This is an open thread.

64 Replies to “News Roundup: Painfully Eloquent Microcosm”

  1. Fancy that, I spent about 5 minutes last night stuck on an E Line in that very same Belltown bus lane. Why you might ask it took 5 minutes to go 2 blocks? It was full of cars. Bring on the red paint! And in the future, some camera enforcement (if they can record all our license plates for “crime purposes”, why not actually use them for something more useful?).

    1. There should be a system within Metro of drivers reporting trouble spots, which I’m sure are pretty consistent. Stick a motorcycle cop out there (hell a bicycle cop would work, those cars aren’t going anywhere), and start writing tickets like there’s no tomorrow. Those trouble spots will clear up in a few days, plus SPD gets some easy revenue.

      1. Or even a category on the comments submission form, so that riders can help out as well, since they’re not going anywhere either! Currently you can comment about a driver or a bus ride, but not a particular location in the system.

        This does seem like low-hanging fruit.

      2. I think camera enforcement would do the job. Simple and cheap. You get a ticket in the mail, with a picture of your car in the bus lane. You can fight it you want, or pay the ticket. Either way it doesn’t show up on your insurance. It works real well and probably pays for itself in a month.

    2. Here’s a question – we have red light cameras, so why don’t we stick those suckers on busses and record when scofflaws are, say, passing a bus with its left blinker on? The cameras could be tied to the left blinker being on, and citations would only be issued if a car is still passing the bus after 3 seconds to give people time to clear out of the way. Metro and whatever municipality the bus happens to be in could split the revenue. I think I personally experience $1000+ in potential revenue everytime I ride the 44 from Wallingford to UW. Maybe this could bail out Metro with no new taxes. :)

      1. I think it would also be good if buses had completely separate “I’m stopped now, picking up riders” lights and turn signals. As a driver, I’ve been in the midst of passing a bus just as it changes its lights from the stopped position to a left turn signal. It isn’t obvious at first, so it is easy to misread the transition. I agree, though, that 3 seconds is plenty of time, and if a car is still passing a bus at that point, a ticket is in order. Even a small ticket ($20) would get the message across (especially since a fair number of people don’t realize they are supposed to yield).

  2. I have heard (at seattle bike blog) that the bike lane will be bidirectional, but just paint. Has anyone heard anything about this?

    I would think that the Jersey Barrier treatment the bike lanes to Magnison park got would be desired here…

    1. I’ve seen similar reports but nothing official.

      Putting two-way bike traffic on one side of a street creates unique traffic hazards that definitely need to be dealt with, and watching driver behavior around the sidepath on Broadway, I wouldn’t expect any amount of paint to stop motorists from using a Second Avenue sidepath for cutting ahead at backed-up intersections. If it’s just paint, I’ll stick to riding in the general-purpose lanes. Like the existing Bike Lane of Death, using bike lanes is optional for cyclists, and many cyclists will choose the safety of the street over the comfort of segregation.

  3. China mulling construction of high-speed train through Canada to the U.S.: report

    China is considering building a high-speed train that would connect China’s northeast with the United States. The project would cross Siberia and the Bering Strait to Alaska, and then go across Canada into the United States, according to the English-language report published in the state-run China Daily.

    To cross the Bering Strait into Alaska, the railway would need a 200 kilometre underwater tunnel, which implies it would be around four times the length of the tunnel that crosses the English Channel…China Daily claims that the technology to construct such a long underwater tunnel already exists and will be used to build a tunnel to connect China’s Fujian province with Taiwan…

    The train would reportedly travel at around 350 kilometres per hour, meaning the entire trip between the United States and China would take around two days.

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/05/12/china-mulling-construction-of-high-speed-train-through-canada-to-the-u-s-report/

    200 km tunnel?

    They could build us a whole high speed line under the Puget Sound from here to Vancouver, BC and skip our old tracks entirely!

    1. I would think that this trip exceeds the 500 mile threshold where HSR is faster and cheaper than flying.

      1. It sounds more like an “Occident Express” as the total journey would be 2 days long…and it’s quite slow for a HSR (only 200 mph). It would be competing with cruise lines not airplanes.

      2. Turns out the tunnel is the EASY part of that route. Crossing the multiple mountain ranges, including the Alaskan Rockies, is the hard part.

    2. Book for you, John. Serious- it’s really good. It’s called “The Chunnel”, by Drew Fetherston. Great description of whole project. Highlights are screaming arguments in the company board-room, often between English and French officials.

      Meantime, machines kept boring, in a working environment where even finding France was tricky due to the fact light doesn’t go straight in air conditions down there. Especially important to stay in correct strata of chalk, since a few degrees offcourse upward would drown everybody in Channel water, and downward, in mud.

      One method was to run a hollow drill out through the center of the cutter, and keep a geologist in the cab to check the cores for the right kind of fossils.

      One thing that really helped was immediately removing the state-of-the art electronic controls before the salt water blew them out, and replace them with old-time hydraulic ones.

      Another safeguard was that cross-passages were dug by Irish laborers working by hand with air-powered chisels in the chucks of jackhammers.

      Book begins with info that first attempt was in 1885, with a machine that could have made it, and was prototype for future machines- but called off because the British army panicked about a possible French military invasion.

      Other Brits were panicked by prospect of being forced to drink wine instead of beer. There’s also a contemporary cartoon of all the other horrible Europeans scrambling through the breach with their knives, mustaches, and funny clothes.

      Probably luck they stopped. Geology would have drowned the whole crew before they got very far. Also, good thing that neither attempt used either the machine or the company under a certain waterfront right now.

      Check it out. Lot of lessons for present activities.

      Mark

    3. This is not the first time this has been proposed. It seems like the most recent round of proposals happened around 2005 or so.

      As a high speed passenger route it really doesn’t make any sense, but the primary reason 10 years ago was more for freight transport, and bypassing the slow speed of ships or the cost of air freight, an the congestion at the Port of Long Beach, Calif. (where, despite efforts of all the other ports, a huge portion of Chinese imports to the USA are handled).

  4. Linde to Make Hydrogen From Surplus Wind Power at German Plant

    Linde today laid the first stone for the plant that will start production in Mainz in 2015, the Munich-based company said in a statement. The facility will be able to convert as much as 6 megawatts of power, mostly from nearby wind farms, into hydrogen using technology from Siemens AG, Linde said. The hydrogen can be stored and will help protect supplies, it said.

    “We’re firing the starting shot for an innovative storage technology that might well become an important building block of the German energy switch,” said Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, whose ministry helped finance the project.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-15/linde-to-make-hydrogen-from-surplus-wind-power-at-german-plant.html

    A partial answer to the questioners who ask…but where does the H2 come from.

    1. Hope it’s a useful storage mechanism. May still be more expensive than batteries, though.

  5. Someone told me that in San Francisco, buses have cameras through the windshield to get license-plate evidence that somebody is in the bus lane without a bus.

    Mark

    1. It would also be nice have cameras to cite drivers that cross double yellow lines to pass stopped buses letting off passengers. A couple times a month, I see pedestrians in crosswalks nearly hit by cars speeding into the oncoming traffic lane to pass stopped buses- 41st and University Way NE southbound is a common place for this. I understand drivers’ frustration at having to wait for a couple dozen passenger to load and unload at a stop, but that’s no excuse for nearly killing someone.

      1. My wife also strongly favored roof-mounted machine guns and rocket launchers for targeting substandard drivers. I kept pointing out difficulty of avoiding flying shredded metal and passenger parts, but she was implacable.

        Remember reading that this was a real danger for the guys flying the Spitfires and the Hurricanes. Probably not anymore.

        Really hating tailgaters but hesitant to have innocent following traffic wreck its tires on the wreckage, would settle for an electronic device to dial down the perpetrator’s engine and apply his brakes every time following distance got too close.

        Bet this is possible with increasingly electronicized cars. Anybody seeing it online or in a magazine with somebody in a leather bikini on the cover?

        Mark

    1. Since Mark Zuckerberg got that money from on-line feeding frenzies, it seems Karmically sound.

  6. A representative of Sound Transit presented an update at the Rail Advisory Council meeting yesterday that included a high level cost/ridership analysis of the different mode/routing options available for the Eastside rail corridor.

    A full set of materials presented, including PSE’s presentation, can be found here.

    1. In the Sound Transit presentation, on slide 11 where it says “Downtown Belleve” I’m guessing they really meant Downtown Kirkland.

      1. No, that’s Downtown Bellevue. N 8th Street is in Renton, not NE 8th Street in Bellevue. The mileage matches that, more or less.

    2. I hope that whatever they build on this corridor is grade-separated. As long as it’s fast I don’t care if it’s a bus or a train, just no more half-assed BRT!

    3. I also noticed that in the two maps, the existing LInk has a station on I-5 between TIB and Rainier Beach.. are there plans for such station?

      1. That’s where the oft-discussed Boeing Access Road transfer station would be, where the Link tracks cross the Sounder tracks. The value of this transfer is debatable, particularly given the limited schedule of Sounder for the forseeable future and the limitations of the particular location (bus routes connecting the nearby industrial areas to TIBS and Tukwila Sounder would still be necessary to connect them to this station), but this is where such a station would go if there was one. Anyway, I wouldn’t read anything into its appearance on a map of eastside plans unless it’s mentioned by name somewhere.

  7. From the Traffic War Room article:
    “Currently, Seattle does not require impact fees from developers to mitigate traffic.
    It’s an option some city leaders will look at to solve construction gridlock.”
    It’s surprising to me that we don’t have this- do other cities have impact fees? I can understand that there would be a counterargument that impact fees would discourage development, but it really seems like a huge giveaway to allow construction projects to take up road space and time. A month or so ago I wrote to SDOT suggesting this for the bike lane closure at the bottom of Stone Way that lasted several months- it seems only fair that if a private company is using that public space to store their construction equipment, they can at least mitigate the impact by improving the detour route. (SDOT did not respond.)

    1. I would love it if they did that. A few months ago, there was a lane closed on the 40 route in SLU and it caused the bus to be at least 10 mins late. It would have been nice to have a flagger to wave the bus through.

      1. I’m not convinced this city has any process whatsoever to weigh the impacts and costs of temporary or extended road closures against the benefits.

        If you filled out paperwork to close all of Belltown and South Lake Union for an entire day for a Choke Transit For Fun And Profit fun run, the city would probably grant the permits and everyone else would be forced to deal.

    2. I’ve also noticed the developers that have sidewalks on both sides of Woodland Park closed in the same spot, just north of 36th St. For a while they had competing “Sidewalk closed – Use other side” signs.

      1. This happened briefly on Fremont Ave. just south of 39th, with a construction project on one side and some sort of drainage or sewer problem on the other. In that area it was pretty easy for me to get around the blockage by walking around in the parkway on one side or out into the bike lane on the other. It would have been pretty hard for someone that had trouble walking or that used a wheelchair.

      2. I had a friend who got busted by SPD for walking in the street when sidewalks on both sides were closed. According to my friend, it seemed the officer was just hanging out on the other side of the fence writing tickets. Doesn’t stop me from doing it, but still irks me that jaywalking is treated more seriously than blowing a stop sign.

      3. Twice I’ve seen officers blocking pedestrians at construction sites. Once on Pine Street between Bellevue and Melrose, and once on University Way between Campus Parkway and 40th. They didn’t issue tickets but sternly warned people to cross the street. That forces people to wait for two additional traffic lights, and miss their bus half the time. I really wish we had what d.p. described in New York, where if a sidewalk is blocked there’s always a walkway in the adjacent traffic lane. Some of the sites here do this evenings and weekends, as the Pine Street site did sometimes, but most of the time they don’t.

    3. Impact mitigation fees in Bellevue go far beyond renting the ROW used for construction. In theory they are supposed to pay for all of the upgrades required to accomodate the increased traffic, utilities and other city services like fire and police service. It never really amounts to the cost to the city in total but OTOH the city is going to reap higher property taxes, sales taxes, etc.

    1. Since tunneling for North Link will start before Bertha resumes, I wonder how much of that tunneling between Northgate and UW will be done before SR99 is complete.

      It would be interesting if North Link managed to be fully tunneled before Bertha finishes her route…

      1. I walking north on 1st Ave NE from NE 92nd up to Northgate Mall, and there was Brenda in all her glory, sitting at the staging area. She was champing at the bit just ready to start drilling. If anybody wants to see Brenda, that’s the place to go.

  8. Knutsen also expressed frustration that many Sounder riders aren’t Puyallup residents, yet his city is absorbing the burden of more traffic congestion and unsightly structures downtown.

    If only there were some technology, some class of vehicle, that could perhaps be used to bring large numbers of outlying commuters in to the train in the morning, and out in the evening, without them having to park their cars downtown all day. Does anyone have any ideas? I’m stumped.

    1. “[Puyallup] Mayor John Knutsen reiterated that “cannibalizing” downtown is not the answer to improving access for commuters.”

      An exurban mayor who doesn’t want a parking garage? That’s progress. It shows that the exurbs are rediscovering the value of their downtowns, which they should have been doing all along.

      1. Puyallup was a (little) town before trains ran through it, and it had a commercial district before highways were built through it and began to be considered something like an exurb. It’s not a good-city-vs.-bad-suburbs thing.

      2. The mayor isn’t thinking with both his brain cells. Every commuter coming into town is a potential customer for his downtown. Every commuter coming into town is an opportunity for improvement. Most cities would kill to have a major draw like Puyallup has with Sounder. He needs to stop whining about parking and start figuring out how to leverage this asset into a healthier downtown, because lord knows Puyallup could use the improvement.

        I get the impression that he thinks that by whining about traffic and “cannibalization” he thinks he can get some freebies out of ST. I suspect what he really wants is street improvements; ST needs to say “no”.

      3. ST needs to say “no” to the highway improvements the Mayor wants, and “yes” to running some f***ing feeder buses.

      4. A P&R (even if it’s for a train!) really isn’t much of a draw for a suburban downtown. Peak-only train service isn’t going to drive customers to downtown businesses. Even with the midday/shoulder-peak service coming down the pike. I grew up in a suburb with an established downtown and commuter rail with more off-peak service span than Sounder is likely to get within my lifetime, and the conversation is basically the same (except that, because the city operates the garages, it plays out in city politics instead of by city officials scoring points by grandstanding against the transit agency).

        Sounder service works for nearby residents commuting, mostly to downtown Seattle. If it’s attractive enough to encourage more downtown Puyallup residential development, new residents would be natural customers for downtown businesses. This is a bit of a long play, though, and you can’t dictate private development by fiat.

      5. When I was growing up we had an old house on Vashon Island and went there weekends to fix it up. We never shopped in West Seattle on the way back, and I gather not many people did. That’s probably what Puyallup is expering. But, uh, they asked for Sounder. Careful what you wish for…

        If these people aren’t coming from Puyallup, where are they coming from? Is everyone coming from Bonney Lake and Buckley and Wilkeson? But there’s not that many people down there and the Bonney Lake ones have a feeder bus. Or are they really coming from Puyallup after all?

      6. Looking at Google Maps, the commuters are coming from “South Hill” and “Orting” and “Graham” and “Frederickson” maybe? Or “Summit”?

        There’s a hell of a lot of sprawl outside the Puyallup borders.

        I’m sure a lot are coming from Puyallup too; it’s got some sprawl inside its borders. But that mass of sprawl south of Puyallup has to add up.

      7. I really think these tensions could be handled more productively if our transit agencies left cities to handle P&R lots, at least in downtown areas. The transit agencies have lots of motivations that at best have nothing to do with cities’ goals, and at worst run against them. Dozens of BART garages agree: it’s about how the city works first, and how the trains work second.

        One example is Puyallup, where some city officials have various concerns about the size and location of parking lots, and traffic congestion caused by parking access. The location of the state fair makes this a familiar concern there — peaky traffic and parking utilization that doesn’t do much for local businesses the rest of the time (note similarity to concerns about arenas). Because they have no real power to do anything, they can always score political points by rallying against the transit agency at every opportunity, no matter how self-contradictory. Instead, give them the power and responsibility to solve their problems, and they’ll have to stand for something, put their names and reputations behind real proposals.

        Another is Mercer Island, where island residents are fixated on eastsiders parking in their P&R. Of course, it’s really ST’s P&R, but really, there’s no reason it has to be ST’s responsibility to own a bunch of land on Mercer Island to operate a parking garage. Mercer Island has a city government; let it operate lots and set policies for access.

        ST should work really hard on connecting bus access at train stations, making sure that buses have direct, reliable routes to stops near platforms. But it shouldn’t operate monolithic lot-plus-station complexes. These make sense to a transit agency, which finds it efficient to consolidate its holdings and mostly is concerned with filling parking stalls for short-term ridership. In the long run, a city with a vision for station-adjacent land will surpass this, and will be willing to find more creative solutions for its P&R-ing residents.

  9. One comment tread was advocating for impact fees from developers to mitigate traffic their projects cause. And another comment thread was saying Sound Transit should not have to have to pay to mitigate traffic around Puyallup Station that their Sounder trains cause?

  10. Does STB have an artist? If not, I’d like to apply to be this blog’s official artist. Here’s a little bit of my work.

    ___,,,_^..^_,,,___

  11. Hey ya’ll. I’m in Music City and plan to take MTA in from Music Valley to downtown tomorrow. Their website had a Metro like trip planner that pointed me to the 90 minute headway bus that will pick me up and drop me off right at the hotel for $1.75 each way. I’ll ask about a day pass but I already know they have a DT circulator that’s free. I goggled to see if there was a kin NashvilleTransitBlog but it only turned up this link to Nashville MTA announces interim CEO amid Amp debate. Metrotransitblog.com is not Nashville’s own of course. How many MTAs are there? Still, an interesting site that STB might link to for the big Apple picture. Any hints on Nashville tourism via transit welcomed.

  12. Streetsblog also has a story about that Houston overhaul. I wish we could get something like that in Seattle.

    I haven’t been lurking here long enough to gauge how out of step I am with the sentiment here, but I resent Metro putting me between a rock and a hard place, forcing me to either advocate service cuts or advocate continuing to dump money in an organization that doesn’t seem very cost effective. (My favorite example is Metro’s seeming tendency to treat each day that heavy traffic shows up in Seattle as a black swan event, as something that just couldn’t be planned around because no one can foresee these things. But perhaps I’m naive about how hard their planning jobs are.)

    What I really want is an effective, extensive, well-funded, well-run transit service. Is pouring more money into Metro the way to get there?

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