A funny and informative series about London infrastructure planning.

65 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Unfinished London”

  1. When you think of Puget Sound, you think of traffic jams right?

    Sure…car traffic jams.

    But now with the increasing dependence on transit, we have a brand new type of congestion….Pedestrian Gridlock.

    Like, at Tukwila Station, where non-ORCA-card-having fans are waiting in half-hour long lines to buy passes to get on LINK:


    Or leaving the game through the famed, yet much too narrow, people bridges to get back to LINK:


    All told, coming and going, Peoplejams added an extra 45 minutes to my trip. And another 25 was spent circling like a buzzard at the transit parking lot, waiting for some helpless gazelle (commuter) to meander back from work to his vehicle so I could swoop in and nab it.

    1. Biggest problem with the bridges is they are not long enough. People get over the bridge, then face having to cross a really busy road to actually get anywhere.

      Maybe set up temporary ticket sales booths to solve the other lines problem.

      1. Yes that was the bottleneck. There was a copy regulating people trying to get across 4th, but he only allowed that in intervals of 15 seconds, with about a minute for cars (which seems rudely asymmetrical).

        The bridge serves a couple of crowds — one trying to get to the International District Station. Which, based on observation seemed to be a small fraction. Then there are people going to the ID. Again, small. The large majority are trying to get to the big parking garages.

      2. The trouble with making the pedestrian bridge longer is that in order to get over 4th Ave S it would have to be much higher as well. At that intersection crowds could easily be managed by having a person direct traffic, if the current signal doesn’t allow the cycle to be adjusted remotely.

        I agree about TIBS — the best solution for ticket lines is probably again the temporary, low-tech one. Game-day crowds are going to spread south as Link extends, and ORCA usage should increase over time. TIBS only sees huge crowds of non-ORCA riders a few times a year, so we shouldn’t overreact to the situation.

        And the solution for parking congestion (assuming it persists after Link is extended) is economic: charge for parking! That would encourage a temporary paid parking economy to form in some of the surface lots around TIBS, just as it does around Wrigley Field during Cubs games, though supply/demand considerations would result in lower prices and fewer exit delays due to over-packing compared to the sometimes crazy situation there. It would also help spread some riders to STAS today, since the Port offers discounted paid parking for games.

      3. Normally I, myself, would breeze through the line with my ORCA card. However, my son is visiting and went to the game with me. I also keep an extra ORCA card around the apartment for him to use; however, unlike my card, the “guest ORCA card” is not on Autoload and only had 25 cents on it.

        Realizing the long lines might happen, I went to load some money on it. Uh-uh. “It takes 24 to 48 hours for the money to appear” the website tells me.

        (By the way, the ORCA website is in serious need of an overhaul. It was ok when they launched it just having it work, but the functionality is seriously convoluted. The Autoload set up for a second card was a bit screwy, and I stopped short of doing it because the menu links confused me enough that it looked like I would be un-setting my own autoload. Also, where is the Android App? And why can’t a deposit be automatically credited if its from a bank or valid VISA/MC just like at the machine?)

      4. Maybe set up temporary ticket sales booths to solve the other lines problem.

        My suggestion is they streamline the menu for sports attendees.

        You have to navigate through 4 different menus just to purchase what 99% of the people want. A round trip ticket to the stadium.

        It’s confusing to have to pick through first a group of stations (Sodo, Stadium) and then figure out which one is best.

        I alit from the Stadium station, just because I’m used to taking a bus for Mariners, but as I was walking I realized I should have gotten off at the ID!

        If you put one button up on Game Day that says in blue and green letters — Round Trip to Seahawks — and all you had to do was press that and put your credit card in, I bet it would very much reduce the lines. It would then tell you — get off at the ID station.

      5. Not having used Link vending machines I don’t have any idea how complicated rhet are. However, I can tell you that temporary ticket sales booths work well for Blazer games on MAX.

        The temporary fare booths could also try to promote the sale of Link day tickets, so the return traffic doesn’t do the same thing.

      6. John,
        One can add value to their card on the internet and then go to the station and tap the card at an orca reader and the value would have been added right away since the readers have a direct connection to the database. The 24 to 48 hours is in case the next tap is on the bus, which requires a download when those buses return to their garage. Another option would be if you transferred at Kent Station and checked the value at a ticket vending machine.

      7. @Al Diamond

        I noticed the F RapidRide buses arriving at Tukwila Station.

        Checking the schedule, next time I might consider parking at SouthCenter mall where there is more than ample free parking!

        The F leaves every 20 minutes in the evening, and returns every 30 minutes well into the late night, and it’s only a 9 minute trip!


      8. @JB: Southcenter has lots of free parking… for mall customers. I don’t know whether they ever enforce that, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they did on weekdays. Anyway, if you’re doing that, the 150 from Southcenter would almost have to be faster than F + Link, right?

      9. I agree that the website 24-48 hr load problem is weird, but I get around it by loading my alternate ORCA card at Safeway or Bartells.

    2. Hey, John! Thanks for the awesome pictures! Could I borrow one for an upcoming post on Link’s fare structure?

    3. If congestion pricing is a good idea for cars, why not pedestrians? Pedestrian congestion pricing or variable sidewalk tolls!

      1. We seem to bring this topic up frequently as it relates to boarding buses. It would be nice to have a perk to using ORCAvice cash. At the current time, there is no monetary benefit.

        I had a heck of a time boarding the 512 from 4th and Pine and seemed to wait forever as each of the six people ahead of me paid cash while I used ORCA for the fare to Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station. It was merely a “boop!” and done. While a bit more spendy, the 512 was more frequent, less crowded then the RR-E or 41 and more comfortable. I reckon you get what you pay for. I live along the (not-so) rapid ride E…and it can be a miserable ride on weekends.

    4. I sometimes wonder if it would be worthwhile to give every every King/Pierce/Snohomish resident an Orca Card the first time they sign up for any government service. Include enough fare for one roundtrip on it, package it with printed instructions on how and where to use it, and charge a small fee to recover some of the costs.

      While a lot of people would lose them, putting an Orca Card in everyone’s hand would increase Orca adoption, speed bus boarding, and reduce situations like this.

      1. Would it really speed bus boardings if everyone had a card? The same people who never seem to be prepared and fumble getting their cash out won’t suddenly get brand new personalities along with their new ORCA cards. They will still be the same unprepared zoned-out space-cases, but now they’ll be fumbling to locate their ORCA card instead of cash, and when they finally do find it, they’ll somehow manage to not be able to tap it correctly.

        Public education (which Metro does a very poor job of) is the primary key to speedy boardings. The type of payment is secondary, in my expert opinion.

      2. My ORCA card works through my wallet. I don’t even have to pull the card out! “Boop!”…done.

        Cash wise, you have you fumble cash, find the correct cash-coin combination,unfold the bills, insert the bills, insert the coins, wait for your paper transfer….UGH.

      3. How about adding an announcement at boarding that basically says, “Get yer ORCA cards out NOW and quit wasting everyone’s time. Thank you for your consideration and oh yeah, please watch out for terrorists.”

      4. Not sure about government services, considering that an awful lot of those people shown trying to board at Tukwila are probably from outside King County anyway.

        Why not do something more closely related to event tickets? Offer people the chance to purchase an ORCA for $3 instead of $5 when you purchase event tickets?

      5. “Would it really speed bus boardings if everyone had a card?”

        Here’s something you can try at home. Pretend a spot on the wall is an ORCA reader. (1) How long does it take to pull your wallet out of your pocket and hold it up in front of the spot for a half second, without opening it? (2) How long does it take to pull out your wallet, extract a credit card from it, and hold the card up to the spot?

        Now go into the kitchen and choose a glass jar, cut a slot in the lid, and put the jar on the counter. (3) How long does it take to pull out your wallet, extract a dollar bill and put it iton the slot, and then fish out some coins from your pocket or change purse and put exactly $1.25 in coins into the slot?

      6. “an awful lot of those people shown trying to board at Tukwila are probably from outside King County anyway”

        Huh? Pierce County is a long way from Tukwila, and anybody from Pierce would drive to Tacoma Dome station, which is easier and they’re more familiar with (since they probably drive past it more often). Only those who really love trains would spend an extra 15-30 minutes driving to Tukwila for a 35-minute train ride, compared to a 60-minute express bus from Tacoma Dome.

        Those who really live trains would just as likely go on a different day when they can (1) take Sounder, or (2) have more guarantee of an empty parking space in Tukwila and less crowds. Or, since these people love trains, they might be likely to take the 574 to SeaTac and catch the train from there, because that’s one more mile of a train ride, yaay!

    5. If they don’t want to wait in line next time they’d get an orca card this time.

    6. I also wanted to say…after the game, because of all the crowds…I went up to the I.D. for some late night food.

      Afterwards it was getting to around 11:30pm and I started to wonder how “dicey” the journey back might be.

      The ID itself seemed rather friendly…a few drunks and some visiting kids wandering outside the Hostel.

      The train was also well used…not crowded, but with someone in every bench. There were no gangs of kids running in and out of the trains as I’ve seen in the past when going through the South Seattle stations.

      Tukwila, which also used to have a permanent group of neer-do-wells hanging at the bottom of the stairs felt equally safe and there were even some clubhoppers getting ready to head downtown, even though it was near midnight.

  2. Just wait until U-Link opens and we regularly have crush loaded trains that you can’t get in…

    1. That’s ok, they’ll eventually make up for it by being empty anywhere north of Northgate.

      1. The ridership from North King & South Snohomish will be very substantial; there’s no doubt about that.

        The comments on this blog since the mayoral election have retreated into a fantasy where anything outside of a three mile radius from 4th and Madison is portrayed as a rural Amish preserve, whereas anything inside the circle is-or should be-New Hong Kong. This self-serving ignorance perhaps reached its height in one comment debating the necessity of North Link to Lynwood and beyond, stating that perhaps the line could be justified, if only “for all those from Lynwood who work in Fremont”. What perspective! Lynwood dwarfs Fremont. It will always dwarf Fremont. It has more business, more people, more acreage, and always will. You could bulldoze Alderwood Mall and all of that would still be true. It already has a gravitational pull on South Sno/North King-a great urban village in the making-and the addition of Link and TOD will make it just that. It deserves to be taken seriously in its own right.

        Some months back I started to wonder if sub-area equity had as much value after the spine was completed in ST3. Reading such comments above on this blog has convinced me that it absolutely does. It’s stakeholder democracy, with each area’s tax base as codified leverage, the only thing that ensures that decisions will be made based on what’s necessary for broad-based progress, and not the whimsical ignorance of people entirely uninterested in the world outside their own front door.

      2. @Anon

        If Link is built out to Everett, it will have some ridership- combined, ST 510/11/12/13 have a bit more than 2.2 million riders each each year, and then you have the various CT routes to the U-District and Downtown- though some of these riders will migrate to the Lynnwood Link Extension even if an Everett extension is never built. The question at this point is whether there’s enough ridership between Lynnwood and Everett to justify spending 1.7-3.4 billion dollars to run light rail between them.

        Keep in mind that we’re talking about an area where, aside from Swift, there are only a couple bus routes that run more frequently than every 20 minutes- even at peak, where there is only skeletal evening service, virtually no bus service after 9 or 10pm, and where Community Transit has zero Sunday service.

        When the Lynnwood Link Expension opens, Snohomish County might get more for it’s money by running the ST and CT express buses more frequently, at least at peak and for special events, but truncating them at the Lynnwood or Mountlake Terrace transit centers and using the money saved to restore Sunday service on Community Transit routes, boost more local bus routes to 15 minute headways, and expand evening and night service.

      3. CT and ST have been indicating they’ll truncate all their downtown and UW routes when the Lynnwood Extension opens.

    2. Why wait? We’re pretty much there now, at least southbound at 5 pm on weekdays. Plus many of the buses, including the *soutbound* E-Line in the afternoons, have reached capacity.

      ST will have to either increase peak-of-peak PM frequency on Link or get the wall in the stub tunnel out of the way, by next summer.

      We really should be adding more service to these at-capacity routes before buying back the half-empty routes or pre-empting the well-thought-out restructures. I wish the City would follow Metro’s Service Guidelines when planning what service to buy. In fact, I think the City should be asking Metro’s advice for where to buy more bus service, as Metro’s service planners are the experts. Still, we have to vote Yes in order to get the maxed-out routes even in line to get more service.

      Of course, there are revenue-positive fixes we could do. We could make the BAT lanes bus lanes 24/7. We could ban cash payment in the tunnel and along 3rd Ave We could move routes 71-76 to Bay B in the tunnel so we don’t have four Bay A buses lined up constantly, with the back two buses having to wait to pull forward to open their doors.

      Part of handling capacity problems is reducing dwell time in bottlenecks, and otherwise reducing the time length of trips. We know what to do. Can we do it?

      1. Yesterday, we arrived on the 550 at Westlake around two in the afternoon. It was by no means genuinely busy, but it was difficult to move around on the platform. The platform there seems terribly narrow considering the otherwise palatial proportions of the station. Is the issue only that people bunch at the bus stops today, or are we looking at a near term chokepoint once ULink opens?

      2. Once ridership gets high enough, it will probably be worthwhile to have arriving passengers leave the trains on a center platform (which isn’t there now), and reserve the side platforms for boarding passengers. Any remaining buses will have to do both on the side platforms.

      3. Glenn,

        While that is a good idea, it would be as enforceable as having people not use the exit as they enter a grocery store. Both sets of doors have to open at the same time to load and unload so there would be absolutely nothing to stop someone from exiting to the sides.

      4. The only time I’ve seen the platform overwhelmed was the day of the parade. I’ve seen lots of people leaving an event wait for the next train or bus, which doesn’t give me much concern as long as the line to get on doesn’t go into growth mode. I have seen plenty wait for the next bus, and even a few at ID Station wait for the next train, during PM peak. I think Link will be okay for this summer, but next summer, it’ll need more than 16 LRVs southbound from 4:30 to 5:30 pm to keep the crowd from growing, if the ridership growth continues. Shoving ten trains through the tunnel southbound in the peak-of-peak hour seems like an operationally sketchy idea unless a bunch of buses get kicked upstairs. Being able to run 3- and 4-car trains during that hour seems like a smoother plan, but requires removing the stub tunnel wall.

      5. M,

        The Spanish solution allows the outbound doors to open a little before the inbound doors. That said, there are no plans to add a center platform at any of the DSTT stations. Because of the short travel time between the stations, ID Station through U-District Station will be the dwell-time bottlenecks that control minimum headway.

        UW Station and U-District Station will have center platforms, but not outer platforms. Doh!

      6. Brent and M;

        Yes, that is what I have seen at Sé station in São Paulo. I don’t think they could do it any other way. It is a very busy transfer station.

        However, even if it is not enforced, it still makes a difference. There are maybe two or three stations on MAX where they do this with all doors opening at once, and it probably cuts a bit of time off the station stop.

        It also reduces transfer time. It means you can walk across the platform to get a train on a different line if you have to rather that go all the way up and over the walkway.

  3. Great video! As I was watching it, I wondered what might appear in an “Unfinished Seattle” mini-documentary. Probably top of the list is the Olmstead brothers’ plan for grand parkways snaking throughout the city. On this subject, I’ve never been able to find any info or maps online that are as good as the info placards at the top of the Volunteer Park Water Tower. It’s worth a trip up just to take a look at their conceptual map.

    1. Have you ever actually been to a city with Olmstead boulevards? The Olmsteads were essentially pre-auto-age planners, and though many of their parks are great, their street designs have held up amazingly poorly to the changes that took place in American cities in the 20th century (with mass motorization at the center). I count Seattle lucky not to have the boulevards Chicago does, and I’ve walked or run along almost every block of Chicago’s.

      The Volunteer Park Water Tower is great, though.

      1. While I agree that many of the “grand boulevards” that you see in places like Philadelphia and Chicago have turned out to be an eyesore, I think we can point to the few Olmstead boulevards that were actually completed in Seattle and see a different outcome: Green Lake boulevard, Ravenna boulevard, Washington Park Boulevard, Lake Washington Boulevard, Beach Drive, etc. are all places I love to walk, bicycle, and generally be. The initial plan was for all of these to be connected: a sweeping system of linear parks through the whole of our city. Given the quality of the pieces that were actually realized, I think we really missed out by not implementing the full plan.

      2. The intersection of the two branches of Green Lake Way at the south end of the lake are a prime example of the problem. The roads sweep and merge like park paths, but the geometry at which they originally came together didn’t work well under heavy traffic for the variety of turns people needed to make, so more turn paths were built in, resulting in a messy and confusing intersection with multiple vehicle-pedestrian conflict points and potentials for surprising backups… all for a three-way intersection! Aside from the intersection that is its worst feature, neither branch of Green Lake Way has any characteristically boulevard-like qualities. I’m glad Woodland Park exists, too, but the road hasn’t got much to do with it.

        Ravenna Boulevard has similarly oversized and confusing intersections all along its length, its median green rendered useless by the turn lanes that cut across it in all sorts of odd configurations and its status as a major through-traffic arterial.

        Lake Washington Boulevard is nice in parts (the hill climbs on either side of I-90 are spectacular, in the way that Interlaken Boulevard is spectacular) but it’s more a road that goes through some parks than a boulevard — and that’s a good thing (narrow width means tree canopy from the sides is effective, and lack of median junk means drivers can pass cyclists without angst). In case you’re suffering under the delusion that heavy traffic is more pleasant in a park than in any other place, the part of LWB that goes through the Arboretum is widely regarded as so unpleasant that walkers, runners, and cyclists regularly take hillier, less direct, poorer-maintained, and less scenic routes to avoid it. The best parts of LWB are the parts that aren’t primary car routes, not the parts that are best designed or most scenic. It is physically impossible to connect our city with them because the places that need connecting have traffic that requires different solutions.

        We have some nice park-y streets we call boulevards, and some nice legacies of the Olmsteads’ work. Chicago does, too. Chicago’s are physically continuous, and yet they do not connect the city. Many places ours are physically continuous they don’t connect the city. Where exactly do you think that declaring some land a park would make any difference in people’s decision to speed through it?

      3. Fair point, but the fact remains I’d rather bike on Greenlake than any road nearby; I’d rather bike on Ravenna than any road nearby; I’d rather bike on Lake Washington than any road nearby. By extension, I imagine I’d rather bike on an unbuilt Olmstead boulevard than what was built in its place.

        Of course, I could be wrong.

      4. If you’d rather bike on LWB through the Arboretum than the Lake Washington Loop route then you’re in a distinct minority. And Ravenna… is a basically adequate bike route but no better than any other bike lane street. It’s better than anything else in the area because it’s a wide diagonal street, which means it cuts off all its competition.

        The reason a significant portion of our “boulevards” are decent bike routes has to do more with their context than their design. And even an awesome park doesn’t always make for a low-traffic context. That’s what the Arboretum proves… or many boulevards going in and out of Golden Gate Park. Unless the Olmsteads would have convinced us to build a whole city of nothing but parks they couldn’t have changed the traffic.

      5. Regarding “context rather than design”: I think your evidence just backs up my point: roads within the context of land set aside for parks are more pleasant places than roads on their own. A few more miles of these within our city would have been an amazing boon to the city… but that ship has clearly sailed.

      6. Can you not read? The arboretum proves that’s just not true! So does Golden Gate Park in SF and Grant Park in Chicago.

        The arboretum is a big, beautiful, great park, but TRAFFIC BLOWS THROUGH IT EVERY DAY because it lies between 520 and much of eastern Seattle. That’s the context I’m talking about, and if your city is full of places people want to go there will be traffic between these places.

        There are parts of LWB that are full of traffic and parts that are nice and calm — the difference has nothing to do with parks! The parts that are full of traffic are on the way somewhere and the parts that aren’t aren’t!

    2. Unfinished Seattle would have plenty of content to draw from. Lots of rejected plans, especially freeways, lots of pie in the sky proposals (the Bogue Plan) and realistic ones too (Seattle Commons, anyone?).

  4. I have been to Seattle a lot lately and I noticed that whenever I made a two-zone ride on a metro bus at peak times, it only charges me for 1 zone ($2.50).The ORCA reader even says “2 Zone”, but when I tap my card, it only charges me $2.50. What’s up with that?

  5. [ot]

    My question is, as more and more middle class full-time jobs disappear, and people have to rely on several different part-time jobs to survive, how are they supposed to do that by getting around public transit? Even the most frequent transit won’t help someone like the woman profiled in the article make a living in our new shared economy, where you have to travel to a few different jobs or gigs every day spread around the region.


    1. “A lot of people are jealous of me because I read the New York Times more than they do. I guess it shames them. Then they convert that shame into anger against me. ”

      Ha! Brilliant! I want some of what ever you’re on !

      I drive my car everyday but i support transit. No one solution will work for everyone.

      I support building all modes of transportation. Build, baby, build!

    2. With a good transit system, you should be able to use it to get to different gigs across town in a reasonable amount of time. Obviously, there are some jobs which are inherently impossible without owning a car, but that doesn’t mean transit can’t be useful for the rest of us.

      While Uber drivers obviously cannot use transit for their commute, they do pick up a lot of business taking customers in one direction who did take transit the other direction.

    3. Places with good quality transit (ie, higher average speeds than driving due to the core system being a network of trains operating at a decent speed, and timed transfers to buses to that there is almost no penalty for transferring) are able to get around 50% of trips by transit rather than driving. Parts of Switzerland are this way, and the only true high speed rail in the country is a segment of a branch line from France and really inconsequential for transportation inside the country.

      So, imagine how much easier it would be for everyone on every mode going to any destination in Seattle if close to 40% of the auto traffic were to vanish and instead turn into transit trips. Imagine how much easier commerce would move if those who actually needed a parking place could find one, since close to 40% of the cars parked on the street wouldn’t be there.

      Imagine the Mercer Mess with 40% less traffic.

  6. When you pay someone else’s fare using an Orca e-purse, how do transfers work?

    1. If you pay for multiple fares (by having the driver put it into the ORCA reader and you tap for both), the second and any additional fares are paper transfers. The first transfer–and any transfers for paying for a single fare–are on the card.

      (I got to watch this drama happen live on a bus to LQA the other night.)

    2. [That’s what I assumed]. The problem being, of course that ST & Metro don’t do transfers on cash fares. So I guess carrying a spare Orca or two is the plan [nice for transit since they make a tidy profit on each card sold] In my experience getting a reduced fare for a kid without a youth Orca is, in practice, impossible.

      Over the weekend we were travelling with one of my kid’s friends. From where we live, Downtown Seattle and Downtown Bellevue are about the only destinations reachable without a cross agency transfer, I don’t have her birth certificate (of course), so there is no convenient way to get her an Orca. Legally, could I get a second Orca for one of my kids, and use it for her? The difficulty surrounding obtaining a youth Orca certainly suggests that the agencies intend the cards to be non-transferable, but I admit to not having read the terms and conditions carefully. Otherwise I don’t see any way to avoid cash fumbling [actually, it was my Orca that I fumbled, and had fall down behind the fare machine, but only because I was messing with cash payments] without having to pay a 300% premium for her journey.

    3. If using a service with no paper transfers or multiple services then only the cardholder gets transfers.

      1. The fundamental question remains: is there a totally legal, reasonably convenient, way to do a one time journey with an unrelated youth that avoids having to pay multiple _adult_ fares?

        Otherwise, it really is cheaper just to drive: A round trip from my house to Seattle Center is $2.50 for my daughter, $5.00 for me, and a whopping $10.00 for my daughter’s friend [note that with a throwaway Orca, it would only be $7.50 for the friend. Driving at IRS reimbursement rates (which reflect total cost of ownership rather than the _much_ lower marginal cost of the trip (basically gas, since for small deltas depreciation, maintenance, insurance and registration are periodic rather than mileage based), leaving about 8 bucks for parking.

      2. Grrr…. That last sentence is missing a crucial detail. It should read.

        Driving, at IRS reimbursement rates (which reflect total cost of ownership rather than the _much_ lower marginal cost of the trip (basically gas, since for small deltas depreciation, maintenance, insurance and registration are periodic rather than mileage based), is less than $10 leaving about 8 bucks for parking.

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