120 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Hong Kong Tram Night Ride”

  1. Are the trans dual mode? i.e. does vehicle have steel wheels and also rubber tires?

      1. Seriously? You have never heard or seen a dual-mode vehicle? Able to travel on track (steel wheel) or road (rubber tire)?

        They do exist; I would post photo here if I knew how. Commonly used by railroads to facilitate inspection/repair. You probably just never noticed.

      2. Hi-Rail vehicles are not really “dual mode”. They are regular highway vehicles with a small rail wheel attachment. They can only operate at very limited speed on rail due to the nature of the attachment, and generally have very limited traction due to the nature of being driven by a rubber tire on a steel rail.

        Trackmobiles are somewhat the opposite. They are basically light weight locomotives that can move themselves over the road at limited speed. However, they don’t meet any of the safety requirements to be a true highway vehicle and thus can’t really operate as a highway vehicle would, nor does it meet many of the standards for a locomotive.

        Other than those specific vehicles, I am unaware of anyone making anything that is truly a “dual mode” type of vehicle that could be used truly as either / or, especially in revenue service as then they would have to meet the safety standards of both rail and highway service.

      3. Glenn,

        I believe I read that the rubber tired metro cars of Paris, Montreal and Mexico city have somewhat narrow gauge steel trucks to switch. So they’re sort of “dual mode” in the way you’re talking.

      4. Exactly.
        Dual-mode could be extremely useful as it would broaden transit cachement.
        Collector buses in lower density area pickup passengers then get on rail for longer higher speed trips.
        Diminish need for park-ride lots.
        Seems so obvious and relatively cheap experiment i.e. both rail and road exist so create dual mode bus and try it out.

        Oh that’s right — we already know everything.

      5. What you are describing exists, has had occasional implementation problems, but can still offer value in some extremely limited circumstances. Basically, it’s “open BRT” tailored for an even higher-capacity combined core.

        Not necessary in the vast majority of hypothetical situations, and may create systemic complexity (on top of technological complexity) that outweighs any benefits.

        I haven’t the slightest idea why you would think the 110-year-old British-colonial relic in the video would be one of those.

      6. Thx very much btw for the link. And actually I am the one who thinks that such bus/trams should be considered, for some of the very reasons I suggest above.

        I have read your assertions carefully. (and btw I didn’t see any 110 year-old relic, so puzzled.)

        Bottom line: you say it won’t work, system complexity, technological complexity etc. but offer no reasons.

        I am saying that the tram/bus can enrich the network and make it more seamless i.e. mode change is a major impediment to use and minimizing such change will benefit system efficiency by making the system easier/quicker to use. And it combines two existing proven technologies.

        So there ya go, it needs a whole more analysis to know if such dual-mode vehicles would work in Seattle.

      7. Paris Metro, and a few other examples of rubber tired fixed guideway systems exist (notably many airport people movers), but those really aren’t hybrid of any sort. They just have a special guideway. Decades ago they were supposed to offer quieter operation than steel rail, and faster acceleration. Today there really isn’t any advantage to them and have quite a number of disadvantages.

        I don’t really see how guided bus offers any advantages over something like Curitiba’s BRT. The buses there have no track, yet the driver is able to line the bus up with the platform doors just fine without the track. In the USA you can’t operate buses longer than 60 feet anyway, so even if you install guided bus you can’t operate anything of a length here that would really take advantage of it. It could be no longer than existing articulated buses.

        By far the fastest and easiest way of using buses to feed a rail line is synchronized timetables. Otherwise you would consume a lot of time getting the hybrid vehicle onto the track and making a train out of it.

        I don’t see how a hybrid road/rail bus would really help solve the feeder issue that well, when really well run timed transfers do this

        I’ve been told that every time the Swiss Federal Railway updates their timetable, they put they put the bus, train, and ferry timetables into a supercomputer at CERN, and have it optimize the timed transfers across the entire country. Otherwise, there are simply too many possible destinations for a simple hub and spoke type model to work well for the majority of riders.

      8. DMS,

        You did not read my post thoroughly. The steel wheels are for switching. They are used nowhere else other than in the VMF which is rife with switches.

        However, these are railcars we’re talking about; they have no means of steerage other than the rail and side buffers. The operator doesn’t “drive” them when they’re running on the rubber tires; there are rollers on the side of the trucks which contact high “curbs” on either side of the guideway.

        What you’re envisioning: free-running rubber tired vehicles which also have steel-wheeled trucks to travel on rails has been tried a few times, always as a spectacular failure. The trucks are enormously heavy and are vulnerable to damage from “high-centering” over the irregularities found in nearly every roadway in existence.

      9. “What you’re envisioning: free-running rubber tired vehicles which also have steel-wheeled trucks to travel on rails has been tried a few times, always as a spectacular failure. The trucks are enormously heavy and are vulnerable to damage from “high-centering” over the irregularities found in nearly every roadway in existence.”

        Then how comes it doesn’t work with small trucks? 1-Ton pickups. I have seen them; they work fine. Why can’t they be scaled-up to bus size? (And there can be many sizes of buses of course.) The truck/axle (passive unpowered unit) is probably havier heavier than for a 1-ton but then again the whole bus is heavier. And much lighter than needed by a RR car. So how much does the steel-wheel unit weigh?

        Could you please cite some of the “spectacular failures?

        To be clear, I am NOT talking about guided busways. The rails of course provide the guide and when it drives off, the vehicle dismounts from the steel rail and the bus acts like a normal bus and can go anywhere.

        Look, no doubt there are technical issue but you make it sound as dual-mode bus/tram is like going to the moon. The technology works for small trucks. Why can’t it work for buses of some size?

      10. Because those vehicles are standard road vehicles. They just meet highway safety standards. You can’t move paying passengers that way. It doesn’t meet safety standards for a rail vehicle.

        They also only move at moderate speed by rail. They don’t get enough traction to accelerate well.

      11. @DMS,

        I just realized that you don’t know that a “truck” in reference to a rail car is totally different from the more common rubber-tired commercial vehicle. It is the structure on which the wheels and traction motor are mounted and on which the vehicle chassis is in turn mounted using a pivot. They are universally made of cast steel to withstand the vibration inherent in steel wheel on steel rail technology. They’re HEAVY and cannot be steered other than by the rails. The rubber tired metro cars have two sets of wheels mounted on each axle; the outer is rubber tired and slightly larger than the inner steel wheel.

        This allows the vehicle to change from concrete for standard running to the rails for switching (and vice versa of course) simply by beginning the rails at road height at a gauge slightly wider than normal then squeezing the rails together as they rise from the roadway. This ensures that the steel wheels “re-rail” properly even if the rubber tires are yawing on the roadway. Once the rails are at normal height the concrete roadway ends and the cars are supported entirely on the steel wheels,

        The important thing to remember is that both wheels are on the same axle; there is no “raising and lowering the rail wheels” as on high-rail vehicles. The trucks with their massive frames and traction motors are at the same six or so inch clearance at all times.

        The spectacular failures are from the 1920’s when buses began to be practical things but streetcars still ruled the roost. Many people tried to develop “steerable trucks” so that buses could use the streetcar tracks where available but they proved simply too heavy, and the dual axles make them resistant to rotation. And, as I mentioned above, road hazards played havoc with the rail running gear.

        The “high-rail” vehicles you’ve seen have an unpowered single-axle rail support structure at each end which supports most of the vehicle’s weight, but also keeps the rubber tires properly aligned on the track. The vehicle is actually powered by the rubber driving wheels. As Glenn points out, they have poor adhesion to the steel rail; you wouldn’t want them running down MLK with moron drivers running the cross-street lights or turning in front of them.

      12. Thank you for the information and frankly I may have not tracked your explanation. So of course not convinced.

        The “trucks” for example. You keep mentioning traction motors. My concept is that the bus is powered entirely by the electric or diesel motor driving rubber tires. The steel wheels are not powered.

        And yes, tires would be an essential element, as is the actual surface of the rail. If that means developing high traction tires and high tractions steel rail surfaces, so be it.

        As I read it just about everything you say is based on what exists now. So things may not work as is. So what? That’s what you hire engineers for — to solve problems; and until I am able to sit down with engineers who can explain why, in theory, the dual mode bus/tram won’t work, then I am not persuaded that it is a concept that we are overlooking.

        Do you agree that the dual-mode works with 1 ton trucks? I would hope you would, since I have seen them with my own eyes and it does. So I don’t get why scaling it up is impossible. If, for example, it doesn’t work at larger scale with one axle, then develop a version with separate axles.

        You keep saying that it doesn’t work and my response is go back and make it work.

        There have been so many things which have be improved and it’s amazing that after decades or more someone comes along and tweaks things. Consider skis. Ski manufacturers have been aware of shape for just about a hundred years. But they didn’t experiment with varying side-cut and camber until the 1990s. Why? No idea. Maybe technology but I think most was just a “We do it this way.” A very small change in design — and everyone knew the principles — and yet it wasn’t done for decades. There are biggest example: wheels on suitcases. Do you know how many hundreds of years it took to put wheels on suitcases? It is astonishing.

        Maybe similar with dual mode bus/tram.

    1. Closer to home example: the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Tracks are what’s called “grooved rail”, set into pavement so their running surface is flat level with the street. This has been done with streetcars since streets were paved.

      If the tracks are installed correctly, bus tires barely feel them when wheel actually crosses the track, and ideally not at all when the bus is running length- to the track. Since width of bus axle is different from that of railcars, it’s possible to run the same right of way without rubber being on rail at all.

      Early on, there was some question that didn’t have much to do with the actual rails, but whether buses would need mechanical guidance on the steering to negotiate the clearances in the Tunnel. One of our predecessors, Essen Germany, runs very large trolleybuses through the same tunnel as streetcars. But steering axle has a retractable roller that contacts a flat panel running alongside the vehicles.

      We tried various tests, one of which was to take a couple of dozen articulated buses out to Seattle International Raceway every day for a week or so, and practice with two rows of orange cones laid out to the exact measurements of the Tunnel. Since Tunnel buses were going to be propelled by their rear axles, for the simulation our MAN coaches had the mechanism disabled that caused their rear axles to “steer”, and thereby make the bus more maneuverable.

      Coupled with the Tunnel’s being laid out by the world’s top railroad engineers, we found very early on that clearance was perspiration zero. A bus could probably clear most of it at forty, though top speed allowed was thirty. Also limiting speed was necessity of trolley poles having to slow for overhead.

      It was interesting to watch the Tunnel pavement being poured and tracked. The five foot thick reinforced concrete track-bed will probably survive the end of the world. But the concrete was cast with square grooves running the length of the Tunnel, for eventual installation of the track.

      Embarrassing chapter was idea of putting in rail nowhere near up to standard. Different stories: possibly somebody just screwed up, or equally possibly, the rail was just PR to remind people final intent was trains. One possible real benefit was that we proved over ten years’ service that there was absolutely no trouble about the track not interfering with rubber tires in some fairly steep grades and curves.

      As things finally worked out, even if adequate track had been installed from the beginning, a lot of it would have had to be ripped up and re-installed during conversion in 2005. Changed variable was that the industry had finally developed both low-floor trains and buses capable of 60 mph. Level boarding for wheelchairs and people with mobility problems was absolutely necessary for future passenger loads.

      In addition to problems with clearance for unguided buses, every single elevator and escalator would have had to be replaced if the platforms were raised. So fair question. But street rail and joint ops have been around for a hundred years.

      Mark Dublin

      The rough ride on buses in the Metro Tunnel has nothing to do with grooved rail as a concept. Rather- as with a lot of things on that project, either somebody was in a hurry or somebody cheaped out. What’s also cursed the DSTT is the perception from the get-go that both bus and dual-mode service were temporary.

      Trains were never supposed to take this long to get here. If heartfelt prayers, like from anybody to do with the rail side ever got past Somebody’s receptionist, He had other things on His plate

      1. Related to busses and rails, what/who would it take to have the tracks @ Lander & Occidental removed from Lander Street? Every bus has to stop for this useless stub; there is parking on the north and south on Occidental where the no longer in use tracks have been removed.
        It’s just another PITA that seems to be so unnecessary.

      2. It’s probably owned by BNSF. However, you could probably get the city department of transportation or state highway department to put up signs on the crossing saying “Exempt”. This means that vehicles that would normally have to stop at a crossing do not have to stop there. Certain conditions have to be met for this to work, but since there isn’t any train traffic there it shouldn’t be that difficult to meet those requirements.

      3. I have seen trains using those tracks in that area. And I’m not talking about the mainline a couple blocks east of there. So those tracks are still active and just hope you don’t get stuck there because of the speed restrictions on that line. So those tracks will stay.

      4. Another impact of driverless car:

        “This means that when the self-driving car becomes a reality, according to a post on Network World, governments will have to prepare for a massive reduction in revenue from traffic fines, seeing that autonomous cars will be programmed to operate within the law.”

        “According to the report, some 41 million people receive speeding tickets in the US alone each year, which translates into more than $6.2-billion. ”


      5. I wonder how many people will enjoy being forced to obey the law.

        It isn’t as if this technology will instantly appear on all vehicles. At best, at first they might get a premium lane on a few interstate highways with the rest reserved for normal cars.

        Most of those fines probably come from local roads, where it will take vastly longer to implement.

      6. I wonder how many people will try to hack their car to make it drive more aggressively. There may be a market in new driving software that will get you there quicker.

      7. Very clever. No doubt you are correct.
        Also ways to hide identity so as to avoid surveillance.

      8. Why bother. It’s much easier to just put the car in manual mode when you get tired of the autopilot scrupulously obeying the speed limit.

  2. Are there any plans on making Central Link any faster? It’s already painfully slow end to end, my fear is when it gets extended to Federal Way, it will be so excruciatingly slow that no one will ride from Federal Way to Seattle on it. And if they cancel the 577/78 when it opens, then FW to Seattle travel time could easily double.

    1. You haven’t noticed the pattern where the suggestion of speed is used to entice people to vote for rail funding. But then once they build it, and we ask where’s the speed we were promised, they say, “Oh, this was never about being fast, it’s about frequency, reliability, and an alternative to the freeway.” And you are right, the 38 minute ST 577 trip from Seattle to Fed Way will take over an hour and 15 minutes by train, and the 577 will be deleted to bump up rail ridership numbers. “But then what’s been solved by building a train line?,” you ask. “If the travel time has doubled, and we haven’t taken any people out of their cars, and we haven’t taken any cars off the freeway, what have we accomplished?” When you pull and pull and pull at this string, at the end of it, the only answer you will ever get is, “Well, things would be a little worse if we didn’t have light rail.” And even that’s not true. Seattle is one of the greatest cites in America without a light rail network. Look at the cities with extensive rail. Chicago: A violent, poverty-stricken hellhole of dozens of shootings every weekend. And then take …. my Strawberry Toaster Studel is ready. Bye.

      1. Most of Chicago was built out before 1900; it has large areas interlaced with active railroad lines and derelict industrial facilities. Many of the buildings were painted in the 1920’s with interior lead based paint. It has nearly four times the population of Seattle proper, much of which is poor minorities against whom self-absorbed narcissists from places like Bellevue have discriminated for 350 years. It’s little wonder that it has problems with violence.

      2. Chicago is a great city. Sam, you need to get out more and stop watching so much TV.

      3. Look at the cities with extensive rail. Chicago: A violent, poverty-stricken hellhole of dozens of shootings every weekend.

        Look at the cities that attempted to rely only on highways for transportation:

        Detroit: A violent, poverty-stricken hellhole of dozens of shootings every weekend.

        Los Angeles: It became a violent, poverty-stricken hellhole of dozens of shootings every weekend long before they developed their current rail transit.

        Orlando, FL: A violent, poverty-stricken hellhole of dozens of shootings every weekend and they are just now developing a commuter rail line.

      4. Did you really just blame socio-economic problems such as violence on the existence of a rail transit system?

    2. How much time does LINK spend at each station?

      Is it the same for all stations?

      Could the slow speed could be helped with a SeaTac to Downtown Express or is it simply the average speed that the train runs at (what is that by the way?)

      1. The slowest piece of track is the 15 mph speed limit in the tunnel. Lots of stuff has been suggested about ways to solve that particular issue. There doesn’t seem to be any particular consensus.

      2. It could be faster if it spent less time at each stop. Lots of people have complained about that.

      3. Also, Glenn, 15 MPH is slow, but probably largely meaningless. The tunnel is only 1.3 miles long. Doing a little math, that means that if it made no stops, and went 60 MPH, it would save around four minutes. But there are stops, which is why it could never go 60 MPH — it it did, people would fly out of their seats (too much acceleration/deceleration). OK, so let’s assume the top speed is 30 MPH. Again, if there were no stops, it would save around two minutes. But there are stops. So even if the train maxes out at 30 MPH, it will only do so for a very short distance (before it has to slow down again). So, really, the key factor here is acceleration.* There is a reason that bikes are used for delivering messages inside cities, instead of El Caminos: top speed doesn’t matter; acceleration as well as avoiding dead stops are more important.

        * Maybe someone a little more savvy than me can figure out what the maximum speed savings could be inside the tunnel. You would have to figure out what the maximum acceleration can be, then assume a vehicle meet that before it has to slow down to the next stop. My guess is that at most, you are talking about a few seconds. You could save way more than that by simply spending less time at each stop.

      4. Do keep in mind that we currenty use only half of each of the station platforms. When ULink opens that will increase to three quarters (possibly four car trains using the entire platform for events). This will require more dwell time during busier periods. Our MLK stations require at minimum a 39 second dwell time for signal cascade. Our station platforms especially downtown are quite constrained physically. Westlake takes the most time currently to load or unload trains. Imagine it will be quite a bit longer when you have just as many people getting on while passengers get off after Ulink opens.

        Downtown dwell times are completely at the operators descretion other than schedule and passenger loads unless there is “traffic ahead”.

      5. More doors = less dwell time, even as ridership increases. Humans are decent at self-distribution.

      6. There has also been some discussion about congestion in the tunnel being a source of slow running as well.

        I can tell you that I have been on a few metro lines (not to mention airport people movers – but those are of course a different animal) with reasonably frequent station spacing where the speed between stations seems a bit faster than what is happening on Link. True, the added cost (increased maintenance plus power consumption) might not be worthwhile, but for every minute you shorten the trip you make it more appealing to a few more riders.

        However, in my actual experience riding it, the waiting for the red signals is the more irritating delay there.

      7. My understanding was that the 15 mph speed limit in the tunnel was only necessary due to bureaucratic rules resulting from the train being shared with buses – that once buses are kicked out of the tunnel, this limit can be removed.

    3. Well, it’s not likely actually to get to Federal Way before 2045 because of suburban hostility to transit and poor tax revenues in the South King area, but if it does, your point is an excellent argument for an Airport Way bypass. A single track with passing sidings facility could be constructed between Airport Way and the railroad tracks at grade most of the way. The alignment through Georgetown would have to be elevated of course, but that’s a relatively small portion of the route.

      The junction with the main line at the north end could use the existing flying junction for the VMF and at the south end could mimic the Airport Way interchange with Boeing Access Road.

      It would cost maybe $300 million in today’s dollars.

      1. Speaking about that….

        Kent might add property tax fee (LIDs) to pay for street/railroad grade separations

        LIDs are additional property tax fees charged to property owners who would benefit from the street improvements. The LIDs along South 212th and 228th streets would impact commercial property owners and not residential property owners.


        Now, Kent voted down a LID in my neighborhood to fund the 256th street improvements — I supported it. But I think they are just going to keep trying. These LIDs and property taxes seem like the only fair way to go.

      2. This is what I dislike about the way sub-area equity is calculated: This is the only government entity I know of that disperses expenditures according to revenue (and only from the one source of sales tax). Other government entities usuall disburse expenditures according to population. Federal Way could be reached faster if population were the criterion, but a little help from the feds and the state would help a lot more. If the state can waste mobility grant money to bus Olympians all the way to Seattle, instead of just dropping them off at Lakewood Station, it can lend a hand to get Federal Way Station up and running.

      3. >> Federal Way could be reached faster if population were the criterion,

        If population were the criterion, then we wouldn’t have started with a line from downtown Seattle to the airport. The bulk of the downtown part was already built, by the way (we just needed to run the rail). We would build lines from the most populous, most popular spots, then expand outward. So, start with UW to Downtown. Then go over to Ballard. Run something like the Metro 8, but underground (Central Area, South Lake Union). Run another line up towards Phinney and Greenwood. Then run a line down Rainier Valley, but stop around Rainier Beach (the last bit of density for a long ways). That ought to do it, although you still left out plenty of areas that have way more people than Federal Way (e. g. Queen Anne has about 35,000 people in it — are there any neighborhoods in Federal Way like that?).

        But anyway, population was never a consideration, or it would have served the most populous areas first. No, it was geography. It wasn’t just suburban voters who bought into this idea, but Seattle voters, too. After all, the worst commute in the entire city is from Seattle to Redmond. So the idea of tying all the suburbs with Seattle with shiny new rail sounds just nifty. It isn’t until you look at the particulars (like 5 billion dollars to serve only part of West Seattle) that a lot of folks realize how silly these plans are. It makes sense to improve the bus system in the suburbs, because the people live spread out, and there are plenty of freeways (with HOV lanes) to serve them. In the city is where light rail, running on its own line makes sense.

      4. Btw, have you folks ever heard of the “driverless car”? Just been reading about it in Popular Mechanics; and danged if it don’t seem to me to be game-changing transformative urban technology of next 100 years. then I’ll be a gol-darn…whatever.

        All that fixed-rail stuff — which we buy only under great pressure, witness the last 50 years — how do you folks figure to integrate driverless vehicles with whatever limited rail we ever get, and then also with bus lines, which may indeed also be “driverless” (though that does boggle the mind and raise security issues so maybe the person board bus is not a driver but a attendant/cop.)

        Anyway, think that the transit folks may buy fleets of driverless buses to feed to fixed rail spines?

        Or that fleets of driverless taxis will act as public transit of the middle part of this century?

        Or are you folks all generals fighting the last war? :)

      5. You still have to buy the car.

        You still have to fuel the car.

        You will still have to pay all the normal maintenance costs of the car, as well as all the new equipment.

        You still have to find a place to park the car.

        Even with all he new technology, a driverless taxi will consume 30 to 50 feet of road space (car plus safe stopping distance) per rider.

        It will change some things, but not that much.

      6. Glenn.
        I am not trying to be cute with you but it doesn’t sound as if you have looked into the subject very much (or else you wouldn’t assume that people would BUY driverless cars for personal use).
        Nor am I trying to persuade you (except to think about the issues).
        The driverless car (I like “auto-auto” or maybe just the Otto) is happening. It is inevitable (according to the industry) and within a decade.
        Or else it won’t happen because of some unforeseen technological issue.
        But smart transportation planners will think about to integrate the Otto with existing systems.
        Or else they will look like generals fighting the last war.
        (Which is likely; is there ANYONE at our transit authorities thinking about Otto?)

      7. So, maybe you should answer your own question then: what changes do you see transit agencies needing to make to plan around this, should it happen within our lifetime (and remember that it is something that has been talked about since about the 1960s – so there is lots of room for being skeptical about its immediate arrival)?

        If the thought is that taxi companies would have a bunch of driverless taxis run around, then it seems like the current kiss & ride locations at transit stations would work just fine for delivering passengers arriving by this method.

      8. As to thinking about investment/non-investment on specific fixed lines, I wouldn’t do anything different. Quite yet. Definitely too soon to call hold on planning.

        Personally I am dubious that any of the fixed rail projects within contemplation will have any significant effect on how the vast majority of people live. Then again, even as as expensive as they are, and we waste a huge amount of $$$, it helps maintain Keynsian aggregate demand and that is what politics is all about: maintaining aggregate demand.

      9. All of the stuff I have read about the current driverless car efforts say they will be able to maintain 1/2 second following distance.

        At 60 mph, the traffic speed = (60 mph * 5280) = 316,800 feet per hour
        = 5280 feet per minute
        = 88 feet per second.

        So, the distance between vehicles at 60 mph is going to be about 44 feet.

        Even a fairly short car is about 10 feet long with most being about 12 feet. So, we are looking at about 1 vehicle every 56 feet or so. Maybe we can round that to 1 vehicle every 55.58 feet or so.

        Or, 95 standard autos per mile of lane of road (we won’t count semi-trucks for this exercise).

        Or, at 60 mph, each line has the ability to handle 5,700 vehicles per hour.

        Most of the material I have read indicates that typical vehicle occupancy in the USA is about 1.2 per car during commuter hours. So, that winds up being about 7,000 people per lane per direction per hour.

        In the same amount of space (one track going one direction), a well designed rail line can handle 30,000. If high capacity is really needed, good station design and well designed passenger entrance and exit routes can deliver nearly 100,000 per track per hour.

        If you are going to want to rely entirely on highways, you are going to need more lanes.

        The reason why Interstate 5 in Seattle currently carries the sheer number of vehicles it currently does per hour is that people cram themselves into being so close behind the car in front of them is that it isn’t safe at all, even at self-driving car standards. Typical safe following distance is usually regarded as somewhere around a 2 second following distance. Sure, we can cut that to 1/2 a second if everyone simultaneously adopts self-driving car standards, but even that is less than what is currently happening.

      10. Yup and that is why it would be good for us think about dual-mode bus/tram vehicles that can collect people from lower density areas and then run them directly on rail. You hit it exactly.

        Minimizing friction of transfer is an important element in convenience and perceived safety.

      11. @Lloyd,

        If Link ever gets to Federal Way and, even more, Tacoma, the Rainier Valley section will be completely out of character with the rest of the system. Everywhere else it will be a grade separated Light Metro (basically BART with catenary instead of third rail power distribution and shorter trains) with a wide average station spacing. The surface running along MLK at 35 miles per hour is completely out of sync with that design, especially if Graham Street is added.

        Now that’s not to say that the routing on MLK is a bad thing. Urban surface LRT in a road reservation a la MAX Interstate or Commonwealth Avenue in Boston can be a great city shaper. But it’s slow and in this case, rather out of direction with the remainder of the line.

        If there were significant employment in the corridor which might attract ridership from the south end of the line it would be one thing. But there isn’t and isn’t likely to be any significant addition in the foreseeable future. So for most riders from TIBS south it’s just an impediment to their trip. Forcing the deviation on mid-day riders who have much higher frequency as a reward for putting up with it is fine, but when you push farther south than the airport it becomes increasingly unappealing. As someone upthread pointed out, LRT functions best as a “string of pearls” between which people want to travel all day long. With the exception of the airport and Highline CC there are really not going to be any attractive pearls between Federal Way. So if Link is to be successful in the off-peaks it will live or die on Seattle CBD and UW trips.

        Nobody is suggesting building an express bypass any time soon. But if South King County does resume growing because global warming pushes business and population to cooler areas with reliable water supplies, having the bypass will improve service significantly. The county should ensure that the available right of way between the freeway and the UP tracks is reserved for such a facility.

    4. Given that the bus vs. Link time differential is quite a bit more for Federal Way compared to the 194 in the airport case, I don’t see Link replacing the 577.

      A similar issue exists along SR-520. If EastLink were allowed to completely replace the 542 and 545, thereby forcing everyone headed from north Seattle to the airport to take the long way around through downtowns Seattle and Bellevue, commute times for many would more than double. Realistically, I don’t see this happening.

      1. asdf, I’m confused which set of commuters you are talking about.

        When I was at an open house for UW Station a few years ago, the folks from northeast Seattle I heard from there were wanting Metro/ST not to forget northeast Seattle, and to please have bus service giving them access to UW Station.

        The problems with undependable travel times on SR 520 are precisely why having routes like the 64, 65, 75. 309, and 372 connect at UW Station (at least until Northgate Link opens) makes sense. After that, east-west connections to Brooklyn Station, etc. may be faster, depending on traffic patterns, but I don’t want to keep northeast Seattleites waiting another five years for access to a more dependable downtown commute.

        If you are talking about Kirkland and Redmond to UW commuters, SR 520 may still be a gridlocked mess when East Link opens.

        Ironically, I see peak-hour Federal Way Link beating the 577 on wait+travel time because of the distance the 577 has to slog through rush-hour peak-direction traffic. Off-peak depends more on frequency, but even if the bus only goes every half hour, it would still be slightly faster than the train, unless some asphalt truck spills its contents across all lanes of traffic. But if it is close, I see the 577 getting canned anyway for budgetary reasons.

      2. Northeast Seattle badly needs Link connections at UW station for going downtown, but for Microsoft commuters who live in north Seattle and UW commuters who live in Redmond, a bus along 520 will be much faster. Granted, there are times today when 520 is congested enough so that it may not be the case, but one cannot forget that years before EastLink opens, the new 520 bridge will be completed and there will be a 3+ HOV lane all the way from Montlake the Redmond in both directions, which should allow buses to bypass almost all of the gridlock.

        Assuming the bus does not get stuck in traffic, travel time from Montlake to Overlake is around 10-15 minutes. Riding Link all the way around is expected to take around 30-40 minutes, due to the combination of additional stops and a much larger total distance to traverse. And, for those headed to the UW from downtown Redmond, the 30-minute time penalty of going all the way around to I-90 comes on top of a transfer penalty at OTC for what is currently a direct one-seat ride on the 542.

        In an ideal world, what I would really like to see happen is for the 542 and 545 to be combined into a single route which would be truncated at the UW Link station, with the savings re-invested to increase frequency. The 545 currently spends close to half its service hours west of Montlake (largely due to the slow slog though downtown), so the new route could operate as frequently as 5 minutes peak, 10-15 minutes off-peak, using only existing funds. Downtown commuters would likely see no increase in travel time, as the transfer penalty at the UW station would be offset by the train’s not getting stuck in traffic along downtown streets.

        Unfortunately, this plan would require significant bus layover space at the UW station in order to work, space which through incredibly short-sightedness is being consumed by surface parking for the stadium. This in spite of the fact the UW’s existing surface lots around the stadium are half-empty on ordinary weekdays, and only fill up during the 8 days a year that the Huskies have a home game.

      3. If the UW Stadium parking really is just for game days, then laying buses over there the other 357 days a year shouldn’t be a problem. Something tells me, though, that UW would rather get the revenue from a couple dozen more parking permit purchasers. But, hey, ST can outbid those parkers for use of that space on non-game days.

        I agree that the 545 should be ended the day UW Station opens, moving the hours into the 542, if the Montlake Blvd traffic problem can be solved. The 542 could end up using as many platform hours circing around campus as the 545 does slogging through downtown.

        If the 545 and 255 continue to run, eastsiders going to UW will continue to have poor frequency and a ridership death spiral on the 542 and 540.

      4. I am pretty sure the parking lot is used for hospital (staff) parking, but your point is well taken. It would be better suited as a bus layover spot (and I think there would be room for both).

      5. Based on my observations as I pass by on my commute to work, the lot south of the stadium (next to the new Link station) is about 75% full on an average weekday, but the lot north of the stadium is less than 50% full. Anybody displaced in the south lot (due to space consumed by bus layover) could easily just park in the north lot. And, of course, the Link station itself should reduce overall parking demand in the area by making transit a more attractive alternative.

        “Something tells me, though, that UW would rather get the revenue from a couple dozen more parking permit purchasers. But, hey, ST can outbid those parkers for use of that space on non-game days.”

        Unfortunately, the configuration of the lot makes this a non-option. The parking lot adjacent the station is filled with tight corners and there simply is not enough room for a 60-foot articulated bus to maneuver in there. That said, your post did give me an interesting idea – even if the passenger stop is going to be next to the station and the south stadium parking lot, perhaps buses could still use the north stadium parking lot for turnaround and layover. The north parking lot, besides being much emptier on a typical weekday, also has a lot more maneuvering room so that an articulated bus could actually turn around in there. To make this idea work, Metro and ST would probably have to eat the cost of repaving the lot, which is almost certainly NOT designed to handle the amount of bus traffic it would receive if it were a layover area for multiple major bus routes, but that’s a trivial cost in the long run compared to operating the buses in the first place.

        One slight complication with using the north lot for layover is ensuring that traffic on Montlake Blvd. doesn’t cause chronic lateness and bus bunching before the bus picks up a single passenger. In my opinion, that is a problem which could be solved relatively cheaply. Buses would begin their run by turning left out of south end of the parking lot onto Montlake Blvd. south at a traffic signal which, currently, does not exist. This would get the buses past most of the traffic. Then, there would be a small layover area just north of the bus stop at Montlake/Pacific. The schedule would call for buses to wait there for 5 minutes or so before pulling up to the actual bus stop to load passengers and begin the run. The 5 minutes would be buffer in case traffic is bad for the 3/10 of a mile between the parking lot exit and the bus stop. Still not as good as if the UW would allow a proper transit center next to the actual station, but it’s still a whole lot better than having buses skip the area entirely.

      1. Probably so, but most of your “minorities” are high income techie Indians and East Asians. E.g. “good minorities”. They’re interesting people, many of whom have certainly overcome obstacles to get their educations. But they’re far from limited in the way Chicago southsiders are.

        I know all the arguments that “it’s been long enough” and “folks should stand on their own feet now.” But the statistics of average accumulated family wealth give abundant evidence that such arguments are specious at best. And it’s family wealth and educational background that are most highly correlated with future success for children with similar skills.

        So when you talk about the violence in Chicago, bear that in mind. For many people in large swathes of the burned out post-industrial Chicago south side, the only ladder out of poverty for young men and the young women who love them is gang affiliation.

      2. Anan, I’m speaking to the notion that once a city has light rail, it will transform into a Shangri-La. No such thing happens. Nothing improves. Nothing is solved. A city can have the greatest rail or bus system on the planet and still be a crime-ridden toilet. So let’s just stop the bs. “Once Link is built-out ….!” Once Link is built out, nothing will be solved. Nothing will be better. A great public transit system has nothing to do whether a city is great or not.

        And the urban poor don’t remain poor for generations because rich people inherit family wealth, they remain poor because their are strong disincentives to get married, and to leave welfare programs. They are shackled to them.

      3. A city can have the greatest rail or bus system on the planet and still be a crime-ridden toilet.

        Best practice on the planet right now is to get the rail transit system so that it is faster than driving. This means far less money gets dumped into perpetually expanding and maintaining an extensive road system because far more people are using the train in the urban area. People are willing to take the bus to get to the train station, because even though the bus is slightly slower the bus + train makes the longer trips faster than driving, for many trips.

        Regions that are headed that direction don’t seem to have the “crime ridden toilet” problem. Some of this may be the culture of the places where these efforts are being made, while other factors include resources to deal with other social ills become more available if the rat hole of ever expanding highways aren’t always gobbling up funds.

      4. their [sic] are strong disincentives to get married, and to leave welfare programs. They are shackled to them.”

        Not since 1995.

        To your larger point, what makes a city great is almost without exception a combination of “location, location, location” and the good fortune to have become the locus of a center of excellence. Today that is often the result of the efforts of a unique individual who establishes a new industry or artform. In the past it was often because some relatively rare resource was abundant in the nearby hinterland.

        Cities don’t get to be “great” by being bland Lego block places with legions of corporate men and women. Such places are often comfortable and vaguely pleasant. But they don’t jell into greatness. Cities become great because they have a unique je ne sais quois that attracts gifted people.

    5. Federal Way to downtown will be approximately 55 minutes. There’s plenty of time for Federal Wayans to decide their ST3 vote based on that. So nobody is being hoodwinked.

      There’s a moderate chance the 577/578 will remain at least peak hours because of their time advantage.

      1. Also a good opportunity to keep the 577 during peak and modify the 578 to serve kent instead. Until then I don’t see the point of modifying he current configuration as doing so would require two times as many 594 buses which would be half empty from Lakewood to federal way. We don’t have the money for that. Better to keep the 577 and 578 the same way it is now.

      2. As a cheap opportunity to make the 594 faster, why can’t it use the same pathways in and out of downtown as the 578 does, skipping the slow slog through SODO which is barely used? I don’t believe for a minute that there are enough more people commuting from Tacoma to SODO than Federal Way to SODO to justify a different service pattern.

        Skipping SODO speeds up travel time for not just people headed to the north part of downtown (which, honestly, is where most of the demand is, outside of sporting events), but also for people headed anywhere in the Puget Sound area north or east of downtown.

      3. But weren’t the buses put on the SODO busway precisely to get them off of I-5 near downtown? It’s hard to see them reversing that, not with I-5 congestion, or with abandoning the investment in the dedicated busway. Also, I took a 578 a few months ago and assumed it would use the busway, but instead it sat for ten minutes trying to get on the freeway, and I thought, “Why doesn’t it use the busway?”

      4. Replacing the 578 with the 594 will require twice as many trips thereby doubling the cost. Where are you going to find the money for the kent diversion for the 578? If this could be done without requiring significant increase in service on the 594 I would think its a good idea but right now I see the 578 filling up every time after leaving federal way and the 594 being full already leaving tds.

      5. “But weren’t the buses put on the SODO busway precisely to get them off of I-5 near downtown?”

        Normally, I-5 isn’t that bad – you just happened to ride the 578 at an unlucky time. True, I-5 northbound often looks congested near downtown, but when you dig closer, it’s the I-5 thru-lanes that get congested, while the exit-only lane to Seneca St., which the 578 uses, is free-flowing.

        I see nothing wrong with the driver using the busway on rare days when I-5 is actually congested enough to make it the fastest option. However, I do object to a service planning doctrine that prohibits the bus from using a pathway ever because sometimes, it can be congested. Such policies unnecessarily hobble bus service when the congestion isn’t there and make it unnecessarily difficult for transit to compete with driving.

        The same problem exists on Montlake Blvd. Because Montlake Blvd. is sometimes congested, so the theory goes, bus routes cannot use it ever, even when it is not congested, even though the alternate route through campus traverses the area in a way that would be equivalent to Montlake Blvd. running at around 5 mph all the way. This is going to become a much bigger problem in 2 years, as the detour through campus will be deviating downtown-bound riders away from the a connection to Link, in favor of a much slower and less reliable connection to the 73 at campus Parkway.

    6. It is ridiculous that we are even considering light rail to Federal Way, and your comment, Alex, shows why. To answer your question, though, the first thing we should do is make each stop shorter. That could easily shave off a lot of time. But in general, if you ride a light rail system through a bunch of stops, it will take a long time. But the advantage is, you will pass through a bunch of stops. The fact that people are complaining about the potential speed, and even thinking about spending a third of a billion on a route that bypasses the most populous areas along the way (in Rainier Valley) shows that light rail for this part of town just doesn’t make sense.

      Put it this way: When Link finally does the little section that it should have started with (UW to downtown) do you think the folks in either location will complain that it stops on Capitol Hill? Maybe we should build a bypass. What happens if they build a line from Ballard to the UW via Fremont. Do you think people will take the 44 because it is “more direct” (avoids going south to Fremont). Of course not. Or how about Northgate? It already has an express bus that goes right on the freeway and directly connects it to downtown. Do you think people will call for it to remain? No. They know that every stop between there is very important. Capitol Hill and the UW are the second and third most important stops in the state. Roosevelt doesn’t rank with them, but is still a decent stop. In some cases, I’m sure a commuter would save some time taking the 41 over the new light rail, but the difference will be minor, because the distances are so small. Furthermore, it is obvious to the commuter, and everyone, that going via the UW is for the greater good.

      It isn’t so obvious that we would get that with extending light rail to Federal Way. The vast majority of folks don’t want to go to 200th or Tukwila or even Rainier Beach — they want to go downtown. The vast majority of the remaining people want to go to the airport. That is it. Light rail systems don’t do that well. They work best when every stop along the way is popular. That just isn’t the case as you head south.

      Here is the other thing to factor in: except for the airport, the vast majority of people will not walk to a station south of Rainier Beach. They will arrive by car or bus. Arriving by car means you have basically failed. But there is nothing wrong if they arrive by bus. It really is the only way that this system (south of Rainier Valley) will be deemed a success. But here is the good news: the buses can be extremely effective in the area. There are a bunch of freeways in the area, and almost all of them have HOV lanes. So, basically, you have two things to consider:

      1) How do you get the buses to the light rail, so that you can serve the airport? The obvious answer is to build a good transit center close to Highline Community College (where a bunch of freeways converge). You might need to spend some money to improve the bus situation (add lanes, special ramps, etc.).

      2) Is it worth it, at that point, to have buses bypass light rail and go directly downtown. In my opinion, it isn’t. The tradeoff in time will be minimal, especially when you consider that there is no easy way for buses to get downtown. You will either be stuck in traffic, or have to transfer somewhere. Improvements could be made to the SODO area (and I think they should for other reasons) but at best that will save you maybe five minutes. The negative part is that you would be losing a lot of frequency. The bus would spend most of its time doing the same work that the train does (take people from Kent to downtown). In other words, would you rather have a bus that arrived three times as often, but made you transfer to light rail or take that bus directly downtown. In this case, I think frequency trumps speed.

      3) Would it save much work for the buses if they went to Federal Way instead of Kent? A little, but not enough to justify the cost, in my opinion. A station close to Highline Community College will serve Kent, and the areas to the east (where the bulk of the people live). It is very important that we build a good transit center there. If we do that, then buses from Federal Way will have no trouble getting there. If we build a station as good as that for Federal Way, then we will double our expenses for only marginal benefit. Actually, the cost would be even higher, since rail would have to be built from Kent to Federal Way (a long distance). There just aren’t enough riders down there to justify the cost, especially when the alternative (having the bus stay on the freeway a little longer) is just as fast.

      1. @Ross,

        Your comparison of the single Capitol Hill stop in a fifty-five mile per hour tunnel to the four stops (and possibly five should Graham Street come about) made along MLK running at 35 miles per hour is a stretch. For heaven’s sake, MAX runs at 45 down Burnside and Interstate Avenues in development very similar to that along MLK. The 35 mph limit is an insult.

        Now I agree with you that Link isn’t needed south of Highline CC, at least for several decades. And South King probably can’t pay for it anyway. But if it does get extended it makes sense to bypass the Rainier Valley for trains running south of the airport if it can be done for a reasonable cost, and it can.

      2. The same could be said about the sounder serving Lakewood and Tacoma. Fewer people take the train there thank the bus because it costs more and takes longer. But it does provide connections that are much faster to reach than existing bus service. Stops in the green river valley for instance are good targets for those getting on there and from the green river valley it is a much faster trip on sounder than driving or taking the bus.

    7. Yes, in two ways:

      1) No more transfer penalty to go north of downtown
      2) No more buses in the tunnel to get stuck behind

      Other than that, no.

  3. The US Is Ready to Make a $16 Billion Bet on Driverless Cars

    Ernest Moniz is wrapping up his first year as Energy Secretary with some intriguing news for autonomous cars: His department is making $16 billion worth of Department of Energy available to companies pursuing driverless vehicle technology.

    Moniz was in Detroit meeting with auto suppliers, and told an interviewer that “there was discussion about advanced traffic-management systems (and) autonomous driving,” according to the Detroit News. He said that companies researching driverless cars had become increasingly interested in the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan, which previously had been issued primarily to automakers manufacturing fuel efficient hybrids or electric cars.


    1. John,

      This is great news! If in fact the government is convinced that self-driving cars are achievable in the near future, this is a fantastic argument for stopping all freeway construction immediately.

      That’s because once a quarter of so of the vehicle fleet in a given city is self-driving it will be possible to dedicate freeway lanes to platooned autonomous vehicles. That will vastly increase the carrying capacity of a given lane because the AV’s can travel much more closely safely; they have no braking lag and would be in constant communication, warning one another of changes in velocity.

      1. Perhaps we can reduce the width and number of lanes, yes, but not the necessity of building them as a quick way of getting from say, Yelm to Issaquah, using an auto-car.

        I think of the concept of “passing” on a highway…would it make sense when all cars are regulated and running at a very similar speed? So you wouldn’t need a passing lane except in case of accidents (and those should go way down and really you only need an emergency lane). So you could have a highway that was as light and thin as an elevated LINK line with all the cars queued up behind each other running at the same speed.

        Maybe we can get rid of traffic lights too…why bother, if the cars are all aware of each other on the grid, you would only have one or the other stop if there was a need and only for the minimum time needed.

      2. What about bikes and pedestrians? Are you proposing to ban them from the roads and declare walking obsolete to avoid disrupting your system?

      3. Ideally bike-peds and cars would have minimal interface — each with its own network on the transit topology. Robot-cars can help us achieve that both physically and virtually. Virtually because like eliminating stop signs, we can also make them auto-pause whenever someone is in a crosswalk (no need to press buttons). But as stated above, for dense situations, you wouldn’t have to have so many lanes, hence you could build ribbon like elevated lanes, single file, to bring in cars to their destinations. While some trips may be circuitous, the trade off that someone doesn’t have to actually sit at the wheel, or deal with traffic lights, might be an adequate trade off. Another factor again is speed. Cars could be made to crawl in the neighborhoods, and drive slow in the streets until the get to arterials. Also, robot-cars have 360 degree vision, so are much safer around children and pets, and cyclists.

      4. “Ribbon-like” elevated lanes don’t actually look like ribbons except from a thousand feet in the air. The sorts of ramps necessary to achieve grade separation are pretty long once grade and vertical clearance requirements are met. Look at any actual place where such a thing exists, and tell me you want one of those every place where people cross the street.

      5. @Al Diamond

        You ignored what I said about virtual segregation. No I am not proposing elevated car-track for every foot of street. I am suggesting that these ribbon like highways (similar to a monorail or elevated link track) might be possible with fully automatic cars for long distance regional travel in the place of wide highways.

      6. @John,

        Why should cities be built to incentivize travel between completely unrelated places like Yelm and Issaquah? Sure, there are always going to be a small number of random trips between such places. Sally who lives in Yelm wants to visit mom and dad in Issaquah every few weeks.

        But Sally who lives in Yelm should not be working in Issaquah. End of argument. There’s no essential difference between Yelm and Preston, for instance, and the sort of employment that exists in Issaquah isn’t unique enough to subsidize either. It is stupid for society to build expensive infrastructure to prioritize such an employment trip.

        I do very much like your idea that autonomous vehicles be programmed to travel slowly in residential areas. It’s my understanding that the Google cars scrupulously avoid speeding, have very rapid emergency braking response, and have that 360 degree awareness you mentioned. Most residential areas have 25 mile per hour speeds or slower — far too often ignored — so children will likely be safer when they’re about.

      7. @Anandakos

        But Sally who lives in Yelm should not be working in Issaquah.

        I wholly agree with you! As my friend Brian put the current transportation problem “why am I always in the wrong place?” That is, millions of people should not be hauling their carcass around day after day, tens of miles on the road, week after week — especially if their job involves mostly sitting at a computer.

        You could let them work at home. You could make it easier to shift residences (without losing capital). You could provide work centers where people from both Yelm and Issquah can go to, interconnected by transit rail when they have to physically meet each other.

        Overall, we should increase the wealth of an average person, so he doesn’t need to do a “job” each and every day of the week. Jobs become more like AirBnB — when you need to fill up your bank account, you grab a task, do it, and get some cash…then vacation for a few weeks…months…just stay off the highway, even if it’s a ribbon.

      8. Ponies coming…

        Google building self-driving cars with no driver seat, steering wheels

        Google Inc is building cars that don’t have steering wheels, accelerator pedals or brake pedals, in an ambitious expansion of the Internet company’s efforts to develop self-driving cars.


        The driverless cars are currently limited to a maximum speed of 25 miles (40 km) an hour, but Brin said there was no reason the cars could not go as fast as 100 miles an hour or more once they had been proven to be safe.

        The front of the cars contain about 2 feet (61 cm) of foam and the windshield is made out of plastic instead of glass to make the cars safer, he said.



    The Ninth International Hydrail Conference (“9IHC”) addresses the latest developments in the effort to introduce zero-carbon, hydrogen powered railway transportation. 9IHC takes place in Neumünster, Germany. Like the former conferences in USA, Denmark, Turkey, UK, Spain, and Canada, Neumünster says “welcome” to a broad audience of sustainable transportation stakeholders who convene to exchange ideas, explore new technologies and share operational experience related to the wireless electrification of rail lines using hydrogen fuel cells, renewable energy, and advanced battery systems.


  5. Struck up a conversation with a RapidRide fare inspector the other day… and I learned a few things that might be of interest. First off she said that they are scheduled to work until as late as 11pm at night and the reason rear door boarding isn’t allowed is because of “driver safety.” She also said that because the fare inspectors salaries are paid using federal grant money (the same money that paid for all the RapidRide “improvements”) at this point the fare inspectors can’t be used on other routes. She said that the rumor among the fare inspectors is that once the federal money dries up, Metro will install ORCA card readers at the rear doors and allow all-door boarding. I hope that by the time that happens Metro drops this whole “driver safety” charade of not letting people board from the rear doors after 7. San Francisco allows all-door boarding 24 hours a day and I’ve never heard of any major problems.

    1. RC, the rear door/driver safety explanation doesn’t make sense. If anything, not opening the rear doors after is more dangerous to the driver, as you are aggravating the people waiting at the back door and forcing them up to enter through the front. This creates the potential of more driver/passenger conflict. It also defeats the purpose of RR’s goal of speedy boardings by not opening the back doors and waiting for people to walk to the front door.

    2. The fare enforcement officers have to work that late to process the paperwork to mail citations to those being cited. That won’t change for Metro, since the new law allowing citations to be handed to evaders only applies to ST, but doing the same for Metro will be straightforward next session.

      When it comes to safety, I’ll side with the operators. They know what they are doing.

      Installing rear-door readers does not mean fare inspection will go away. I can see Metro doing a pilot project on one, more, or all of the RapidRide lines, to iron out all the ways evaders will try to cheat, before going systemwide POP. Rear-door readers are still largely an honor system, requiring occasional inspection for proof-of-payment.

      One upshot of POP is the continued need for paper for cash payers. While paper transfers as we know them could finally be put out of our misery next year, installing ticket printers on every bus could be an expensive endeavor, and the ticket printing would add time to the fare transaction. The key is to limit the value of the paper slip to being for one specific day, on one specific route, with a timestamp if possible, and to eliminate any way paying cash could be cheaper than using ORCA. (which involves a circular argument of why the cost of an ORCA is still $5…)

      1. Use bus and trip specific documents. Like a different color and number. Doesn’t have to be day specific but can be trip specific (drivers change books at every trip). This should help prevent costly ticket printers.

  6. There has been some mention here of Seattle and San Francisco (?) “parkettes”.

    We here in the southern netherworld regions don’t have such a program, but we do have “Street Seats”, which is a program allowing local businesses to convert parking places in front of their businesses to additional space. Here are some Oregonian articles that give some insight into what works and doesn’t work about this program (best article / editorial first, imho):


    Then, the Oregonian makes the case that removing several parking places throughout the entire city somehow threatens vast swaths of public land:


  7. On MLK, one way to speed up operations would be to forbid level crossing anywhere along the right-of-way, bridge over some pedestrian crossings, and either bridge over or undercut major intersections. Which probably should have been part of the original construction of the project.

    Another measure would be to run an express line along Boeing Field, and either, or in addition to, adding a Southcenter and Kent Valley extension branching off either a Boeing access or near Southcenter, where elevated starts to climb.

    Based on solid history projects like these are exactly the way Depressions get cured. Tempting to say a World War helped, it also but cost of the rest of the world in ruins for a couple of decades canceled a lot of the benefit. And would have worse costs now. Transit improvement is better.

    God-awful present Tunnel running speeds at the times when speed most counts are most curable of all- getting operations organized and coordinated, as was original design intent. Those control towers at staging were not supposed to be police booths and break rooms. Best team on earth needs a captain, and finest orchestra makes Beethoven sound twelve-tone or Charles Ives without a conductor.

    And farebox use in the DSTT can instantly come out the way it came in: phone call from Councilman Von Reichbauer to County Exec Constantine and a one more bad piece of history will go away.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I’d guess there would be a 2-3 minute savings if ST/SDOT were to do what you suggest along MLK, Mark – at what expense for that few minutes saved? Too many people here are too concerned about savings of less than 5 minutes; there are better places to spend our ST3 and ST4 money that correcting the perceived faults of ST1.

      1. Reliability, Lloyd, reliability. At 3AM with all traffic signals turned off, standard bus service could hit sixty without fear of hitting anything else. Far and away the main reason transit in mixed traffic is so slow is all the non-transit vehicles in the way.

        You could be right about amount of time saved under perfectly ideal conditions- though bear in mind that trains with completely reserved right of way could easily do at least fifty between stations, rather than be held to car speed of 35.

        But over and above that, present setup takes reliability almost completely out of transit’s hands. A single mistake by any of thousands of motorists or pedestrians can put a train- and every following train ‘way off schedule.

        Most important of all is that every train down MLK is an airport train. With passengers who need to catch flights. And since the 194 shut down, if LINK gets blocked passenger’s only choice is to get a cab. Difficult under conditions of a sudden accident, especially in between stations.

        For anyone catching an international flight in a limited amount of time, LINK, already too indirect for airport service, is an unacceptable risk. A single missed flight can make our system a lot of enemies.

        I’ll meet you halfway, though. Leave MLK alone and build the direct route past Boeing Field. (If Alaska had followed up its threat to relocate to Boeing Field years ago, there might have been enough pressure for this line to get it build- with airlines and even the Port chipping in.) Might be an excellent part of ST3

        But meantime, reinstate the 194 non-stop to the airport only, on fifteen minute headways, or even half an hour. Yes, bus routes can be blocked by accidents, but a bus can be diverted and keep moving. Bottom line is that with this amount of backup, critical service will be a lot more under transit’s control than it is now.

        A balance sheet is a good tool, and so is a scale. But in commerce, you’ve got to know an object’s value as well as its weight.


      2. Yeah… at-grade is actually pretty reasonable for MLK. The reason a Link extension to Federal Way wouldn’t provide a fast trip to Seattle is that it makes a lot of stops, and that it isn’t all that direct.

        A complete I-5 bus lane solution and point-to-point express buses would provide much faster travel times for Federal Way-Seattle commuters. The same thing is actually true for Lynnwood, just not by quite the same margin. What the whole “rapid transit” concept is about is a more comprehensive set of connections.

      3. @Mark: The small number of people trying to cut it close on international airport connections should just call a cab in the first place. If an airport bypass is considered before the much more pressing needs in Seattle we’ll all shit a brick.

        (Sure, a lot of those pressing needs could be built by Seattle just as well as ST, except that Seattle taxpayers are in fact paying a bunch of money into ST to build transit projects, not SDOT. If ST was an agency that thought an airport bypass should be prioritized over Ballard, Lake City, and West Seattle, Seattle would be right to build its own stuff… with the money that it would have instead paid to ST. Since that isn’t actually legal, we instead request that ST projects solve our actual problems.)

    2. I’m sure a Northgate to Beacon Hill line would benefit from skipping downtown as well. Just build a big tunnel and everyone saves oodles of time. But really, what is the point?

      Likewise with a trip to the airport. Look, chances are most of us have been on an airplane, so we understand the irony of most airport trips. You can fly across the country in a few hours, but just getting to the airport and back can take up the rest of the day. The airport also employs a fair amount of people. But even with all that, the airport just isn’t that important a destination. There are a number of reasons why:

      1) A lot of employees live close to the airport. Unlike a lot of jobs, if you are a pilot, you know your workplace isn’t going anywhere.
      2) People travel in groups. A family of five would much rather take a shuttle than navigate Link.
      3) There are lots of really good alternatives.
      4) Most of the trips take place outside of rush hour.
      5) It takes a while for someone to “perfect” their commute, whether they drive or take a bus. I can tell you when I need to leave work so I can catch a bus,then transfer to another bus. I can tell you this even though Metro will say otherwise (sorry, Metro, the 73 is unreliable after 7:00). For a lot of people, a ride to the airport is rare. They don’t have the time to perfect the trip, especially since the trip varies so much.

      So now all you have left are business travelers and workers who live outside the area. Guess what? Your plan would essentially cut a huge number of those people out? Cut down on service from Rainier Valley, and all the sudden the woman who cleans the hotel rooms across from the airport has to wait twice as long for the train (or goes back to taking the bus). So, basically, your plan would benefit the handful of people who live downtown (or further north) that go to the airport regularly. Sorry, but there are very, very few people who do that.

      To put it short, I think you have it backwards. The best part of Central Link south of downtown is Rainier Valley. Look at a density map and it is obvious. Going to the airport was a silly exercise. It got the approval of suburban voters (who were afraid that they were only going to get buses out of Sound Transit) and got people excited (Oooooh, a shiny train to the airport — I think I’ll take that). Years later, it is obvious that they aren’t. The fact that it takes a few minutes longer to get downtown has nothing to do with it.

      OK, I left out one group: Southend commuters. Without a doubt, they would benefit from an express train from SeaTac to downtown. But there are better ways to do that. Most of those people don’t walk to the train station — they take a bus. So have the bus bypass a couple of stops, and go to a station at Rainier Beach. I realize that the train is slow from there, but for a lot of riders, a bus can get there much faster than it can get to SeaTac.In an ideal world the line through Rainier Valley would be elevated or in a tunnel. But it isn’t, and it should be obvious why: there just aren’t enough people to justify that expense. Building a second line south would be even less justified.

      Now, if you have a plan to deal with the most important group of people south of downtown (those in the Rainier Valley) then I’m all ears. As it turns out, if you made their commute faster, it would also benefit other riders to the south of there. But build a bypass and you are essentially saying that they are less important, even though there are more of them. This is backwards, and politically idiotic. Build a bypass line and folks in Rainier Valley will complain about historically redlined neighborhoods getting shafted. We may disagree about the motivation, but I will join the chorus that says that is a stupid and unfair idea.

      1. @Ross,

        Even if there is a bypass of MLK operations, trains which serve the existing Central Link line would still go to the airport, so the airplane cleaner would have frequent service.

        Let’s say it’s 2040 and Link has reached Federal Way and Redmond but not Tacoma or Everett. Shoreline has grown up to be similar to what we see north of 85th in Seattle today and Northgate has become a major population node. There is peak hour demand sufficient to provide a three minute headway between Northgate and IDS.

        Assume East Link takes every third train giving it a nine minute headway; as cross-lake travel becomes more balanced because of growth on the east side, it’s unlikely that the current peak demand will continue. MLK will probably never need more service than a nine minute headway of four car trains, even if some Renton service is truncated at RBS. It especially won’t need service to and from the airport more frequently than that.

        So, it makes sense to send the third train in a given nine-minute period to deep South King County via the bypass.

        During base operations the North Link headway is expected to be six minutes. Having three branches does pose a problem with that base level; MAX has shown that an 18 minute headway is simply not a high enough frequency for LRT. So south end expresses would have to be overlaid in some way, turning back in downtown. That would force a transfer for people heading to UW from far South King County but if schedules were co-ordinated properly it would be to the East Link train leading the Airport/MLK train that would leave just after it from Sea-Tac. Riders would save six minutes even with the transfer.

      2. Actually, if Graham Street station had been built by that time I believe that the south end express would get downtown before the Airport/MLK train that left immediately after the previous express. The current published schedule shows that SoDo to Rainier Beach takes fifteen minutes. From RBS to TIBS takes another nine minutes, of which the run down MLK to Boeing Access consumes about three. So figure a total of eighteen minutes between a flying junction at Boeing Access and Airport Way and SoDo.

        The bypass would be a bit over five miles. At 55 miles per hour that would take six minutes. There would be some time lost in the flying junction at the VMF; it would probably have to be re-engineered to make the curves somewhat less sharp. Let’s add a minutes there and another minute to get to SoDo and we’re at eight minutes total. That’s a savings of ten minutes. That’s not quite enough to put the train in front of the Airport/MLK leader if they departed simultaneously (obviously impossible), but if the MLK trains left the airport three minutes after the expresses it would.

        Riders from the airport and south would save nine minutes on any ride. That’s a significant improvement.

  8. I have often wondered why public transit companies treat all holidays as Sundays (i.e, less need for service) when in fact some holidays could use even more service than a regular weekday. Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, for example. Thanksgiving and Christmas, on the other hand, are ‘stay-at-home-holidays’ that in many instances could even use less than regular Sunday service.

    1. 1) Because it’s too much trouble to come up with a special schedule for just a couple days a year
      2) Finding drivers willing to work late-night shifts on 4th of July or New Year’s Eve is probably not easy.

  9. Oh I hear pierce transit is eliminating paper transfers this November. About time. When will king county do the same?

  10. @Anandakos — Yeah, a better comparison is say, 145th to downtown, especially if they add a station at 130th. So now, someone at 145th has to wait through several stations before getting downtown. But here is the thing: every station is a good one:

    130th — Connects you to Lake City as well as Bitterlake.
    Northgate — A shopping mall, community college, several hospitals/clinics and a big movie theater.
    Roosevelt — A big neighborhood in its own right, but also next to Greenlake.
    U-District — Hugely popular for many reasons.
    Husky Stadium — Serves the UW hospital, another side of the UW campus and buses heading out on 520.
    Capitol Hill — Hugely popular for many reasons.

    So, basically someone from 145th has to wait through six stations before getting to downtown. Boo hoo. Yeah, maybe a couple of those stations aren’t that great, but most of them are outstanding.

    55 MPH versus 35MPH? Meaningless for that run. How fast will the train go between 130th and 145th? How about Northgate to 130th? How about U-District to Husky stadium? My guess is if the train maxed out at 35MPH it would be a difference measured in seconds, not minutes.

    The fact that it matters for a line from the airport shows how stupid the airport line is. That is my point. People in Lynnwood will have to wait several stops before they get to downtown. This will cost them time (as mentioned earlier, dwell time is by far the biggest reason the train is perceived as slow). But stops get better as you get closer. Without a doubt someone from north Lynnwood will wish there was a bypass train all the way into downtown (or at least to Northgate). Sorry, too bad. If there aren’t any destinations along the way, then maybe the train shouldn’t go out that far (find a good terminus location and call it a day*). But the Central Link line is crazy. It is so desolate once you get past Rainier Valley, that it goes for miles without a stop. In other words: there already is an express train. It goes from Tukwila to Rainier Beach without making a stop. It could be made faster, but maybe we should stop building silly express trains.

    Which gets me to my last point. As I mention below (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/05/25/sunday-open-thread-hong-kong-tram-night-ride/#comment-484247) the most important part of the line south of downtown is not the airport, or anywhere around there: it is Rainier Valley. The stations aren’t great (oh, boy, that is an understatement) but at least this line serves the most important area. Look at a population density map and it becomes obvious. It was probably a waste of money to build the line further south, but hey — gotta do something to make the suburban voters happy. Building a bypass line would either mean limiting service on the most important part of the line (Rainier Valley) or simply ending the line someplace like SODO, and ask the riders to switch. No, the best thing we can do is try and reduce dwell time as well as time spent waiting for the lights to change. Those changes will help everyone, at minimal cost.

    * It is best if a suburban terminus of a light rail line ends in a nice big transit center. Buses should be able to easily get there. This means HOV lanes to the spot, and plenty of space for them to turn around and get back on the road. That is why terminating the southern end of Central Link at (roughly) Highline Community College makes sense. It is not only the last decent destination (because of the college), but a very logical spot to put a big transit center. You can see how the entire region can be served very well from that spot. My only concern (just by looking at a map) is whether buses get bogged down on 509/516. If so, then I think we should solve that problem directly. Doing so would serve the people of the area much better than if we spent ten times that amount extending Link to Federal Way.

    1. I agree completely with everything you say. North Link is a vastly better line than South Link; there’s no doubt about it. At this time there is insufficient density in South King County to justify extending Link south of HCC. But if South King County grows dramatically in the next few decades — and it might as climate change pushes business and population to cooler and more reliably watered areas of the country — then such a facility would be worthwhile. The route along MLK is very different from the rest of the system and really won’t serve SKC well.

      All I’m saying is “make sure that the existing right of way between the freeway and railroad tracks remains intact”. There’s already one big warehouse building at Rose Street. Don’t let it fill up with large boxes.

  11. Hydrogen refueling invested

    The Parliamentary Secretary of State to the Federal Transport Minister, Katherina Reiche, refuelled a fuel cell vehicle for the first time at the ‘Green Hydrogen Hub’ (H2BER) of the TOTAL multi-energy fuelling station at Berlin-Schoenefeld.

    Hydrogen (H2) produced from wind power and solar energy supports cross-system networking of renewable energy from the electricity, heating and gas markets right through to the transport sector.

    Several application areas which are usually separate use CO2-neutral hydrogen as an energy source at H2BER. For the first time, energy generated from wind and sun is being put to use across the electricity, heating and transport sectors. The project partners are generating the “green” hydrogen on-site via electrolysis.


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