This is an open thread.

44 Replies to “News Roundup: Victims”

  1. The cities are missing a golden revenue opportunity. What they should be saying to Sound Transit is, “You just focus on providing high-quality transit service to our community. We’ll operate and maintain the park and rides for you.” Then charge for the use of the park and ride near the station.

    1. Who would fund the construction of the park and rides? You are looking at $20k per stall for parking structures. In many places it would be tough to not operate at a loss if you bonded the construction.

      1. And that’s why politicians force ST to build them on the backs of everyone, including those that will never use them.

      2. They’re built. All that needs to be done is contract with the jurisdictions to operate and maintain them.

  2. Are they seriously having trouble fitting the many luxurious amenities of Tacoma’s Amshack into Freighthouse Square? I’m having a really hard time fathoming why.

    1. They do have checked luggage and a staffed ticket counter, so it isn’t like this is Tukwila or something.

      I would prefer the station be put closer to downtown. Is there any real reason to keep those surface parking lots directly west of Freighthouse Square? It seems like all both vehicles I have ever seen park there could be accommodated elsewhere.

      1. Checked luggage and a ticket counter, how much space does that require? Granted it’s been a while since I last went to freighthouse square but I mostly remember seeing a lot of empty space and several businesses that survived only thanks to extremely low rent. Here’s a size comparison of the current Amshack with Freighthouse Square:

        As you can see, the entire station fits inside the current ST TVM area. Even given the benefit of the doubt that space is an issue (how and why I don’t know), what about the empty lot on the other side of the tracks? Plus the added benefit of a new platform (we’ll need one eventually).

      2. I’m not sure we don’t need a second platform now. Somewhere around half the time I am coming south on Amtrak # 509 there are delays with waiting for a Sounder train in front of us to make it up the branch line up to the Freighthouse square station. That will only increase when both Amtrak and Sounder are sharing the same line.

        By moving the Amtrak station to the (as best as I can tell) severely underused parking lots directly west of Freighthouse Square, the Amtrak station gets to be slightly closer to downtown.

        The problem with the big empty gravel lot that is accessed off of 26th directly south of the tracks (if that is what you are proposing) is that it means a bit of expensive grading, and it is across the tracks from the parking area at the Tacoma Dome station. When a train the size of the Coast Starlight is at the station, it is going to block the crossings, so getting from the Tacoma Dome parking to the Amtrak station will be obstructed unless you go all the way down under the bridge on the east side.

      3. The parking lot is barely closer to downtown, certainly not a difference worth mentioning anyway. Tacoma Link is a free easy transfer to DT. It’s not getting any better unless we decide to scrap the whole bypass and use the old Union Station again (not happening).

      4. For reference, that empty lot on the other side of the tracks, the gravel lot accessed from E 26th St, on the “Tacoma Dome” side of the tracks…

        …is where the passenger station for the Milwaukee Road used to be, long long ago. You’re welcome.

        I don’t see any serious grading problems involved in restoring what already existed. Build a platform, build a station building, build a few ramps between them.

        For optimal operations, the platform will have to extend onto the trestle whether you build it on the north side or the south side.

        A second platform is certainly needed in the medium run. This requires a switch between E C Street and E D Street, which is no problem but has been rejected by Sound Transit / WSDOT for spurious reasons. Probably they’re just trying to avoid scope creep and the related cost increases. It’ll have to be done eventually.

    2. From what I have seen its a 2 part problem. The topography of the area, and the businesses in freight house Square. The businesses want most of the “business” areas of FHS left undisturbed. They also want ALL the Amtrak patrons to flow through the corridors of the facility to and from the Amtrak station (in some hope they will stop and spend money). Unlike an airport concourse which is designed for this type of traffic. FHS is very narrow and would be a major impediment to patrons with luggage, especially through the food court. The topography issue comes into play, because Amtrak is requiring the station floor be at platform level (ADA reason’s I’m sure) . Freight house square is built on a grade. The floor that’s level to the rest of the facility is about 7 feet too HIGH on the east end of the building. In order to meet that requirement, there will have to be major construction to make the floor of the station and the platform match up. Personally, while I like the idea of everything being there in one place, after watching this process unfold I have came to the conclusion that FHS is not a suitable facility for Amtrak. This does not even mention the 1 platform vs 2 issue, which according to WSDOT cannot be done because there is not enough room on the west side of the station for a crossover. While the computer simulation says everything will work, reality is that the whole line relocation and Amtrak Stopping at FHS (and opening a single door, and having everyone shuffle through that taking ten minutes too long to board the train) will be a operational disaster.

      1. “This does not even mention the 1 platform vs 2 issue, which according to WSDOT cannot be done because there is not enough room on the west side of the station for a crossover. ”

        WSDOT is making shit up here. There is plenty of room for a turnout between C St. and D St; I make it out to be over 280 feet.

        You only need to connect from the Cascades “hill track” to the southern track; it’s OK to leave the Tacoma Rail Mountain Division with its rare freight trains able to access only the southern track. I’ve seen lots of turnouts done in less distance.

        Very conservatively, I know for sure you could get a #10 crossover in there, which would be a slow 20 mph turnout, but that would be OK considering the train’s right by the station. You could probably fit a higher-speed crossover.

    3. Careful about dissing Freighthouse Square- which currently makes my almost-daily ride between Olympia and Seattle not only bearable, but enjoyable. It’s got not only one of the greatest Indian food places in the world, but also a well-protected parking structure which will be much beloved until either the Sounder or ST Express gets all-day service the whole route.

      Also- wish Amtrak would stop there instead of a mile south, but that will also mark the end of my favorite part of the Portland trip, the shoreline ride between Tacoma and the Nisqually River. Would rather they send the freights straight south. Would bring back an authentic character to Freighthouse Square. Just so the oil and coal trains get routed along Koch Brothers’ residential property all over the continent.

      Mark Dublin

  3. All this recent talk about gondolas reminds of the 1998 Cavalese cable car disaster in Italy, where a U.S. military pilot, who many believe was hotdogging and trying to scare the gondola riders, flew underneath the cable, clipping it in the process, and sending it crashing into the mountain below, killing 19 riders. The same cable car line also had a disaster in 1976 when a cable snapped, sending 43 people to their deaths. These are real victims. Your house going up in value does not make you a victim.

    1. Remember 9/11? I guess we should never built another skyscraper and cease commercial flying because victims.

      1. Barman, you misunderstood my comment. I was merely tying together a today’s roundup theme and a past tragedy, whose mode of transportation is often the topic of conversation here. I wasn’t saying we shouldn’t build gondolas because of past accidents.

    2. I’ve never heard of this happening in North America anytime recently, Sam, but it’s theoretically possible for a bus to T-bone a dynamite truck like the one I used to drive in Maryland. However, given that Sound Transit has problems keeping elevators and escalators in service, would worry more about a mechanical failure due to substandard performance by a subcontractor or deferred maintenance for budgetary reasons.

      Recalling “Doctor Strangelove”, it’s also possible that an A-6 base commander up at Whidbey will take a middle age problem with his sex life as evidence that Vladimir Putin, who really is suspected of treating political problems with polonium, is interfering with his bodily essences. And order a pilot to fly west on Union Street at second-story level with one wing dipped to peer into a Russian consulate window looking for evidence.

      Advice: stop listening to 97.3 radio after dark.


    3. I agree. It is important to keep things in perspective.

      Having been to the Alps, I can see how this could happen. I see fighter jets flying all over the place in the mountains around here. It can be quite exciting and interesting to watch if you happen to be up high, or scary as hell if you are down in the valley. The thing is, relatively speaking, we have very few gondolas or chair lifts. In the Alps, they are everywhere. It is difficult to practice without getting close to them. I’m not saying the pilot wasn’t and idiot, but I’m not shocked that they had the accident.

      Generally speaking, though, gondolas and chair lifts are fairly safe, especially when you consider the weather they often have to deal with.

    4. Sam, with all due respect to the victims of a terrible accident, and with just criticism of everybody in military aviation who allowed it to happen- like the WWII generation of recon pilots would say, put a sock in it. Or at least put the comment in different words.

      Or better yet, talk productively about the failures that are probable- like sacrificing construction standards, operations, and maintenance to the demands of a profit-making corporation’s shareholders over six decades or so.

      Take a ride on our local monorail, and notice the ride quality, which makes a logging road feel smooth. Granted, for all their age, the cars smell better than our Breda fleet.


    1. I’ll try to remember to pull up this image next time someone tries to tell me SLU is ‘Manhattanizing’. Some people really need help with perspective.

      1. I took a walk around SLU today. The low building heights are pathetic.

        We could build twice as high with no impact on the streetscape.

  4. According to the board report on the ST board’s motion for parking at Angle Lake station, Harbor Pacific/Graham will build a parking structure with 1,050 spaces. The previously adopted requirements were for a minimum of 750 spaces with a temporary need for 300 additional spaces that could later be repurposed for TOD.

    Presumably the 1,050 spaces will be permanent with the TOD being accommodated within the site but without impacting the commuter parking. Or maybe some of the parking structure will later be set aside for use by the TOD residents/tenants/customers?

    1. Angle Lake is a clear run for me on Kent East Hill.

      I can take 516 to 99, 15 minutes so I will use the stuffing out of this station for all downtown trips if I can count on a parking space (or if say the 164 bus will take me directly there from 256th all the way to the station).

  5. “Construction of the First Hill Streetcar (FHS) is moving ever closer to completion and will begin service later this year.Like virtually every other streetcar system in the world, ours will be electrically powered. However, it will be the first in the US (and only the second system in the world) to incorporate an advanced hybrid battery system that means considerably less overhead wiring and the associated benefit of significant cost savings!”

    Would think better of this particular economy measure if:

    1. Any of the experiments with hybrid battery operations has ever included several yeas of passenger carrying experience, especially in rush hour traffic, over rising grades anywhere near the ones our line will run, past Swedish Hospital, and near Jackson. While south generally appearing at the bottom of standard maps, southbound First Hill line is not completely downhill.

    2. Someone would show me how a train-stopping failure on the southbound line will be handled, besides bringing the disabled car down with a truck. Towing with another train would require a long lateral draw-bar.

    3. The budget of any of our transit agencies included a debit column for the cost of operating delays.

    Not to say the one-way wire plan will absolutely be a failure. Along with the rest of the world, I don’t think there’s enough experience to know, which indicates to me that it might be a good idea to keep a couple of million dollars in the bank in case we need some more wire.

    On the positive side, however- left-hand wire for trolleybuses- hybrid battery propulsion might solve a Waterfront problem that’s been mentioned to me: the problem of stray current re: complicatons with underground utilities because of the Sea-wall.

    For the record, I’m completely in favor of the connector line on First Avenue, and willing to see it built first. The Seawall will delay everything surface-related for awhile. But battery-powered electric vans and chain drive pedicabs won’t clear out a rock concert on a pier.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Its funny that all these systems engineers devise the most complicated solutions to otherwise simple problems. If Metro ordered the cars with a trolley pole instead of a pantograph, and ordered the cars built for the same voltage as the trolley coaches (700VDC) than this would not be an issue at all. In San Francisco the electric streetcars and trolley coaches share the same overhead without trouble.

      1. Of course, we could fix the trolleybus wire with the money we’d have saved by not stringing streetcar wire.

      2. The slow orders aren’t going away — I’m pretty sure they’re required because of breaks in the wire at crossovers, which cause arcing and equipment damage if the buses are drawing power heavily when they cross them. Pantographs are also more reliable because they can’t “fall off the wire” like a trolly pole, and they work in either direction whereas trolly poles can only work in the trailing direction.

        I see no reason to expect the battery technology will prove less reliable. Generally batteries for these types of systems are very conservatively spec’d so that they’re rarely deep discharged — which both means longer battery life, and a power reserve if something unexpected comes up.

      3. Slow Orders are because poles come off the wire much more often at ‘Special Work’ or anything but a continuous piece of overhead wire. Slower speeds mean fewer dewire incidents. Also, most dewire events just mean the operator has to put the pole back up.
        Sometimes, the poles get stuck in complicated wire sections, and ‘bring down the wire’, or break something else.
        It’s going to happen. Probably daily. Mixing trolley wire and catenary is fraught with complexity and subject to human error. Everytime you’re on a streetcar, and not moving, think about an all trolley bus system that could have replaced the $200m spent for a hell of a lot less – but without the bells and whistles.

      4. If the use of batteries allowed the elimination of special work at intersections — dewire at every wire crossing, rewire on the far side — I’d be very, very much in favor of it. For trolleybuses. Trolleybus special work is a pain.

    2. For what it is worth, there are actually several systems in Europe using battery power for short distances, so it won’t be the second in the world to do this. There are various historic downtown areas in Europe that would probably have major protests if someone were to string tram wire in front of certain structures. So, this is definitely the way of the future for just about any of the large streetcar builders.

      The bad news is that as far as I know, the Inekon / Skoda design has never been adapted to use this system. I would feel a lot better about this if the car design were, say, a variation of the Bombardier Flexity car Toronto is using. The versions of the Flexity being sold to Nanjing will have battery power as well, so it wouldn’t be a one-off design in that case.

  6. Happy to see the planned extension of Tacoma Link, but can anyone explain why Sound Transit continues to identify that streetcar line as “light rail”? Every other place in North America where streetcars are being built or expanded, they are called streetcars — except in Tacoma, WA.

    It’s not as though ST has some aversion to the word streetcar. They are willingly funding the construction of Seattle’s First Hill streetcar line and seem quite comfortable calling that streetcar line a streetcar line.

    1. Maybe they don’t want to spend for the re-branding? It opened as link and people are used to calling it that.

      1. The current segment, much to my shock, actually has 100% signal priority, in addition to near-compete dedicated or transit-exclusive ROW. It zips along with surprising spright.

        Of course, you may already have waited forever on the platform before being able to enjoy said spright. Nevertheless, the priority/dedication easily sets it a notch above our streetcar follies.

      2. And the plan is to have more exclusive ROW on the extension, and more signal priority.

      3. It can still be branded Link, just not Link light rail. It’s gotta be confusing to newcomers who think that something called Tacoma Link light rail is actually light rail — and then they get there and discover it’s really a streetcar.

        Tacoma WA = the only place in the world where a streetcar is called light rail by the agency that built it and operates it.

  7. People who live in areas where property taxes have been raised have real financial problems. I suspect a large chunk of these people have lived in these houses for a long time, well before the McMansion phenomenon. They probably have no options for cheaper housing, be it condo or town house. The whole claim from the real estate mongers about sell your house and buy another now is nonsense. They would be buying into the same market, and any possible savings with a smaller unit would be gobbled up with real estate commissions, bank fees, escrow fees, sales taxes and the thousand other fees that are included, plus the simple cost of relocating.

    The state should be reluctant to fix property tax levels for a significant portion of the population, lest the state get into a Prop 13 situation like California where property taxes are locked in when the house is purchased. Some sort of property tax deferral or income related reduction with a lien against the estate is worth examining.

    1. So should we engineer another collapse in house prices? Or is any policy that doesn’t promote stable housing prices a failure?

      1. You shouldn’t depend so heavily on property taxes. How about an income tax? (I know, I know…)

    2. If you own your house (with or without a mortgage) you have nothing to worry about. Just take out a reverse mortgage or allow the state to take out a lien. Your heirs will lose out on the difference, but boo-hoo.

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