that. Largely because most places *already have electricity*.

      1. I love agreeing with Bailo about stuff, so I’m going to jump into this. The parking garage my office uses has some EV charging stations, and there’s this whole crazy etiquette deal about unplugging and re-plugging people’s vehicles, and people are always getting angry at eachother because they need to be hooked up to free electricity at work for hours just to make sure they can get home. Every time an email thread starts about this I laugh my way to the bike rack.

        Private EVs only really make sense for people with dedicated parking at home, and maybe at work, too. So they’re pretty much only for people with suburban garages. But wait a minute… I grew up in the suburbs and I know what sorts of trips people make to run errands in the suburbs. Multi-hour, multi-destination trips, dozens of miles at a time. You can drive a hundred miles in a day easily.

        Electric cars without some kind of faster supplemental fuel are not ready. May never be.

      2. Living with a suburban garage and a car with a practical range over 100 miles, I don’t see the problem.

        Yes, private electric cars are pretty much only for people with suburban garages, or those rich enough to have urban garages for the hell of it. They are quite suitable for people in such a position.

        If you can’t afford an electric car, you can’t afford to live in the car-dependent suburbs… or you soon won’t be able to afford to!

        For intercity trips and for urban living, automobiles are impractical.

  10. I’m sorry, but that map at the top of the thread is insane. “All day local rail” to Ocean Shores? To Omak? To Pullman? To Boise via Walla-Walla???? How do you even propose to go south from Walla-Walla by rail? The line that winds through the Palouse hills past Milton-Freewater dead ends at a little town called Weston with what looks like it used to be a wye to a through line on to Pendleton. But it’s not there now; you can see the “ghost-of-way” on through Athena and Adams and down Wildhorse Creek to Rodeoville. But why would anyone propose putting it back?

    And why does Anacortes need a rail shuttle to Mt. Vernon?

    Greys Harbor Transit runs between Aberdeen and Olympia six times a day with mostly-empty buses. There is once daily service between Wenatchee and Omak, and twice a day between Spokane and Pullman. What possible justification can there be for running trains over these very lightly patronized bus lines?

    Then there are proposed high speed lines between Seattle and Vancouver BC and Seattle and Spokane, both of which would involve significant new rights of way. It looks like the proposal is to follow I-5 between Seattle and Everett and I-90 to and over Snoqualmie Pass. How do these lines access downtown Seattle? The map shows a cross-service transfer at Seattle, so the new station would have to be close enough to KSS to make the transfer to commuter rail. Unfortunately, the DSTT and IDS are in the way.

    It’s not clear where the Ellensburg to just-north-of-Lind line will go, but I expect it would use the old Milwaukee east of the river. But you double-darn-betcha can’t use the old MILW over the pass between E’burg and the river. It’s currently a bicycle trail, so you’d get cyclists up in arms, and it’s pretty wiggly for HSR. You’d probably need to drill a tunnel through that solid basalt hill down to the crossing at Beverly. Then of course, you’d be taking the bike trail on the other side of the river as well.

    All to give “HSR” to a small city with an anemic transit ridership to which there would already be direct “all day local rail” service via Everett and Wenatchee. Oh, and Coulee City. You’d detour off the BNSF main line to serve Coulee City? Yes, it could be done; there is a track — or more properly, at one time there was one between Coulee City and the NP/GN crossing east of Soap Lake. You can see its ghost-of-way on Google Maps as well. But why? There is NO public transportation that takes one to Coulee City today. There’s no “there” there; why add twenty miles to the trip and millions of dollars to the cost of this boondoggle to serve a place you can’t get a meal after 7:30 PM?

    This proposal is total overkill. Scam will have a field day with it.

    1. You may call it crazy.

      But the last time I took a jaunt to Ocean Shores (two summers ago) to stay at a condo rental, I was amazed at how backwoods the highway system was to get there!

      Here we have hundreds of miles of open beach and plenty of hotels and condoes..yet we’re all cramming into one tight space to get a patch on Golden Gardens? It’s sick.

      We should have expresses to these places. Just because there is no traffic now, doesn’t mean that these would not be key destination points — if people had the means to get there!

      This has been my point all along. Why are we fighting for scraps on a two person table, when we’re sitting in the middle of banquet hall big enough for millions?!

      1. People DO have a means to get there: American and foreign automobile manufacturers sell between twelve and sixteen million of them each and every year.

        And the reason that the highway between Hoquiam and Ocean Shores is so “backwoods” is that it doesn’t have much traffic!”

      2. John, you are the biggest supporter of this, and you haven’t been there in even a year!

      3. Anandakos, instead of publicly calling your allies crazy, why don’t you next time just call, or email, the people starting to talk about this, so that maybe you would understand the utility of such a map and an idea? works.

      4. Yeah, Anandakos, the crazy train is leaving the station — on its way to Omak! — and you need to be on it!

      1. Yes, and yet it has the beauty and resources of some of the most desirable places in California!

      2. @John,

        All the climate models show that warming will cause temperate zone places which currently have frequent rain — like, for instance, the Pacific Northwest — to get more of it while those places which have little rain to get less of it. So, yes, global warming is real, but it’s not going to turn Ocean Shores into Santa Barbara.

        What it it is likely to do is turn Santa Barbara into Ensenada.

        And please, no Tea Party panic about “La Reconquista”. I mean ecologically not politically.

    2. You must have missed the memo about the 57 million people expected to arrive in Washington by 2100, some of whom will have to be housed in planned skyscraper clusters on the shores of the Grand Coulee, where they will need all-day access to the budding Shanghai-esque megalopolis of “Everenatchee”.

    3. @Ben,

      I apologize for the hyperbole; the name on the map is no one who’s ever posted on the site that I could recall, so I concluded that it was just something someone sent in.

      That said, I stand by the overall thrust of the post. It’s overkill and a big waste of money. Rubber tired vehicles can serve these myriad branch lines much more flexibly, frequently and less expensively than can trains.

  11. You must have missed the memo about the 57 million people expected to arrive in Washington by 2100, some of whom will have to be housed in planned skyscraper clusters on the shores of the Grand Coulee, where they will need all-day access to the budding Shanghai-esque megalopolis of “Everenatchee”.

    1. Even if no one else shows up (my prediction) it’s still worth it to un-jam the millions who are already bottled up in Seattle and let us all enjoy the full extent of Washington State on a regular basis.

      I would love it if we could manage our current population — about the size of Sweden — but enhance the lives of the existing people, rather than constantly bidding to cram in more, and decrease the livability and increase the costs for each.

      1. Well, the plan has won John Bailo over.

        If that isn’t the mark of a rational real-world proposal, I don’t know what is.

      2. John,

        I agree with your last paragraph, but it isn’t going to happen. As the Plains States and Mountain West dry out people will flee to places with water: New England, the Lakes states and the Northwest.

        But even that said, I expect that d.p.’s Everenatchee megalopolis will never come to pass. Although, it might be nice to make Stevens Pass ski area and city park…….

      3. (continuation),

        That you want to “let us all enjoy the full extent of Washington State on a regular basis” is admirable, John. But that is a perfect job for the automobile. In fact, I’d say that is the very number one best task for cars. You’re right that everyone needs to get out in the clean air and the beautiful Washington greenery regularly.

        But they don’t all need — or want — to live there full time. It’s a gigantic PITA to have to get in the car and drive five miles for a loaf of bread or gallon of milk every time. What a soul-deadening lifestyle.

        Now for the voluntary primitivist folks who grow a significant portion of their own food and do arts or crafts for cash income to live there: great! They don’t go to the store all that often.

        The rest of us by all rights all ought to be in reasonable walking distance of a full-service food store and pharmacy for a healthy adult. I know that will not happen given our existing sprawl, but we really should not be creating more.

      4. @Anandakos maybe automobiles are more efficient for many of these routes, but I don’t think it is worth writing off all of the ideas here. I am a bit concerned when I see a complete dismissal of all rail projects outside of the Puget sound region.

        Ok, maybe a train to Omak won’t pencil out, but I like the idea of pilot project expanding service between Seattle and Spokane…. something similar to what was done between Seattle and Portland.

        Connecting somewhat distant major city centers with a single form transit that does not require hours and hours of transfers in-between is definitely a useful thing to have around. The single Empire builder route is not really enough to build service demand though, and spending some resources to upgrade existing lines that are under used (like the Stampede Pass line?) might not only be good for increased mobility, but it could also improve agricultural freight movement which I would suspect at least some people on the east side of the Cascades would care about.

        If more usable transit frequencies is just for us out here on the west side, I think you can never expect to change any minds on the east side about voting for any transit funds state wide. Maybe most people would never change their minds for ideological reasons anyway… but you never know, maybe we could actually work together as a full state on some things again.

      5. A daylight trip between Seattle and Spokane, that stopped in some of eastern WA’s population centers (Ellensburg, Yakima, Tri-Cities) would be a good thing. It would probably soon get more riders in state than the Empire Builder.

      6. @Charles, Dan,

        I can see possible value in a Seattle-Tri-Cities route because there are a number of intermediate cities and it’s mostly signaling that would need to be paid for. BNSF fairly recently rehabbed the track structure between Auburn and Ellensburg.

        But rebuilding the old Milwaukee line is simply too expensive for the value returned. Ellensburg would be the only sizable intermediate stop; Moses Lake is about thirty miles north of the old right of way. How many people are really going to take the train between Seattle and Spokane? The transit there isn’t all that great and there’s no obvious place for a decent parking garage near the train station.

        Look, I love trains too; I grew up in a railroad family and have ridden 25 or 30 thousand miles on intercity trains in my life. Trains make sense in the Cascades corridor, although Bolt is hurting the ridership. If you want to provide a nice ride for people between Spokane, Ellensburg and Seattle, buy a bunch of those super-comfy Prevost buses from Mexico, ban smoking on them, and run them every hour. That will handle the demand.

      7. There’s a reason most of the people on this thread never show up for anything. They can convince themselves we don’t need it. :)

      8. @Anandakos I wasn’t talking about rebuilding the Milwaukee line (Iron Horse). We might eventually want that, but since the line through Stampede pass already exists, and is underutilized (because it needs a bit of work) I think that is where we should start. Seeing this just as a transit issue is where your vision is falling short I think.

        A renovated Stampede Pass line would serve freight and passangers and would be a great first investment. We would also stand a chance of getting some Eastern Washington voters on our side for this.

        I don’t see how this is a bad idea.

      9. The cost of improving any rail line along the I-90 corridor to the point where it would be time and schedule-competitive with a nonstop bus along I-90 seems prohibitive. Both lines are currently single track. To achieve a decent schedule, you would have to double-track it all the way. To achieve decent travel times, you would need to straighten a lot of sharp curves, probably by building new tunnels.

        What we need for Seattle->Spokane service is more buses with fewer intermediate stops, not trains.

      10. @Charles,

        I understood that you were proposing using Stampede rather than Snoqualmie over the Cascades. But I mistakenly thought you had advocated the Ellensburg to Lind segment, which is what I was opposing. It was Zach who was advocating for that (and Ben of course, since the map is his proposal). My apologies to you.

        As an aside I completely agree with Zach’s wonderment about the proposal to take an HSR line through Issaquah and North Bend and then over Snoqualmie Pass. If people have questions about LRT on a floating bridge, how much greater would the impacts of a full length heavy rail train be?

        I also note that it points east out of Spokane with the notation “To Chicago”. Not. Going. To. Happen.

        Notwithstanding my overall skepticism, I don’t think that everything on the map is worthless; specifically, there might well be a good case to be made for Seattle-Tri-Cities with stops at Auburn, Ellensburg, Yakima, and Toppenish along the way. Those are significant places — especially Ellensburg which has a University and Yakima which has lots of relatively poor people — that are far enough apart that driving is a journey, not a commute, and therefore for some people it’s worthwhile to make the mode change at both ends. It’s also the only line outside the Cascades corridor which doesn’t need significant trackway investment — it does require signaling and communications of course — AND isn’t already a heavily used freight line (e.g. it has some capacity without spending big on sidings).

        I do think that turning 90 degrees back north to Spokane would be a flop, though. Bolt would eat the train for lunch.

        All the other branches are Bridges to Nowhere better served by rubber tired vehicles.


        I assume the named towns and cities are proposed stops. Why on the Columbia River route are Stevenson and North The Dalles skipped while Plymouth (pop ~400) and Wishram (official pop. 213) have stops? Is this going to be the Washington Wine Train?

      11. I also note that it points east out of Spokane with the notation “To Chicago”. Not. Going. To. Happen.

        Already does happen. Once per day in fact. It’s called the Empire Builder.

      12. @Glenn

        I grew up in the Chicago area. When I first came out to Seattle, I decided to take the Empire Builder. Seeing so much of the country like that was a nice thing to do once, but every time I’ve gone back to visit my family, I’ve flown. Anybody who cares about getting to their destination in a timely manner is going to fly.

        Flying takes about 4.5 hours, but the Empire Builder takes about 45 hours. To get an HSR line running between Seattle and Chicago running fast enough that is was a remotely acceptable form of transportation would require higher average speeds than any HSR line anywhere in the world.

        This might make sense if there were a bunch of highly populated intermediate stops along the way, but Seattle to Minneapolis is mosly 1650 miles of farmland and nature. Spokane is the most populous city along the way, and even if you include the most generous definition of it’s metropolitan area, it’s only about 675,000 people, and you’ve still got about 1400 miles of near nothingness to get to Minneapolis.

        Central Link has about 20x the ridership of the Empire builder, and it’s a only starter line that been open for less than 5 years. Nearly any Metro routes that serve Seattle have a higher ridership than the Empire Builder. It would make so much more sense to spend the money expanding and improving Seattle and Portland’s rail and bus systems- which substantial numbers of people actually use on a daily basis- rather than running HSR rail across some of the most empty sections of the United States.

      13. @Glenn,

        Thank you for the snide come back, but I was talking about the purple line which has an arrow pointing off the map and says “To Chicago”. Look at the map again and then look at the legend: Purple Line = “High Speed Intercity Rail”. The Builder is FAR from “high speed rail” though it is of course “intercity”.

        HSR Seattle to Chicago is Not. Going. To. Happen. There are over 2000 miles between the end points with four relatively small cities and two big ones along the way. If they were spread evenly across the prairie, well maybe. But they’re not. The two big ones are within 400 miles of the other end point with one of the minors between them. Two of the other three minors are within 250 miles of the second big city. So, five of the six cities are within 650 miles of the other end point (about 30%) and in between is the Great American Desert.

        HSR is not going to be built across that gap. Airliners are so vastly more efficient in the use of capital goods and human staff that the costs are staggeringly more expensive for the train. Sure, the fuel is less and the capital cost per vehicle is higher for a plane. But the plane can make five round trips in the time it takes the train to go ONE WAY!

        Also, it takes at least seven railroad crews (head end, conductor and brake) and two on-board crews to move the train between the end-points. The train carries about four 737-H loads or two round trips, so if the revenues are equal the other three round trips are extra profit for the airline.

        Long distance trains are pleasant ways to see the country away from all the billboards and cookie-cutter convenience stores. But they’re no substitute for aircraft for anything greater than 500 miles.

      14. Anandakos: I’d nitpick over the “500 miles” number because 500 miles is quite an arbitrary number. I believe the 1038 miles from Denver to Chicago is quite viable (with intermediate points such as Omaha and the Quad Cities — and particularly easy terrain for rail-building — and particularly out-of-the-way airports on both ends).

        You are of course completely right about Spokane-Minneapolis; it’ll never have HSR, and probably not even “medium-speed rail”. The population distribution is too thin, even if you go on one of the better routes via Billings or Butte or Helena. Which are seriously deteroriated at this point. It’s lifeline rail, not mass transportation.

  12. The map above shows Seattle-Spokane HSR via I-90, Issaquah, and North Bend. I don’t see this as remotely feasible without a new Lake Washington bridge, huge eminent domain takings, and a 5-mile tunnel between Preston and Snoqualmie. If we’re dreaming at that level I’d rather convince SPU to allow trains through the Cedar River Watershed on a rebuilt Milwaukee Road.

    If we’re talking realistically about better rail service to Spokane, there are a couple ways we could get there. The Ellensburg-Lind connector is probably the most sensible project on that whole map. Building that connector, crown-cutting Stampede, and putting in welded rail would give us a 312-mile Seattle-Spokane corridor. That would be 14 miles shorter than the current Stevens Pass route and allow service via Auburn, Maple Valley, Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Othello, Ritzville, Cheney, and Spokane.

    1. It would also give a third good route to move agricultural freight through the state… its my understanding that right now they run empty grain cars along this route now because its not really safe for much of anything else without more investment.

      So I think that route at least has a lot in favor for it. Maybe even enough to make some legislators from the east side of the mountains consider voting for transit bills… well at least I would like to hope we can still work together on things in this state. (Am I really asking for too much?)

      1. Stampede Pass is dark territory.

        No signals, just train orders controlling traffic, and not enough sidings.
        Also, the Stampede Pass tunnel isn’t tall enough for double-stack container trains.

        BNSF is using Stampede Pass as a single direction ‘return leg’ eastbound for most of the empties – coal, grain, and oil.

        The grade along the Columbia River is not as steep as Stampede, or Stevens, hence that route for the westbound coal trains.

        Running single direction freight works just fine for BNSF, and I would suppose if the state is interested in bi-directional running, then improvements would be on their nickel

      2. @Jim Cusick

        Yes this is true, but that is probably more realistic to work with something like Stampede pass than rebuilding the entire Iron Horse ROW.

        Its my understanding that BNSF’s Cascade tunnel that the Empire Builder uses is already at full capacity. There aren’t a lot of other options, and using an existing under utilized rail line seems on the surface to be a less expensive option than what the Iron Horse represents… if I understand it correctly, there are significant portions of the route that require more than just laying rail, but significant re-construction of the ROW as well.

      3. @ Jim,

        There are long stretches where the MILW and NP run side by side between Easton and Cle Elum, so adding sidings where might be fairly inexpensive; just earthmove for a connector at each end and rebuild the MILW roadbed. Between Cle Elum and Ellensburg they’re usually on opposite sides of the river, but a couple of bridges at narrow points could link to make a siding. And, south of Yakima the NP used to have a number of sidings; it was their main line to Seattle and they gathered a lot of produce in the Valley. Finally, both sides of the hill up to the Stampede Tunnel used to be double tracked.

        So only through the Yakima Canyon would there be difficulty with sidings, and the truth is that even with the empties freight traffic is not a big deal. The canyon would be a 25 mile bottleneck, but the freights could be slotted around the passenger trains and there are the ghost-of-ways of three sidings in the canyon.

      4. The Stevens Pass tunnel east of Everett is at capacity but that is because with diesels the tunnel fills up with smoke, and it takes half an hour for the huge blowers to empty the tunnel of fumes to the point where it is safe for the next train to enter.

        Returning the tunnel to electric operation – at least for passenger service, could increase capacity. They are already operating dual mode electric / diesel services in some parts of the world. This could be an ideal location for another such service.

        The Stampede Pass tunnel was originally not high enough for container trains. However, the BNSF did dig out from under the track through the tunnel, so that it is lower now than it once was. Last I had heard they could run stack trains through there if they wanted to, but very rarely do as the Columbia River Gorge is the cheaper route for much traffic.

    2. Zach, instead of going “this map requires this one thing, and I prefer this other thing”, why don’t you go “hey Ben, what were you thinking of here?” Public praise, private criticism, it goes far. :)

      1. Hey Ben, I do like the map. Even if parts may be heavily criticized here, bold statements are useful for getting the conversation started.

        We are a little low on detail here on what looks like a resurrected Iron Horse route. Can you fill in some details of what you are thinking for the corridor?

        Any particular reason to avoid Stampede pass?

      2. And more specifically, Ben, how do you envision the Iron Horse route getting around Lake Washington? And how do you plan to get it over the pass – will you tear down the bike trail currently in the ROW, will you need to dig new tunnels, or what? If you do plan to destroy the Iron Horse bike trail, what advantages of Snoqualmie Pass over Stampede Pass lead you to think it’d be worth it – especially when the Stampede Pass route joins I-90 in time to hit the Cle Elum station?

      1. No, I mean locally… like for a Spokane to Seattle line on other existing track.

        The problems of the Empire builder is something Washington State can’t deal with alone.

      2. However the delays are primarily caused by the freight congestion in North Dakota, the oil trains in particular.

        The Empire Builder stays on schedule fairly well within the state, save for any congestion at the Stevens Pass tunnel.

      3. @Jim Cusick

        This is less about the Empire Builder itself and more about reasonable travel times within the state (for folks living here). It would be nice to add additional routes to the existing Steven’s line, but its my understanding that tunnel space is maxed out.

        This is why I recommend a Stampede Pass bypass route.

        We probably could try to increase capacity at Steven’s pass by widening the tunnel or electrifying the rails through the tunnel (I think we can do this, not an expert here though!). Electrifying the tunnel would allow trains that run through it by switching off the diesel engines for its length so it wouldn’t have to be shut down so much for ventilation. Given how much the tunnel is used now though we would probably need an alternate route anyway while that work was going on.

        Stampede pass is barely used right now, so getting BNSF to shut it down for jointly funded upgrades (to add passenger service) seems less problematic. It could also be used as a true bypass route for Steven’s pass and enable complicated repairs and upgrades elsewhere without stopping traffic.

  13. I find it curious that nobody has yet commented on the Kirkland Reporter article about the City of Kirkland apparently looking into gadgetbahn transit for a possible solution to providing transit on the Eastside Rail Corridor.

    Or maybe they just want to attract a conference to the city…

    1. If they figure out a way to run down the ERC from Totem Lake to Bellevue and then get across 405 to Bellevue TC, then Gadgetbahn away. Get the ROW in place and that would be a fine place to monkey around with Morgantown-style GRT. The 234 and 235 are so slow that there’s really not much to lose, and if they’re serious about revitalizing Totem Lake at least that would get people to go there to gawk. But getting to Bellevue TC isn’t a tech problem, it’s an old fashioned building-across-a-giant-freeway problem, so they’ll run into the old fashioned infrastructure questions.

      1. The ERC already goes right past South Kirkland P&R and the future location of Hospital Station. Why would some hypothetical new transit need to serve Bellevue TC?

      2. @aw: RR B crosses 405, too, but a transfer makes all the difference. It’s not about getting to any old transit stop, it’s about serving trips between Bellevue and Kirkland well. The core of Bellevue, where all the housing and jobs are (it would, of course, be better to go farther west into Bellevue than the transit center, because there’s a lot of Bellevue west of there), and the small walkable core of Kirkland. Bellevue TC is about as far east as you can be and seriously claim you’re serving downtown Bellevue. Across 405 you might as well be nowhere, and horrific interchanges like the one at 8th enforce this situation long-term.

        The 234 and 235 run between Bellevue and Kirkland today, but they’re too slow and indirect for anyone with any other option — using the roads we have, there’s no fast, direct way to go between Bellevue and Kirkland if you insist on serving South Kirkland P&R. If you just stay on today’s ERC you can get from fringe-of-downtown-Kirkland to across-405-from-downtown-Bellevue much faster, but if you have to transfer (even to a frequent-ish train) or walk across 405 (including long waits at intersections) you’ll lose the time advantage. Lots of people travel between Bellevue and Kirkland, and we know that even with pretty good daytime frequency the 234/235 isn’t attractive enough to capture many of the trips. So we have to actually do better.

        I don’t think the distance between the ERC and the core of Kirkland is as important because there isn’t a giant freeway in the way. This means that, for one thing, there’s stuff (housing, jobs, destinations) both near the (former) tracks and on the way to them; for another, that the walk up there is much more pleasant, and doesn’t need all that much work to grow into an extension of the walkable core of Kirkland.

  14. In view of Gridhawk, would a plan for future events be:
    A) hold them on a weekend if possible,
    B) four car trains to San Francis…I mean Stadium. People can walk or bus into downtown itself.
    C) contra-flow: before the event, all Link and Sounder trains route north with no stops on the southern return; while post-event the northbound stops are skipped.

    Would seem effective and easy to communicate to the public.

    (For that matter, if U-Link is so ahead of schedule, is it feasible to open the stub even earlier? I realize that opens up a whole host of questions: HVAC, fire suppression, signaling, headway, etc….
    …in terms of demand vs. capacity, would it be beneficial to bring four car trains into the system as early as possible?)

    Lastly, I would just point out that the great majority of people using Link, Sounder, and Amtrak were from the burbs (and sometimes much further), which makes a strong case to state lawmakers that rail appeals to a very broad set of demographics beyond the narrow stereotypes of young urbanites in Seattle. From Puyallup to Bellingham, people voted with their feet, and that meant rail.

    1. Are you talking about another 700,000 person event? If so, your plan is to hold it on the weekend, when even more people can attend, and there’s less transit service? You realize, the problem of getting people to and from a quarter million person event can’t be solved with just public transit. Next time, we’re going to have to encourage more people to drive.

      1. “Next time, we’re going to have to encourage more people to drive” Hah. Did you try driving through Seattle that day? I only drove in the periphery and it was a nightmare. Then there’s parking – when every spot anywhere near downtown (“Event Parking: $50”)was taken they started getting creative. I regret not taking a picture of all of the people parked in the grass of the I-5 onramp at Dearborn.

  15. Hydrogen Tuk-Tuks

    What’s dubbed the world’s first affordable hydrogen fuel cell mass transport vehicle is set to be unveiled in concept form this week at an auto show in India. The design, created as a result of a partnership between a university and others, is seen as a potential replace for a ubiquitous form of Indian rickshaw transportation known as the tuk tuk utility vehicle.

    1. Hydrogen might work well in India, since it is so close to the equator it gets enormous amounts of reliable year-round sunshine. Use solar to crack water for the Hydrogen and you have a closed loop. Tuk-tuks use very little fuel and stay close to home, so you could probably get several days’ operation from one fueling cycle.

      For private autos Hydrogen is less useful; for decades the range will be limited to cities and Interstate highways. It will be forty years before you can drive one across the country on “blue” highways, if ever. For one who rightly advocates for the freedom to visit rural places, you are missing an important point. Hydrogen fueling stations are much more expensive than gasoline stations, because of the high pressure and chilling required to store large amounts of it.

      1. FWIW, I drove from Ithaca, NY to Grand Rapids, MI in my electric car this winter. During an ice storm.

        I wouldn’t do it again, but that’s because *driving sucks* — the electric part was not a big problem.

        I did the trip by because the train was not a viable alternative (look at the Amtrak map and you’ll see why), and the buses over those distances are just unpleasant. I would have preferred to take a train, and apparently according to various studies so would a lot of people, but you can’t go east from Michigan by train right now. (!?!)

        Anyway, the electric car infrastructure is getting built out quite fast at the moment. Hyrdogen cars don’t have a chance in the market.

  16. Looks like someone got the new Sim City for Christmas and figured out the cheat for printing unlimited amounts of money.

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