It would be cool to see something similar on the Empire Builder through the Cascades.

47 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Street View from a Train”

    1. How about just through the DSTT and on the SODO Busway? It would give us the chance to be able to see the street sign art in between the stations.

    2. Regarding Oran’s suggestion, I was wondering what the railway view would be through the Cascade Tunnel. At least through the Link Beacon Hill tunnel, there’s something to be seen.

      1. You’d see a lighted emergency bay every quarter mile or so w/ air packs and other equipment to assist train crews (and passengers on the Bulider, I’d guess) in distress.

      2. I’ve attempted to film it out the back of the Empire Builder. After half the train goes south to Portland you can stand at the very last car in the Seattle portion and look out the back window. It’s pretty neat and for 15 minutes you just watch emergency lights and visible portions of the tunnel go by.

  1. Curious as to what and when the new transit tax in Seattle will bring. In true Seattle fashion will the money be spent solely on committees and studies?

    1. June is when. “What” is probably a Metro proposal based on the general principles that have been stated (splitting the C and D, alleviating overcrowding and unreliability, and filling in frequency gaps). I think they said the proposal would be out in February, then I imagine it will have the usual service-change hearing and county approval, plus city approval. The main question is whether Metro will reintroduce any reorganizations or keep the status quo routes.

      1. I have been wondering the same thing. A couple of things spring to mind:

        – What’s the formula for calculating how many service hours a bus route uses?

        – What happens beyond June? Published reports have claimed that the June enhancements spend 40,000 of the 266,000 annual hours that Prop 1 buys. That’s a lot of additional improvements.

        I know what I’d like to see beyond June: an actual 24-hour bus system that makes sense. I spoke out against deleting the Owl routes only because they’re the only vestige of deep night coverage in some neighborhoods. My hope is that they can be dropped and overnight runs added to existing routes that make sense. In numeric order, I’d like to see hourly overnight service on: C, D, E, 3, 5, 11 (maybe with the new BRT?), 41, 49, and 70. Those cover and extend the existing Owl network. For some routes, like the RapidRides, this would be as “easy” as adding a 4am trip. 70 might be a bad candidate because it stops so early, but I can’t come up with another route that goes via Eastlake into the University District like the 83 does.

        (Yes, I’ve ridden an 8x-series Owl for a very few trips this year. On the one I’ve ridden, almost all of the trips were made with just myself, whomever I was with, and the bus driver. They are very underutilized and should go. But we should still have deep night bus service for a lot of reasons and I firmly believe that a route network that makes sense would get used, like the D line does.)

      2. lakecityrider, hourly service is useless. To take one of your examples, who is the target market for nighttime trips on the RapidRide D? Don’t you think those riders would rather pay for one of the plentiful Ubers on a constant loop between Ballard and Downtown than they would like to stand around for an hour at 3rd and Pike, braving the rain and the local flavor?

      3. I thought there was nothing more than June.

        San Francisco and Chicago have half-hourly night owls. That would be ideal. But hourly is better than the twice-per-night we have now. People can memorize an hourly schedule like they remember “2:15 and 3:30” now.

      4. The biggest night-owl gap is north of 85th. I can’t see freeway routes at night, not when people live at the intermediate stops and there’s no traffic to slow down the buses. As a stopgap you could straighten out the 82 and 83 and extend them to Northgate and Lake City.

      5. I agree with Mike that freeway routes are far too wasteful at night. Lakecityrider’s proposal is a good start, but it needs more crosstowns and has too many express segments. Here’s my idea:

        C, E, 3S+13N, 5, 11, 16, 40, 49, 70+67+41 (starts from downtown, continues through U-district to Northgate, then follows 41 to Lake City).

      6. Kyle: OK, so hourly service isn’t so good, but I didn’t think that I could sneak half-hourly past the people who will justifiably want more service in their areas during the day. I also don’t know how to calculate how many service hours this would consume. Either way, I strongly believe that we need to be looking at a span of service that is around the clock, not rolling up almost the entire carpet at midnight. Why? Well, for one, depending on Uber doesn’t always work. For another, Uber is a lot more expensive than Metro. For finally, I feel that our transit system spends way too much effort serving the 9a-5p (or at least “daytime”) crowd and very little on the people who do the odd-shift jobs around here.

        Mike, there is a lot more than June. According to published reports, the June overhaul “only” spends approximately 40,000 hours of the 266,000 hours that Prop 1 buys us. Council members have been quoted as saying that “in the next year” (or so) “Seattle will have the best bus service it has ever had.”

        William, I was eyeballing existing routes. OK, so running the 41 along the freeway would be silly, I like your idea. We can’t fund the 550 out of Prop 1 dollars, nor the 124 and A. I was looking solely at Seattle routes (including route 5, which is almost entirely in Seattle). Maybe make a “new” route, the 41N (for “Night”), that takes surface streets alongside IH-5.

      7. The issue of why have half-hourly or hourly night owls is the same as the issue of why have transit at all: so that people can get around without a car. Seattle is a major city and major cities have 24-hour transit, so Seattle needs to start acting more like a major city. The peer standard is half-hourly service a mile apart, at least on Fridays and Saturdays. Going to hourly on some number of routes would be a step in the right direction.

        Many trips are night only one way. Party animals go out in the evening and come back at night, as do bar staff. Early-morning workers go out at night and come back in the AM peak. If they can’t go the one way at night, they can’t use transit at all for the trip. It’s the same with curtailing evening runs as the cuts were going to do: it depresses daytime ridership too because you can’t make a round trip.

        [1] Or spending $2.75/mile on a taxi or $10 on Uber. These options also depend on a vehicle being available at the time and place needed, and that it actually shows up. Taxi fares may be fine for a few days a year or once a week, but not five days a week or it’ll wipe out your salary.

      8. “I didn’t think that I could sneak half-hourly past the people who will justifiably want more service in their areas during the day”

        The answer has to be in between. We can’t expect half-hourly night owls when buses are overcrowded and buses even in urban villages drop to half-hourly evenings and Sunday. On the other hand we can’t say no night additions until all daytime needs are met because that day may never come, and the lack of night service has impacts beyond the night hours.

        Everywhere in the world subsidizes evening and night service out of daytime service, because span of service is a singificant factor in itself. The St Petersburg metro runs every 5 minutes at 11pm when there are only 1-2 people per station, and the NYC subway runs every 20 minutes owl when there are only 4-5 people per station. Those hours would be more “cost-effective” in the daytime, but that would make the network less effective and comprehensive. That in turn would mean more people would have cars or couldn’t get around, and those who have cars would use them even in the daytime.

      9. Some amount of night owl service is definitely important for reasons just stated, an our owl network can certainly stand to be a lot more legible than what we have today.

        Another argument to justify night-owl service on core routes is that with hourly frequency and minimal traffic, the number of service hours we’re talking about is not really all that much – quite tiny compared to the service-hours spent in the daytime. Also, some of the cost of owl service could potentially be recouped by avoiding the need to deadhead a few buses to and from the base each morning and evening.

        The one thing I don’t know about the economics of night-owl service is how labor fits into the equation. Are bus drivers willing to work a shift from 9 PM to 5 AM? Is is necessary to pay bus drivers above and beyond the normal wages to work such shifts?

    2. are you referring to Prop 1? if so, all of it will go to service improvements/enhancements. If you are talking about the potential ST3 tax … then of course some goes to studies … that is how the money gets best allocated.

      Of course Sound Transit already has done a lot of the work … so at most money would go to refining studies in specific corridors that they have already identified as deserving of High Capacity Transit.

  2. How about Swiss-type electric mountain railway with money that would otherwise be spent widening the weekly traffic jam on Highway 2? Bet skiers would really dig the Swiss colors and emblems on the cars, too.

    Hey, maybe ski-trails would feature trackside ramps where skiers could jump or snowmobile off the flatcar without the train even having to stop! Also enabling St. Bernards with barrels of cognac on their collars to leap to the rescue of the ones that crash into trees!

    As well as a cognac tank-car on every consist. Which might also set a precedent resulting in different cargoes for present mile-long BN napalm bombs presently going under Seattle- and five feet above Fire Zone 810 in the DSTT.

    A Swiss-style railroad ride would be a LOT better than a whole day stuck in your SUV crawling from Monroe to Stevens like exhausted sled dogs like in the museum.

    For the city, though, look up “Tramway- Stuttgart.” Seriously, I could see bike flatcars on First Avenue and SLU lines- including future extension to Ballard. Not sure if cars would have enough power on First Hill- in Stuttgart, streetcars have a gear mechanism to climb a hill engaging a toothed track.

    But my favorite use would be to prove that streetcars and bikes are more than compatible on the new Waterfront. One good reason to thank Big Bertha for getting stuck: at least a year more to re-think a perfectly stupid exclusion.

    Mark Dublin

    1. there are many places in the US where a modern rack railway like those in Switzerland / the Alps in general would be useful here in the US.

    2. A modern rack-railway tram would have no problem with First Hill … but the rack rail would potentially cause problems running in the streets w/cars and bikes and pedestrians.

      Actually, a really great example would be Lausanne’s Metro line 2 … which is rubber tired subway that replaced a funicular. manages to climb grades up to 12% …

  3. So with Ballard-Downtown route option D, how can they be predicting only 30,000 riders when Capitol Hill station will have 14,000 riders/day? I’d have to believe Ballard and Lower Queen Anne would each have about those numbers, Belltown & Fremont probably about 10,000 each (perhaps even more) and maybe 5000 for Queen Anne Hill. Also what about adding a Freelard station too but more for focused TOD redevelopment and actually make this location into a defined place to utilize this major infrastructure investment that passes under?

    Maybe ST3 for Seattle being UW-Ballard Subway, new Downtown Tunnel, Downtown-West Seattle line, Fremont-SLU Rapid Streetcar branch/extension (seems complementary for Option D Tunnel as it picks up SLU and also a good interim option for getting to Fremont), then come back in ST4 with this Ballard-Downtown Route Option D and Route 8 subway?

    What exactly are we talking about for a route 8 subway anyway, I get the Denny Way part that’s obvious but would it also likely be under 23rd or perhaps some closer-in north-south route like 12th or Broadway? Does a subway under Denny run into issues of transfers and having to pick which crossing lines to serve with a Denny station? So many bus lines radiate out of downtown, that every couple blocks there’s another major route crossing Denny.

    1. “What exactly are we talking about for a route 8 subway anyway”

      It’s a vague idea. Some people are recommending a gondola from Seattle Center to Broadway or 15th. With Sound Transit it would more likely be a subway, and then the termini are all up in the air. It could turn south to the CD somewhere between 12th and MLK. It could continue west to Interbay or Ballard, although that would overlap with a Ballard-downtown line. It could also be surface transit on Thomas with a new transit bridge across I-5. Everyone pretty much agrees surface on Denny Way is not realistic, although somebody said closing a half-block around Fairview would eliminate the cars lining up on Denny for I-5 which is what causes a lot of the bottleneck.

      1. Thanks, Mike! I suddenly remember a subway line in Toronto that ran on the underside of the Don River bridge. And which I believe was added after the bridge.

        This was an extremely heavy piece of rail, subway and elevated whole route, 80 miles an hour with automatic train control- though driver had to run one trip per shift manually just to stay in training.

        But conceivably, for Denny Way: cantilevered trackway on the underside of the freeway bridge, short subways at each end, and the rest street running and reserved lanes for streetcars.

        Worth checking out. Might even work with trolleybuses, though I think rail would take a narrower trackway. Just a thought.


      2. Is that the Bloor/Danforth subway? I rode it not knowing where it would go, and it was all boring cut-and-cover and then suddenly went high across a river with a magnificent view.

  4. I want to talk about an earlier post that listed improvements on how Metro is better than ever:

    When Link light rail began service in July 2009, the DSTT began staying open until the end of train service, around 1 a.m., for buses as well as trains. From the tunnel’s opening in 1990 up until Link’s opening, the DSTT closed up shop for the day at 7 p.m. and never opened on Sundays. Unless you commuted during office hours, the bus tunnel was useless.

    In hindsight, I think it makes little sense at all that Metro would build a permanent and exclusive right-of-way and then have it open only on a severely limited basis–waste of capital if you ask me! Also, don’t you think this made Metro look like cheapskates compared to other transit agencies in the US (let alone the world)? The TTC Subway system never shut down at 7 on weeknight so why should the DSTT?

  5. Route 550 Excuse of the Month. If you are a quality, wholesome person (you don’t litter, swear, have tattoos, or protest the police like those horrible people I see on the news doing), Snowflake Lane next to Bellevue Square is a free event put on by the great Kemper Freeman, every night this month starting at 7 pm. If you can behave yourself, you are welcome to cross the lake and view the CHRISTMAS show. After, feel free to shop or dine at the Bellevue Collection (Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place, and Lincoln Square). If you cannot behave yourself, stay in Seattle. You are not welcome on the eastside.

    Thank you Mr. Freeman.

      1. I’ve heard of this show, but haven’t ever had the opportunity to go.

        Portland’s Zoolights are pretty nice, but it can be an hour wait in line to get in.

        Butchardt Gardens north of Victoria (bus route #75) also puts on a great light show.

    1. Would be worth it to see Kemper rip off his Santa Claus suit like Superman and pull on riot gear and a chief’s badge over his pin striped suit. Best part will be when whole busloads of startup CEO’s with eyeballs tattooed on their heads get turned into frozen snowmen with water cannons.

      Resulting riots will derail SLUT with office-chairs on the tracks, and the air will be choked with burning Amazon orders and blazing piles of underpriced books. With authors and brick and mortar bookstore owners seizing the opportunity and temporarily making a living.

      Touching off the Fiftieth World War on Christmas where airports, city parks, and courthouse steps disappear under proliferations of the lighted symbols of every religous entity on Earth, and the bombay doors of squadrons of flying sleds open, showering whole cities with incendiary flaming figgy pudding bombs scattering sugarplums like shrapnel.

      Worst of all will be when the dredel guns and the latke throwers open up as the fighting spreads to Channukah! So just let the 550 just run up and down the Tunnel, connecting with the Department stores and the Seattle Monorail. Before the cruel and vicious War on The Monorail resumes!

      Happy Holidays, All of them!


      1. Good observation, Mike. Though from pictures of him, Chief Engineer Roland Harris probably had seen enough fatal gravity related things during bridge construction that he was bored with plunging death.

        Though last ride would definitely have been more exciting than our really dull mudslides. Also, making this excitement more common would have been nixed from the budget by Risk. Scots Canadians are notoriously frugal.

        Roland is a major character in Michael Ondaatje’s book “In the Skin of a Lion”, which you need to read to not start screaming at “The English Patient” like Elaine did on Seinfeld. There wasn’t any sex in a bath tub, but a significant candle-light vigil day before opening for men killed working on the bridge.

        Commissioner Harris also talks a young revolutionary out of blowing up the magnificent new waterworks that was part of the project- after the boy swam a mile underwater carrying explosives for the deed from an intake out on the lake into Harris’ office in the basement.

        Toronto trip where I also got bored on the subway, I took the streetcar out to the waterworks, which is an absolutely magnificent building. Beautiful 1930’s control pillars still in place. And herringbone bricks on the building itself, which the book says cause consternation to Depression-era taxpayers.

        Maybe sequel was supposed to include an anarchist plot to make the subway ride less boring- but “The English Patient” left it out for the bathtub scene. I agree with Elaine: The girl would have been better defined by all the times she stuck a fork in her boyfriend.


    1. Excellent confirmation of my biases about the eastside. If you mistake tattoos for morality, or concerns about racial injustice for being anti-police (the protests are about the quality of policing, not its existence), or if you say to those who disagree with you “you are not welcome here,” perhaps you’ll love the eastside. But I highly suggest you hop on a bus to Seattle and spend some quality time here, because you are welcome here, and everybody is, and it feels pretty good. And the east side won’t stay suburban forever.

      1. Sorry, that was supposed to go to Sam’s comment!

        I agree, showcasing ferry-views would be awesome.

    2. Technically, the ferries are state highways…it counts as a street! Get on it, Google!

  6. I have a question for all you armchair transit experts. When East Link is up and running, how many Microsoft Redmond campus workers who currently drive to work will switch to light rail? And I’m not asking how many will switch from the bus to the train, but how many will switch from driving their cars to riding the train? Give me your best estimates or guesses, and how you arrived at that number.

    1. First off, the East Link opening is so far off in the future most of the Microsoft workers today are unlikely to still be working there by the time that happens.

      Even when EastLink does open, the real potential for car trip reduction to MIcrosoft will arise from people choosing to locate their homes near Link stations, not from taking Link from wherever their current home happens to be. Most of the housing near the future Eastside Link stations does not exist yet, so it is difficult to speculate much on this today.

      Of course, the modeshare impact might be larger for people visiting Seattle after work, especially downtown, than for people commuting from home to work.

    2. The devil is in the details.

      Efforts in other countries aimed at reducing congestion do so by making transit faster than driving. This can only be done with a good rail system, because at best buses only move at highway speeds. Good rail systems don’t happen in the USA these days.

      Then, there are transfers. Timed transfers are vital to making rail systems work well, because no matter how big your budget you aren’t going to build your rail system everywhere. It took TriMet about four years to figure out how to tweak the schedules to provide decent connections with green line MAX. Even now there are things that don’t work as well as they should.

      Then, it depends on what happens along the transit routes. Nearly 30 years after opening the East Burnside section of MAX is a very different place than 30 years ago. The section along I-84 has been much slower to change because people hate living next to big, noisy freeways. Eastside Link looks far more like the freeway sections of MAX than the Burnside sections. I understand why they had to do it that way, but facts are facts. Those facts are it is very difficult to build a functioning community around a freeway entrance, after the core of the community was ripped apart by the construction of said freeway.

      28 years, and just now Portland’s Hollywood District is finally starting to become a community. MAX has helped, but the huge number of high traffic intersections that separate the community from the MAX station have not. 64th and 82nd have so much auto traffic around them it is hard to imagine how long it will take for meaningful change to happen.

      So, the best thing to do is wait 30 years or so after it opens and see what happens.

  7. Just read that Amazon will have office space for 71,000 in SLU by the end of 2019. 71,000! Add in other companies and all the service workers keeping the neighborhood coming, and we’re talking about plopping a small city down where there used to be next to nothing.

    We need ballard option D and a route eight subway connecting the ballard line to the Capitol hill station, via SLU, if we want any ability to move these people around. The roads have no hope of absorbing this.

  8. Where’s the Save the Sand Point Crossing alert on STB?!?!?

    From Seattle Subway:
    Last week Sound Transit published their responses to your public comments on their Long Range Plan. In their response, they acknowledge that a Sand Point Crossing is worth studying. HOWEVER just this afternoon we learned that there is a danger that the Sand Point corridor, which you overwhelmingly asked for, will be removed from the LRP for political reasons.

    Here is the Seattle Delegation of the Sound Transit Board, please let them know you support the Sand Point Crossing:;;;;;

Comments are closed.