95 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The Straddling Bus”

    1. That silly straddling bus idea from China has been around for years. Old news.

      If you want to show an old (2011) but still stimulating cartoon video from China with at least a few ideas that might work — made by GM for a China exposition — look at this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tiHwzGsotA There are some glimpses of high speed urban rail and even a few buses on the Chinese streets of the future, as well.

  1. What if there were no “there” there?

    Here’s a redesigned Chicago Transit system, that interconnects all the spokes of the hub…turning it from a system designed to funnel everyone into downtown, into one that promotes multi-nodal, regional travel!

    This could be the future of Chicago public transportation

    People live even farther out than before (sprawl!). New business hubs have sprung up – downtown isn’t the only game in town, you might say. All of this forces people into their cars. (Well, that and the fact that when you’re in a car it’s harder for strangers to judge you while you eat Doritos Locos.)

    So the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Active Transportation Alliance just proposed a new, expanded transit map to serve the Chicago of today and tomorrow.


    1. It’s a cool plan. The Grist article is sort of dumb (it’s Grist, whaddya expect). Olden tymie people didn’t just take the L downtown. They also took it to big employers like the Stockyards (which used to have a branch off the South Side L), and they took streetcars all over the city. The Stockyards branch died after it burned down and the Stockyards declined. The streetcars became increasingly stuck in traffic, then converted to buses, then stuck in even more traffic, but today’s comprehensively gridded in-city bus network is its direct ancestor. Furthermore, if you know Chicago’s suburbs, you know:

      – There’s a lot of built-up city beyond Oak Brook, Schaumberg, and this plan doesn’t really apply to that.
      – Places like Oak Brook and Schaumberg are tough to serve because they’re so spread out, filled with unwalkable streets and giant parking lots. This plan might be more realistic than the San José “replicate SF Muni in the middle of office park sprawl” idea, but it also means that, no matter how many jobs are in these places, a single train station can only serve a fraction of them.

      If you want to use this plan to convince people Sound Transit’s plans are overly downtown-centric… well, Schaumberg is something like the Bellevue of Chicago (only with worse pedestrian and cycling conditions), and we’re going to have a train to Bellevue before they have one to Schaumberg. We’ll have a train to Redmond before they even think about building one to Naperville (and one between Bellevue and Redmond… our layout and distances are somewhat easier than theirs). Most of the crosstown lines on the map represent strengthened existing neighborhood/inner-suburban service; the exception is the ACE line between the airports, which is not too different from our 560 bus (connecting suburban residences, airports, industry, and suburban downtowns). In terms of service to suburban employers, Chicago is just thinking about building what Seattle is building, and in some cases already has.

      1. I seem to recall that this plan incorporates Bus Rapid Transit and other bus lines to tie things together especially for suburban cities like Schaumburg.

      2. It suggests deploying “Arterial Rapid Transit”, which is basically Rapid-Ride level bus service, widely throughout the suburbs but doesn’t go into a lot of detail. A lot of common commute patterns to places like Schaumberg and Oak Brook are three-seat rides on any remotely plausible transit plan, and very few people are willing to take a three-seat transit trip to destinations that all have free parking. The best hope is for changes in land use around the stations, so more people live, work, and shop within walking distance of the stations.

        That’s all fine, it’s part of what needs to happen to rationalize commuting patterns in American cities. It’s just really far from the vision J.B. projects onto it. It focuses a lot on suburban jobs because that’s where Chicago’s transit seriously lags. Suburban employment centers and shopping centers in greater Seattle have about as good transit service as Chicago’s would if they did all this stuff tomorrow.

      3. Naperville has commuter rail, which I’m sure played a big part in its transformation from a sleepy town to a big suburb. Redmond, on the other hand, has the biggest software company in the world, which transformed it from a sleepy suburb to a big time employer. If not for Microsoft, Redmond would be like Covington (with an infrastructure to match).

        As to our own neck of the woods, I think Sound Transit does a pretty good job of serving the suburbs. For suburb to suburb traffic, it has buses. Either they run in car pool lanes, or they are serving areas where there really is a “reverse commute”. For areas like the East Side (where there are a lot of jobs, and the reverse commute is as bad as the commute to downtown) you have buses and will soon have rail. Suburb to suburb we are doing just fine (as well as city to suburb and vice versa). This is especially true if the trend towards urbanization continues.

        Meanwhile, where we really fall short is within the city. Bus service to downtown is fine. But service to other areas is spotty at best. To Fremont, for example (where there are plenty of employers) it is slow and intermittent. As the “downtown business district” spreads (to South Lake Union, the UW, Fremont, and eventually Ballard) our old bus system, with its “downtown is the obvious hub and the only big employment center” model is beginning to break down. The light rail system suddenly seems out of date, really. Why are we building rail to serve Lynnwood, when it takes fifteen minutes to get from the last downtown station (Westlake) to South Lake Union? Wouldn’t it be a lot more cost effective to run a line through the areas with the highest population and employment density (essentially the Metro 8)?

        John, you are right, that new map makes a lot of sense for Seattle. You just need to shrink the scale quite a bit.

    2. This looks like the kind of sensible infill infrastructure that people have advocated for for decades in Chicago. The El is only good for trips toward the loop, while crosstown trips are relegated to crawling-slow buses. And I hear that Pace goes only toward the El and has hardly any suburb-to-suburb service. I don’t know enough about outer Chicagoland to comment on precisely these lines, But the north-south blue line looks like the Ashland Avenue BRT that’s already in planning, and won out over a ring El line.

      Also, Chicagoland has nine counties while we only have three, and half of our three counties is rural. So we’d have to expect Chicago’s rapid transit to extend further than ours.

      Where in Chicagoland does density drop to something like Covington or Issaquah? Are their counties smaller than ours?

      In any case, three north-south lines in Chicagoland does not translate to three north-south lines here at e.g., Bellevue Way, 148th, and Issaquah. Or Burien-Renton, Des Moines-Covington, and Federal Way-Enumclaw. Sorry, Charlie.

      1. Several of Chicago’s “Collar” counties are very rural. Indeed, there are copious amounts of cornfields in sight of those newly spawned suburban developments.

      2. Ashland BRT is the inner of the three north-south lines on the map — this plan would include completing it. The second is, I believe, on Cicero Ave, where bus service exists but is pretty slow — as a plan goes, it’s very open-ended at this point. I think the third is mostly just inside the Tri-State Tollway, but is even more open-ended. Pace wouldn’t operate any routes that long, because they’d be insanely unreliable, it would need to be grade-separated. The farthest out lines to the west are near the Tri-State, and there’s a whole-nother beltway out beyond there! There’s commuter train service, in some cases, twice as far from the CBD as these lines go.

        Chicagoland is way, way bigger than Greater Seattle. It’s a great advantage we have when planning a sustainable future and one we shouldn’t squander. We can run on-street buses between Bellevue and Redmond every 15 minutes. They aren’t even thinking about transit between Schaumberg and Naperville.

        For development pattern analogs… Cicero Ave is like Aurora north of Green Lake (big boxes on the arterial, older residential areas off of it). The farther out ACE line could pass through a wide variety of areas, somewhat less dense, maybe like Shoreline, Skyway, Tukwila, or Renton?

  2. Count me open to it (I try to check my own reflexive negativity), but they’ll have to take into account:
    -the distraction to auto drivers of the SB suddenly moving overhead (especially with changes in wind and rain)
    -auto drivers who now drift onto the shoulder would apparently be drifting onto the SB’s track
    -autos may have poles and other assorted gear that projects into the path of the SB, and
    -this plan may not do anything to change density concentration patterns, just breathes a little more life into the existing transportation model.

    1. People going through the Mount Baker I-90 tunnel as well as under Freeway Park seem incapable of keeping their speeds up. Despite the fact that all of the lanes eastbound exit into their own lanes with no chance or risk of merge collision, people slow well below speed limits in the tunnel before exiting. It boggles my mind.

      I would imagine these behemoths would engender the same psychological phenomena.

      1. Some of that is the change in lighting (despite the good work of the transportation people). Even though the initial part of the tunnel has really bright lights, and there is plenty of warning, I see people slow down because (shocking!) it is darker inside a tunnel (crazy, huh). Apparently it is very difficult to adjust the sunglasses. So, yeah, a sudden darkness caused by an overhead bus/train blocking the view is sure to get some people to slow down. In my opinion, so what?

        I think the bigger issue is no shoulder. You can’t pull off to the side of the road, because you would be blocking the rail line. It also offers fewer advantages over elevated rail (a point I make below, in a followup to my own assessment).

      2. Not sure I follow–eastbound in the Mount Baker tunnel the Rainier entrance lane merges into a single lane with the southernmost traffic lane (it’s actually even worse as the HOV and general onramp lanes merge just prior to the merge with the through lane–you basically have three lanes merging into one). There aren’t any other entrances or exits eastbound in the tunnel area.

  3. Interesting idea. Although, I don’t like the reliance on elevators for getting on and off the bus at every stop. It’s great for wheelchairs, but considering that a busy stop might require several elevator trips to get everybody on and off, dwell times could be quite long compared to conventional light-rail – a major disappointment considering the huge capitol investment for every stop.

    Also, for the huge capitol investment, elevated buses are still not completely insulated from traffic. They will still have to stop at signals, and turning cars will still get in its way. I also don’t think the vehicle would be able to go very fast past stopped cars, which could turn on drift out of their lane without notice.

    I’m not sure what the per-mile construction cost of a system like this would be, but my guess is that it’s high enough that if you’re going to build this, you may as well just build a subway, or at least a surface-running light-rail line similar to Link on MLK.

    1. In another video, an alternative loading method from the side is discussed. There were some other differences, like two varieties of overhead electrification instead of third rail.

      The designer went into a short discussion about the economics of this versus subway construction.

      From the videos, it seemed to me that they were showing very tight turn radii for this monster. Even with three or four articulation joints, parts of the bus would be quite a ways from the line of the rails.

      1. It’s a cute idea but there are plenty of questions that need to be answered. How is that thing powered? Third rail? Hydrogen? How about a room full of stationary bicycles in a fitness section where passengers can ride for free if they’ll pedal a few miles? There will need to be quite a bit of heavy structural metal in the framework to protect the wheels and support the structure. The motors are going to be quite large if that thing is going to accelerate quickly from stopping. I think the engineering is going to doom it.

      2. I noticed that in the video, if you watch closely, they show the actual structure of the thing molding to fit the track, rather than really acting like it has articulation joints. So, it’s not too difficult to turn corners if you don’t have to obey the constraints of an actual structure.

    2. I think it is misleading to call this a bus. It is more of a straddling train. It runs on rails. It doesn’t have a steering wheel. In that sense, it is a variation on an old theme: the elevated train. One of the selling points of the “new” monorail was that the pillars would be fairly small. These would be even smaller. But like any system, it really depends on where it goes. Generally speaking, this type of rail (surface or elevated) is a lot cheaper than digging a tunnel, but not if there are other issues. If there are a lot of bridges, it would be a problem. You can’t follow steep hills (just as you can’t with surface rail). Tunnels, or typical elevated rail can overcome those problems more easily.

      I would love to see this sort thing in a flat area that a lot of existing traffic. Generally speaking, those are areas where you can either dedicate a lane to transit, or build a line right next to it. But I’m sure in many cases, you can’t do that. For those areas, this type of system might be a good deal.

      1. Elliot Avenue and 15th NW comes to mind. There is no reason for the elevators. Just put elevated stop landings and let people get off to the side. Ramps would probably work better for wheelchairs in that scenario. Less maintenance.

      2. The width of the right-of-way is a big issue. I can see this in post-car development, or Salt Lake City. I can’t see it being able to turn in many cities with a street layout from before ~1960.

      3. Good point, Ryan, I thought of that one as well. However, that particular area already has dedicated transit lanes (or it would, if rail is built there). But a train like this would mean that this train could travel over parked cars or other vehicles. I guess I don’t see this as a huge win for transit, as much as a win-win for folks who want cars on all the lanes (or who want parking). For something like Aurora, especially after Greenlake, I could see it being a lot nicer for the neighborhood. Parked cars make for a friendlier pedestrian experience. If we get serious about transit on Aurora, we should eliminate the outside lane 100% of the time, which is a lot more scary. On the other hand, if this thing is above parked cars, it is a nasty accident waiting to happen, It is one thing to get hit by a train traveling on the surface in its own tracks. It is another thing to get sliced by this thing while cutting between two parked cars. No one is ready for that, and I don’t see that as a good thing.

        Furthermore, the more I think about it, the more I don’t think this addresses the biggest problem with inner city surface travel. You can dedicate lanes without too much (political) difficulty (as we have done with our streetcars). But if you can’t cross the street, then you are in big trouble. That is the case downtown. Pick a street downtown (2nd, 3rd, you name it) and make it entirely transit only and it still won’t move half as fast as the tunnel. Hendrix sang about the problem years ago (crosstown traffic, so hard to get through to you).

      4. Most arterial roads allow turns off of them… say a driver is under the giant bus and needs to move off into the right turn pocket. Good luck!

        This whole thing is totally nuts. If one gets built somewhere in China I won’t be shocked, but if more than one is ever built I will eat my hat. Just build an elevated train. Or a monorail (if you’re concerned about noise and shadows) — monorail switching couldn’t cause as many delays as the wacky elevator boarding and having to stop at red lights. Or do MLK-style surface rail, which has considerably less crazy intersection/lane change problems.

        Actually, the problems with people running into trains, in vehicles and on foot, remind me that at this stage in China’s urbanization it’s probably not a good idea to build trains where people can possibly crash into them. If they follow American and European patterns they’ve still got at least a generation to go before being a culture that is competent at driving en masse.

    1. Because they want to cut transit for families (and everyone else)?

      I started to do a post on the video of some of the kids whose bus routes that get them to school would be cut, but since they used some City equipment to produce the video, the video was banned.

      Sam Orlin, a student at Sealth High, and member of the Seattle Youth Commission, made the video. He doesn’t get to vote. He and his fellow students beg us to vote Yes.

      1. For the sake of fairness and balance, I should mention that the 21, shown as being cut in one of the kids’ photos, is actually being restructured and renumbered as the 50, with less frequency (since Metro’s service standards let kids stand on packed buses, in contrast to the rules on the yellow buses they replaced). The portion of the 21 north of SODO Station is slated to be cut. The 128 will be extended to Alki Beach (which makes sense since it is mostly West Seattleites who have been taking the 50 to Alki Beach), providing more frequency on that currently-crushloaded path. For downtown commuters from Alki, this will be an inconvenience.

        Sadly, most of the 15.7% cut involves a lot of riders losing bus service altogether, on top of the rest of us losing connectivity.

      2. Brent, don’t forget that the 50 runs half as often as the 21, and riders along the highest-ridership part of the 21 would also lose their east-west service because the 128 would be moved north.

      1. It’s fairly obvious that the sustainability the are talking about is avoiding ever increasing rates of taxation. Whether they a have a viable alternative to this in mind is an open question: I’ve certainly seen no evidence that they do.

    2. Or maybe they want families to pay their own way, not avail themselves of the (as-yet-unfunded) low-income fare program, and have the youth fare go up (as it will again if Prop 1 fails).

      The damage to a typical family of four that uses the bus frequently, has both childred in the 6-18 age bracket, and makes less than 200% of the federal poverty level, would be $108 per year for each kid, and $864 per parent, for a total hit of $1944 more per year that that family will be paying in monthly pass costs beyond what they would have been paying if Prop 1 passed and the low-income fare was funded. That’s before accounting for the cost of getting their kids to school now without a bus.

      While we are at it, maybe those of us without kids should stop being dinged for paying for public schools. After all, what do I get for all those school taxes I am paying? I’ll call my group working to defund public education Families for Sustainable Public Education.

    3. Craven cynicism, perhaps? “Old white guys for less guvment” would be more accurate but not as catchy. “Taxpayers for efficiency” would be a more realistic and honest label if the groups were actively involved in *actually* making transit better and more efficient. In other words, when has anybody from ETA actually dug into a route restructure to comment on how to make the system more efficient? Bernie? mic? Are either of you willing to cop to ETA support? (Sam: You don’t count)

      1. Question, Velo: Do Baltic and Ukrainian Jewish guys count as White? A lot of blond Lutherans died Auschwitz because somebody back in their village remembered their great grand parents going to synagog. In my experience over enough years for SSA,decades, deciding factors for prejudice, intolerance, and ossified rigidity are Guys and Old.

        Governments of savage old women like Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi, and Margaret Thatcher (though Monty Python always used a male actor) generally work a lot better.

        If the industrialized countries are going to keep selling jet fighters to countries too poor to give their soldiers sharp sticks- only give the jets to women. And staff our police with women officers on work visas from Nassau and Kingston (not the one on Bainbridge Island. The one where “ratchets are switchblades).

        A few incidents of guys of all ages being whacked all over the streets with riding crops, and transit will need a lot fewer cameras.


    4. The same reason that “Pro-Choice” and “Pro-Life” both have “pro” in their names. And the same reason that oil companies have ads touting their solar investments, carbon-free nuclear (“Pay no attention the waste behind the curtain!”), and more natural gas for all.

  4. Same reason campaigns and legislation to kill labor unions are called “Right to Work” laws. And same reason Chinese government calls itself a People’s Republic: “A Billion Poor People Ruled by a Minority of Colossally Rich Gangsters” just doesn’t “scan.

    My question is: “Why don’t the three bronze exhausted, freezing soldiers on the lawn by the State Capital come to life and start sticking bayonets in the Americans who sent all our industry to these people starting forty years ago?”

    Meantime, a deal for the Chinese government: you’ve got enough money and cars, and ability to kill everybody in “Families for Sustainable Transit” and their families. Build one of those systems depicted so we can evaluate it?”

    And call the website Gimmeafrigginbreak.com.


    1. Interestingly, both sides of the deep-bore tunnel debate claimed Jane Jacobs as on their side.

      1. At least when we claim the Municipal League is on our side, we are telling the truth.

  5. Am I the first to notice this? In the very extreme bottom left corner of this website, there’s a tiny smiley face.

    1. 1. Stay calm.
      2. Apply a soft wet-wipe to clean your monitor screen. Standard paper towels and fingernails may damage the delicate screen surface.

  6. Straddling buses don’t have the flexibility to spread out and go all over the place. What we really need is a network of express buses stuck in traffic. We’ll call our campaign Old White Men for Sustainable Pretense of Supporting Express Buses Stuck in Traffic Until Express Bus Service Is On the Ballot.

    1. When I saw the video of the new BART cars, my thought was that the seat colors were Sounders or Sound Transit colors.

      1. The Sounders only wore federal, er, “electricity” yellow for one season, as their third kit. As Arlo White said, “Folks at home, don’t adjust your dial.” Enemy colors or no, I would be complaining about using that color if I had to look at it every day. The Sounders’ green is more a turf green to match the pitch. They have “pitch black” with racing-green stripes as their third kit this year, but for the life of me, I can’t find any black on the pitch.

        The blue is more New England Revolution than Sounders sky blue. I can’t say I’d like sitting on that every day, either, but it beats the heck out of “electricity” and shale. More importantly, I like the metal seats with the under-seat heat vents and patterned cloth covers. They seem to attract fewer knife slashes. A friend of mine who was down by the bay recently described BART as “more ghetto”.

    2. Governing principle, Velo, familiar to submarine crews now and zeppelin crews into the 1930’s, is called “buoyancy”.

      Part of the principle is that in the deep ocean, above a certain depth, your boat has less water underneath, and more than enough below it, that with no effort of its own, the craft will be pushed toward the surface.

      But the other side of the principle is that below that same level, the weight of the water above the vessel will push it downward. Until the water pressure exceeds the strength of the hull. End of the phrase is:…”with all hands.”

      Way the principle works in large organizations, second category applies to vast majority of people- almost always in front-line working jobs. Limited chance to rise. Usual tendency is thing about hands. And few life jackets floating to the surface.

      First category, people in other positions, no matter what they do or don’t do, mistakes and screw-ups push them all the way to the stratosphere ’till they die from lack of oxygen- or do their jobs like they did.

      One possible explanation is that the quickest and most litigation-proof way to get rid of someone is to promote them. But better explanation, anybody in water quality can tell you. Ends with the word “… floats.”


    3. Those seats, if anything, are the Golden State Warriors’ colors. And before you get to the Seahawks you need to make an (ahem) pit stop at the Indiana Pacers.

    4. It’s a sad day that people expect a train’s colors to match a sports teams’ colors. I don’t support any of the major sports because it feels like participating in the team owners’ money racket. I’d rather support amateur and semi-pro sports, and non-major college sports. (Not many people know the UW has a hockey team and a boxing team….)

      1. Oh really?

        Next you will wanna boo Seafair which is a huge ad FOR transit? Logical conclusion.

        We finally have a Lombardi and two WNBA trophies by two teams locally owned and the Blue Angels back and…

      2. …Three US Open Cups. We’re on our way to the 12 Days of Christmas for sports franchise owners.

      3. And sports fans!

        It’s good for business which is good for workers (as long as workers are treated right)!

        Also a needed boost for the ‘transit caucus’ that is seemingly having to explain transit’s raison d’etre to the world.

    5. If prop 1 passes Metro should make those colors the only upholstery they ever use

      Go Seahawks!

  7. It’s backwards how we celebrate people who live in exurbia, but take a train or bus into work, yet we dismiss and ignore people who walk or bike to work. We should really be encouraging the latter, and shaming the former. “No, you are not a hero for living in Sumner and taking Sounder into work in Seattle. In fact, you are part of the problem.” Here’s an idea. What about people having scores, much like locations have walkscores. Why can’t people be given scores, that factors in commute distance, road and transit infrastructure that had to be built to sustain their commute, etc. Then we would know who to celebrate and who to shame. For example, if Kemper Freeman lives in a condo across the street from his office, he might be given a score of 99. But then some transit agency head who lives in a large sfh takes a train into work might get a score of 24.

    1. Hahaha.

      This is some of your finest material and has some legitimacy until you say “who to shame.” I also question the value of transit into the hinterlands. We are better served making urban/close suburban transit better.

      KF deserves our derision for a whole host of reasons that have nothing to do with his commute. Likewise the opposite for JE.

      1. I truly do wonder about such things. Is a person who drives their car from their home Bellevue to their job in Redmond, for example, any worse than an Auburn resident who takes a bus from their home to Auburn Station to take Sounder to their job Seattle? We we tend to give transit users a pass, and demonize car drivers, but I wonder if you started to look at various factors, if, in fact, many transit users are doing more harm than drivers. That’s why I thought maybe people should be assigned commute scores.

    2. People like you Sam fuel the fire of the road bullies.

      Not everybody wants to live in Seattle. The poli-ticks for one. For two, let me just say it from my Sedro perch: The over-density. For three, although I would like to live next to an airport I rather like the quiet of my basement office when I have to work on eBay stuff & check-in on STB.

      1. I think we all judge. Some people judge a parent who spanks their child. Many judge someone who throws trash out of their car window. Others judge NIMBYS on a fairly regular basis.

      2. I will criticize the attempt to shape policy to control the way other people live, which is what a NIMBY does. But I won’t criticize their choices on their own lives. Unlike you, it’s not personal with me.

      3. Martin, if you think I get personal, then I will watch for that in the future and stop doing it. I believe attacking the person should be off-limits. But I hope you also object to people getting personal with people you disagree with, like when people attack and demonize Kemper Freeman instead of debating his arguments.

    3. Why not a non-SOV score instead?

      You also have to look at, what can a person living in Federal Way or Sumner walk to? Is it realistic to expect them to walk when many of live’s necessities are not within walking distance? What kinds of jobs are available within walking distance? Most of the shops in “revived” suburban downtowns are tourist-oriented and restaurants that close at 5pm and on weekends. This is what needs to change. The suburbs need to put a full variety of busineses in their downtowns, and dismantle infrastructure that artificially increases the walking time between them. Then suburbanites could have a greater walk score.

      1. Of course, a lot of the businesses in walkable neighborhood centers in Seattle neighborhoods, including downtown, are pretty darn expensive or lacking in essentials. Suburbs can’t dictate which businesses move in any more than cities can, and what the market provides these days doesn’t quite support getting around on foot, even in many neighborhood centers.

  8. Rise above it all.

    The interesting thing is it’s effectively an elevated train that carries its own stanchions. That should mollify critics who don’t like permanent overhead stanchions blocking their view. (As if there was any view in Shoreline…)

    The detraining elevator would increase dwell time at every station. Even if all the passengers are on the elevator platform before the train stops, it would still have to rise, discharge, load, and descend before the train could move again. At every station.

    The evacuation system may be too high tech for its own good… you don’t want it to break in an emergency.

  9. You know what would be an interesting application of this?

    Not using SB to cross over cars, but to cross over freight trains. Imagine if this was Sounder, running up from Tacoma. It would solve the dilemma of congestion from commuter vs freight, and wouldn’t require plowing a new line through neighborhoods.

    1. Good idea. Railroad ROW has no cars turning at exits every mile, and fewer overpasses that would have to be raised.

      However, the state is planning passenger tracks in the BNSF ROW someday, so there’s no need to plow through neighborhoods anyway, except maybe in some tight places.

  10. Re: Urban Oases – It’s hard for me to think of urban oases in Seattle, because Seattle just isn’t that urban. Central Park in NYC feels like an urban oasis because it’s flanked by crowded high-rise urban neighborhoods. Golden Gate Park feels like an urban oasis because it starts right at the end of the urban, bustling and chaotic Haight/Ashbury neighborhood. Few parts of Seattle actually feel “big city” (even within the urban core) so there doesn’t feel like there’s as much to escape from.

    1. The point is, while I like park space and think it never hurts to add more, Seattle has a long ways to go before it can be urban enough to have urban oases. Cities like NYC and San Francisco have legitimate ones because they are much more urban and dense than Seattle. I’d rather we focused on increasing density and urbanity then building “oases” from an urban environment that doesn’t yet really exist.

      1. Sorry, that Golden Gate Park is an urban oasis is an urban myth. It’s surrounded by some pretty undense neighborhoods. It’s miles and miles away from the densest parts of San Francisco. Go there on a weekday afternoon and there’s no one taking time off from work. If you want an example of an “urban oasis” try Boston Common.

      2. According to this map, GG Park is flanked by neighborhoods that are between 15K – 35K people per square mile. That seems pretty dense to me. Not to mention, Haight Ashbury is a very urban, bustling area that leads right into the park and causes it to very much feel like an urban oasis.

  11. Hello everyone. I’m pretty new to this blog. Wondering if anyone had thoughts on Everett Transit and it’s fit within the regional agencies. Is my assumption that CT could operate those routes more efficiently correct? If so, what prevents that from happening. Just curious as I’m not aware of other municipalities up here operating their own systems.

    1. Different agencies. They do work together when necessary to avoid redundancies and to create efficiencies. Everett transit was willing to sacrifice more Monday through Saturday service to save some Sunday service while community transit felt it was better to save as much Monday through Saturday service.

      1. “Different agencies” sums up chief source of excuses to cover just about everything in the way of service. It gives lazy officials, both elected and otherwise, a perfect excuse for inaction.

        Worst recent insults I’ve personally experienced was a Sound Transit driver refusing to even tap the horn to hold a Community Transit Driver because: “We’re different agencies”. Same union though. Guess it’s not just officials, Just same disease.

        Best solution for Everett, and Olympia, would be for both to joint Sound Transit, and then put some more political weight to turn ST into the unified regional agency the Puget Sound region that is our true way of life.

        Next plane flight in clear weather, look out the window about two minutes from Sea-Tac. See if you can find city boundaries or county lines. Maybe Everett can be source of fresh leadership the future needs.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Community Transit doesn’t operate on Sundays. Everett Transit does. Everett’s fares are among the lowest, outside of the small, rural, no-fare systems. Everett appears to have chosen well.

      Also, Seattle and Kent each have a free downtown circulator bus.

    3. This is the great “one agency vs several” debate. King County used to be like Snohomish County, with Seattle Transit and a separate rural agency. They were combined into Metro in the 1970s. Is King County better off? Some people would say no, that Metro is underserving Seattle in order to maintain geographic coverage in the county and the peak expresses — even though some Seattle routes are overcrowded and Seattlites are more willing to take transit and some county routes are not well used.

      But on the other side, some people suggest merging all the transit agencies: Metro, ST, CT, ET, and PT. That’s how it works in Gemany and Vancouver BC, where the same regional agency runs all forms of transit: buses, streetcars, subways, regional trains. In some cases the agency also handles roads. This allows the agency to put rail exactly where it’s needed (the highest-volume routes), and rapid bus in the second-highest areas, and transit lanes and optimal stop spacing, without being picked apart by a dozen contradictory interests who want special transit at their stop or want to keep trains away from them. A single agency can also have a unified fare structure and eliminate overhead duplication. But the potential problems are the same as any large agency: a huge bureaucracy that may take its mind off its goals, and no alternative if the agency prioritizes roads and peak-expresses ahead of all other issues. With CT and ST, ST’s all-day service gives some relief for CT’s peak-oriented network, and ST is a fallback when CT’s budget forces it to cancel Sunday service. These fallbacks wouldn’t be available in a single agency.

  12. 1. Golden Gate Park can be an urban oasis if you know the trolleybus routes five and six, and even better, the N-Judah light rail line- which often provides a park or two and blocks of Victorian houses to look at while the train is stuck. Or while waiting for it.

    2. Be careful of transit that can’t be boarded or deboarded by a standard stairway. Or using same elevator maintenance as LINK. Signs like the ones around LINK announcing efforts to find Federal money, or announcements what other stations have elevators, won’t “get it” on straddle trains.

    3. Definitely not judging other people’s way of life. Best I can do is try to live my life so I make my way look good.

    4. Why waste my energy on way-of-life prevention? Legally protected dictates of door colors and garden choices, with enforcement by fines and property seizures work just fine.

    My interference here would be limited to working in the campaigns of anybody working to pitch these laws into the organic compost pile of History.

    5. And finally, when way of life I don’t prefer makes your kids gag themselves with a spoon and run away- I’ll work for laws to treat them as refugees to my way of life.


    1. Oops! Always make it a point to sign. That way no innocent person can be blamed or given polonium if Vladimir Putin disagrees with posting.

      Mark Dublin

  13. Take a look at this pro-streetcar editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/arts/design/imagining-a-streetcar-line-along-the-waterfront.html?hp

    The following comment especially makes me cringe:

    “Why a streetcar? Buses are a more obvious solution. Improved bus service is an easier sell, faster to get up and running, and cheaper up front. A bus would be … fine.

    But where’s the romance? A streetcar is a tangible, lasting commitment to urban change. It invites investment and becomes its own attraction.”

    And, further down, he gets even better, calling the SLUT responsible for South Lake Union’s real estate boom:

    “Streetcars connect neighborhoods and people to other modes of transit. They aren’t about getting around quickly (although the streetcars in Atlanta and Salt Lake City have the capacity to go pretty fast); promising prototypes are self-sustaining and wire free. Some systems bleed money, but in cities like Seattle and Portland, Ore., retail and real estate values have boomed along the routes.”

    1. Via Icelandair and Oresund Rail (basement of Copenhagen airport) overnight you can be in Gothenburg. Four more hours on a bus that doesn’t suck, and you’re in Oslo.

      Both cities have streetcar systems (translated to English, tramways) that prove an interesting fact. For crowded areas, like Gothenburg’s Brunsparken, like Westlake but huge, and Oslo’s City Hall Plaza, a flat flagstone park covered with walking people- streetcars are the only form form of line-haul transit that works comfortably in crowds.

      Motormen on both systems tell me pedestrian accidents are very rare.

      Laws giving streetcars right of way over everything don’t hurt, but idea makes so much sense that nobody minds. Understanding grooved rail while still on training wheels removes clash between two environmentally compatible modes, trains and bicycles.

      Decent national health care also limits attorney fees that cripple so much US transit.

      But mostly, I think, Europeans grow up knowing that grooved rail with wire over it requires moving aside when hearing bells. They also have such a natural sense of exactly how far aside they have to move that they don’t even look up.

      So real answer about transit in places especially like our new Waterfront, and especially by comparison with the Route 99 bus really says it: streetcars are not just “better” mode, but besides foot and bicycle, only.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Would that be the same Gothenburg that has embarked upon a multi-decade initiative to build tunnels and high-quality median reservations, because even in their tiny-ass city the anachronisms crawling through mixed traffic (and the occasional quaint plaza) were objectively no longer cutting it as enablers of mobility?

    2. The idea that the Streetcar in South Lake Union is responsible for its success is ridiculous. You could look at a map twenty years ago and realize the area was way undervalued. UW sits to the north, downtown to the south. It was obviously going to be a popular place. Paul Allen knew this. He, and a lot of other people, assumed that Biotech was going to be the big thing there. They were wrong about that, but it didn’t matter. The UW has a computer science department too. Allen and his friends knew it only a matter of time before the area started booming. He wanted to speed it up by building a park (which he also thought would be a nice thing for the city). That failed, so he pushed for a streetcar. But it wouldn’t have mattered either way — the park and the streetcar weren’t needed. All they needed was time, and a little momentum. Some handshaking by Amazon and that was that.

      You can see areas in the city that are booming right now, and it isn’t that hard to predict. The U-District, for example, is already big, and is going to be huge. There is no streetcar there, nor does it need one. Same with Capitol Hill and Ballard. These areas need real transportation solutions, and a surface line that travels no faster than a bus just doesn’t deliver.

      1. But Allen himself wanted the streetcar and paid for part of it. So he obviously thought it was important for attracting the most businesses and residents. Would Amazon have moved to SLU if there were no streetcar? Maybe, maybe not. The area would have developed, certainly, but maybe not to its potential or with as much transit ridership. SLU is becoming a seamless extension of downtown, and specifically of the brighter part of downtown along Pike-Pine. Without the streetcar, SLU might not have shaken off all of its dingy image, and buses 17 and 70 were just part of the dinginess. The streetcar may not have been necessary for mobility, but it brought people onto transit who wouldn’t be there otherwise.

        NYC should take another cue from the SLUT: get the surrounding businesses to pay for construction if they want it so much. Don’t spend precious city transit dollars on a mixed-traffic streetcar: save it for subways or transit lanes. And make sure people understand how slow the streetcar will be: it will be the same as a bus, so it will add at least a half hour to every regional trip. (On the other hand, if people are currently walking a mile from the subway station, at least it will be better than that. But it won’t be the comprehensive transit they should be aiming for, and which NYC is known for.)

  14. Am I really the first to declare SB unbuildable? Lets see:
    –elevating the compartment does nothing to deconflict crossing traffic or accidents or merging or weaving traffic on the roadway unless rails are also elevated or tunneled at great expense. SB would be stuck in traffic.
    –loading/unloading platform is carried on board, adding to operating expenses, reducing passenger capacity and requiring more on-board maneuvering.
    –SB would likely shake due to the lack of lateral stiffening and long center span. It would probably make people sick.
    –there are potential clearance issues with traffic below. Figure a minimum of 14′ over the road to avoid issues. With a compartment height of 10′, this would be about 2-1/2 stories high.
    –it requires a larger surface footprint than elevated rail, which only touches ground at the supports. Width including the inevitable safety buffer zones probably runs 10′ either side, spanning 30′ over two lanes of traffic.
    –The whole gadget would run 40′ wide (to use non-English units, that is “one house” wide), requiring a turning radius unsuitable for urban transport without bulldozing existing development at great expense.
    –every bridge over the right-of-way would have to be rebuilt higher or a trench dug, both at great expense. Every bridge and culvert along the right-of-way would have to be retrofit to carry both it’s existing traffic load and SB’s live load.
    -it requires significant earthwork under the rails to distribute the large point loads to earth and to carry the power distribution system. Excavation and structure expenses will easily surpass that required for elevated rail, negating any cost savings.
    –stations would have to be elevated with long spans over the road, at great expense.
    –factor into the cost of SB a fire-extinguishing system and heat protection layer for under the passenger compartment, at great expense.

    Basically, this is dead on arrival. I think this would only make sense to a road warrior that puts everything in the context of prioritizing auto traffic above all else. But hey, this would get an A in a high-school technology class!

    1. It’s just not worth it to waste a lot of brain cycles to go into a detailed critical analysis of hare-brained ideas. But if that’s an avocation of yours, I would like an opinion on the train that never stops at a station.

      A few points on the SB:

      – They say that the vertical clearance under it would be 2m, so most sedans would fit under it, but SUVs, vans, and pickups would not. It might work for a lot of vehicles in China, but not here.

      – They say that the vertical clearance of the ‘bus’ would be 4.4m which they asserted was okay for most of their overpasses. We have a lot of lower clearances, so either we you have a lot more rebuilding to do, or there would a small number of corridors where it could work.

      – They say the horizontal clearance is 6m, so that means 2 10′ lanes. Pretty cramped, especially when you have a monster ‘bus’ next to you. There would need to be a barrier next to the rail, so the full width would probably be 8m – 10m.

      – The overhead stations are obviously ridiculous, but a side-entry station would not need to span the trackway, and use the silly elevators and/or stairs.

      I don’t have any problem with the proponents of the system building a full scale demonstrator system at their own expense to show the rest of us how impractical it is.

    2. Up above someone suggests that they could use this over existing trains. I think this makes a lot of sense. There may not be room for more lines and this way it doesn’t interfere with freight.

      1. No, having something like the straddling bus over freight trains wouldn’t make any sense. The vertical clearance over the trains would have to be over 20′ to accomodate double stack trains. It would require rebuilding every overcrossing to accomodate the added height, any signal bridges over the tracks would have to be relocated, accomodations would need to be for turnouts for sidings, crossovers and freight yards.

        And of course, the overriding reason it could never be done: BNSF would never allow it on their property.

      2. Right! And after all that reconstruction, you still conflict with freight traffic because eventually the lines will diverge. Not to mention traffic moving to/from crossovers, yard leads, and other crossing tracks.

        SB would have to clear a minimum of 23.5′ over the rail tracks, so this stands to be a 35′ tall gadget. That makes rebuilding some overpasses infeasible and others really expensive.

  15. Community Transit requires that dogs wear muzzles. Wish Metro would do likewise. Keep seeing more and more large dogs on Metro buses, some quite fierce-looking. Never seen any owner pay a fare for large dogs, as they are supposed to do.

  16. New MAX hydrogen fuel cell bus begins rolling through Birmingham, Alabama

    The bus is a pilot project and was built through a partnership with UAB and the Center for Transportation and the Environment.

    A hydrogen fuel cell station was built at MAX transit’s Eighth Avenue maintenance facility, also as part of the pilot program, August said.

    The bus requires different maintenance than the rest of MAX’s fleet. Mechanics, supervisors and drivers all received special training, she said.


  17. First Hill Streetcar construction affects the overhead on Jackson Street. All Metro trolleys, regardless of route, have to use Jackson Street to leave or return to the base. So all of them are being dieselized on weekends, when Metro has enough spare diesels to do so. That way, SDOT’s contractors (and Metro’s own line crews) can freely work on the Jackson Street overhead on weekends.

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