Photo by Michael Andersson
Photo by Michael Andersson

This is an open thread.

47 Replies to “News Roundup: Merry Christmas!”

    1. They introduced a holiday bus this year! Which is super awesome! It was the best float in the magnificent mile lights festival parade.

      1. I saw an article about that which described it as just like the train version, only much smaller and perpetually stuck in traffic.

  1. I read the on-line Seattle Times article about traffic jams on I-405. One thing that struck me was how the commenters had a different take on transit issues than readers of the Seattle Transit Blog. Waaaay more people were incredulous that someone would choose to live in Seattle and ride the bus rather than live out in the burbs where you can have deer right in your yard and drive in your car everywhere you want to go.

    1. I started reading the comments, and was reminded why I almost never read Seattle Times Comments very quickly.

    2. “Incredulous” isn’t really the right word here, Emily. Partly this is a matter of personal taste. But many of us are old enough to have personally seen what forty years of development will do to places we lived and loved.

      It’s not only the deer that are gone. Fields of wheat. Whole forests of old oak trees. Miles of two lane roads twenty minutes from home, where we could take an afternoon drive on a fall day to see the oaks turn red, the ash turn purple and bronze, and the sugar maples just living flames.

      And stopped in to drink hot cider with cinnamon, and eat donuts, and take home gallon jugs. And to stop for coffee in any of a dozen little towns, separated by miles of woods and lakes.

      Deer love the “forest edge habitat”-such as the exact boundary where suburban lawns back up against woods. Cougars love the habitat enough to have lived there for centuries- and are less incredulous that humans would want to move in there than glad for a dinner that can’t run out run them on a bicycle.

      But deer and cougar really don’t like what happens when a county full of asphalt parking lots replace the forest part of the edge. But unlike humans, they’ve got no place to go. As soon applies to humans when not so much them but their cars and their shopping habits move in everywhere.

      Lost along with the beauty is the freedom. Maybe they can still drive wherever they want- very slowly through a huge, treeless, and very ugly place. Go online for aerial pics of Oakland County, in Michigan- 1963 and 2013. And at least start thinking about how humans can create habitat that we ourselves can stand.

      Mark Dublin

      But put a county full of shopping malls behind your property

      1. Or, just see what has happened in Lacy in the past few years. I’ve seen deer there recently, but once those several hundred acres of homes by Woodard Bay get built there won’t be. Plus, the only recreation spot is Tolmie State Park, which on many weekends is already full of cars.

      2. Glen, you’re spot on with Lacey. I moved away from Lacey 20 years ago and remember going to Tolmie to look at the tide pools as part of field trips. It seemed out in the sticks. I went back recently after moving back (I’ve now been back for 8 years) only to see the forests and prairies of Lacey make way for uncontained subdivisions, box stores and warehouses rendering Hawks Prairie unrecognizable. Tolmie is now a green oasis in a sea of sprawl.

      3. Somewhere I heard that housing developments are often named for whatever part of the environment they destroyed to build the houses.

      4. “Those greenie librul environmentalists trying to hold back the economy with their green-space protections so they can pack us into those cities with their social engineering! Don’t they know the only measure of land’s value is the degree to which it’s being exploited by humans?”

    3. The Seattle Times might as well be called The Bellevue Times: a majority of its editorial board resides on the Eastside, an increasing number of its stories are Eastside focused, and as everyone here has observed, their commenters are suburban sprawl and auto-centric.

      Their columnist Jon Talton, the one linked toward the top of the news roundup, is generally very urbanist and transit oriented. Living in Phoenix and his current residence in Belltown probably helps shape his views a great deal. I tell my friends that work for the Times that he is a refreshing Seattle optimist compared to Danny “The Downer” Westneat.

      1. John Talton also generally has a “take” on the economy that I think people would tend to agree with- all across the ideological spectrum.

        Compared with thousands of other commentators, some of the worst being on public radio, who personify same approach to stupidity that is often said of greatness:

        Some are born with it. Some have it forced upon them. And some achieve it by their own hard work.

        And some study very hard for enough long and expensive years to become consultants in things like mortgage banking, and invent derivatives, hedge funds, and sub-prime loans.

        Also astronomy. We know who discovered Pluto. But science doesn’t want to know anything about Planet Money, let alone its satellites and less about what inhabits it.

        But its Pledge of Allegiance consists of right hand scratching the head, and solemn intonement of wonder as to why after four decades of flat wages, the economy is being so sluggish to recover

        Thanks for the telescope, John.


      2. Is there anything wrong with Westneat? He got a lot of flack for criticizing his bus experience, but can anyone really disagree with it? I really don’t get the raw, raw, raw, “our transit system, right or wrong” approach. If the buses suck, then say it. He has argued for better transit, whether by pointing out its short comings on the Metro 8, or the traffic on HOV 2 lanes (which he suggested be changed to HOV 3). Makes sense to me.

        The biggest problem with the Seattle Times (by far) is the editorial staff, which is often just whacky. They remind me of Bill O’Reilly. Saying things that sound sensible, then a few more reasonable things, and then, Wham! Something whacky — and good night. But that isn’t Westneat, that is the staff (and the Blethens mostly, I’m sure).

      3. Is there anything wrong with Westneat? He got a lot of flack for criticizing his bus experience, but can anyone really disagree with it?

        Well, he let his bus issues lead him to endorse a no vote on Prop 1. This was particularly risable after complaining that the April version sucked because it didn’t provide anything new for us, but the November version couldn’t be supported because it didn’t include specific, detailed information about which routes would get more service and when (when commenters started talking about nerdy technical stuff like “Metro Service Guidelines” it was pretty clear he knew nothing of what they were talking about, and didn’t much care).

    4. Probably generational as well, as correlates with newspaper subscribership. I genuinely do think that it would be strange and childish to live in the suburbs and have a car — it would be like wearing a larval hoodie as a butterfly — but realize this is impossible to explain to older people, recent immigrants from RICE, etc.

  2. Couple things about Sky Train, Zach. One, while the cars are small, the system probably doesn’t class as light rail. I BART cars are a lot lighter than the steel-wheeled tanks of the old Chicago ‘El. Light and heavy really apply to the degree of reservation of the right-off-way.

    Sky Train runs like the ‘El, though featherweight class. LINK runs like the old North Shore interurban- intercity speed and right of way- but classed light rail because cars could also handle streetcar track. The Electroliner was a hundred mile an hour electric bullet train through the Skokie Valley. But several miles of street running through Milwaukee probably made it light rail- a term nobody used in the ‘forties.

    Also might want to have a doctor look at that cough. Especially one that remembers- and maybe choked on- the many miles of elevated track built in the 1980’s- and probably debt-free by now. But greatest cost-cutter of all was History’s gift of a disused freight tunnel through the CBD of Vancouver.

    And tall enough to configure tunnel as an over-under shotgun- one direction per barrel. Whole think largely present from Canadian Government for its trade exhibition. I-90 probably cut freight operating costs too.

    My own take on automated trains is that by the time we build Seattle Subway 1, we’ll also have the four-minute trolleybus headways that Vancouver had in 1986- which should employ more transit drivers than the subway would ever do. And a lot of manned streetcars and light rail as well.

    My personal intensity isn’t against automated rail- which incidentally has a computer or two for a driver- cost comparison for Seattle yet to be known. But for me, the amount of capital we put into the DSTT has always had a much worse balance sheet than it could if run as designed. So between now and some years ’til North-and EastLINK open…let’s consider improved Tunnel ops as a cost-cutting measure.

    And also, to be repetitive while remembering present speed of Big Bertha, really hate certainty of stinking bad current transit while we wait for the driverless paradise of the 23rd Century.


  3. Just to be clear, Trans-Link is NOT “light rail”. It’s a way-cool, far ahead of its time Light Metro. It IS rather like Link is being built in the outer sections (saves the driverless operation, of course), but then Link really isn’t “light rail” in most places either.

      1. Each consist that comes along is intended and designed to carry fewer people than in an analogous heavy-rail subway system.

        It has nothing to do with weight, nothing to do with grade separation or distance or station spacing, nothing even to do with the ultimate carrying capacity of the line.

        The trains are smaller, so the platforms can be smaller, so the stations can be smaller*. That is literally all the term means.

        *(unless you are afflicted with Seattle Design Stupid)

      2. D.P., then The Chicago L is Light rail, because it has the same capacity as Seattle’s Light Rail.

      3. Um, no.

        An 8-car El train carries just shy of 1,000 people, mostly in the plentiful standing room.

        A 4-car Link train will hypothetically squeeze 800, but it will only do that comfortably if we wholly rearrange the dumb interior, with its many dividers and obstructions and obvious design disinterest in high passenger turnover.

        Anyway, the real reason for the terminological imprecision is that “light rail” is little more than a political euphemism, concocted from within a federal bureaucracy back when most of the American public thought “subways” = “screeching eyesores carrying scary black people”.

        Nobody ever referred to Boston’s Green Line as “light rail” before the ’80s. No one but excessively taxonomizing transit dorks does today.

      4. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an L car hold more than 100 folks. an L car is 48 feet long, Link is 95 feet long, (2 L cars) They’re both 9.5 feet wide. They really carry the same amount of people, same amount of doors, they both have lousy seating arrangements. Link Cars are just nice in that they allow and plan for bikes, while the L doesn’t.

      5. A full-length CTA train holds 123 x 8 = 984.

        In this particular case, it may be the high floor that allows greater carrying capacity at similar total train/platform length.

        Vancouver, London, Manchester, and Calgary all have fully-high-floor light rail, though, and similarly aim for lower carrying capacity per train than on equivalent full subways (without necessarily skimping on headways or total system capacities). Those cities’ dividends lie in the smaller and simpler stations they have been able to construct exponentially faster than us.

        So the lesson here, really, is not that Link is “a metro”. It’s that Sound Transit has developed a system demanding of far more infrastructural overkill than its peers, leading to fewer stations and less useful access, and costing far more than better light rail designs while still sacrificing capacity-per-train.

        That’s the answer you sought, right?

      6. Like positions in basketball*, the designation is rather arbitrary. The Wikipedia article about Light Rail is rather interesting. There is a lot about various terminology, as well as plenty of examples. One of the interesting things about the various systems is that BART is considered “heavy rail”, which surprised me, until I thought about it. I often think of BART as as a sprawling, suburban line (which it is). But it still needs to handle Oakland to Berkeley to San Francisco. So it makes sense that it be able to handle big loads.

        Oh, and in case anyone thinks that BART is a pretty good system that just happens to compliment other transit in the area, let me just quote the article about Vancouver:

        The third-highest per capita transit use in North America, after only New York and Toronto.

        Yep, higher than Chicago, and Montreal, and plenty of other cites that one would just assume have better numbers. So, can someone explain to me why anyone in their right mind would cast their eye south (to Portland) given that? It’s just crazy, but I think a lot of our city council (and a lot of our citizens) just have this fantasy about Portland — thinking it is a cooler, tinier version of ourselves. The truth is it is just a bit smaller, and does nothing of substance any better than us (other than retain their NBA team). Meanwhile, Vancouver kicks everybody’s ass (despite losing their basketball team, too).

        * For example, Magic Johnson was 6′ 9″, and played point guard. Point guards are usually the shortest players on the team, and aren’t the ones taking hook shots to win championship games. In contrast, LeBron James is actually one inch shorter, but plays forward, and is as much a ball handler (and “the point” player) as Magic was.

      7. Hell, we can’t even figure out how to do a regional express bus network like you people have.

      8. Portlander here. Our MAX system is primarily designed to serve low density, far-fling suburban areas while encouraging moderate density infill. Much of the lines are grade separated outside of the urban core and are high speed. Vancouver benefits from constrained geography and ridiculously dense urban AND suburban built environment (and no freeways).

      9. d.p.,

        Well then what IS Boston’s Green Line. The Riverside Line is a bit “Metroish” but all the lines run at grade with road crossings except in the CBD tunnel. That sure sounds like “Light Rail” to me.

        There’s no doubt that Link has enough sections that have grade crossings that it’s at iheart “Light Rail” too. But the way that the remaining extension sections will be built about 97% on stilts or in tunnels is what I meant by saying that it has shaken off it’s Light Rail “roots”.

      10. The Green Line is a thing that was doing more or less what it does today for 76 full years before some bureaucrat pulled the term “light rail” from his backside.

        European taxonomidorks would probably call it a “premetro”, which is just as jargon-y but perhaps a bit more accurate.

        The D line has zero grade crossings, btw, though pedestrians cross the tracks freely at stations. (At Brookline Village the track crossing is a primary pedestrian route.)

      11. My point on the Green Line is that no one in the city it serves — i.e. those who ride it daily — has ever used nor given a shit about a term manufactured so that lawncare warriors in Gresham and Pasadena can feel less scared of mass transit.

        Having grown up on the Green Line, the term is still as nails-on-chalkboard to me as “right-sized staffing levels” or “articulated façade with setbacks offering open space”. It’s just a bunch of bullshit designed to categorically distract from whether or not your undertaking adds anything of genuine value to the universe.

    1. Probably same as a non-radioactive Washington Puget Power Supply and the would-be monorail: Like any healthy business handling a mistake or change of luck, pay bills and pay off loans and interest, and keep on with what what keeps on making you productive.

      Politically, as more than one borrowed war in the midst of a screaming fit about the budget crisis which for several years has sequestered the money to fix a deteriorating country proves:

      A budget is only a serious problem for a small business and the working poor- a concept that should not exist in same breath as “rich country.” Legitimate worry in Aberdeen. Less than aggregate restaurant tips in Seattle area of King County.


  4. Probably reason for the argument about weight description is that I don’t think anybody ever really defines the term, or wants to. When did we really start hearing it? 1970? An engineer friend of mind called it LINK “the heavy side of light rail.”

    Doubt the rest of the world even uses the term. In Sweden, anything that can handle the curve radii of street rail is a streetcar. n Stockholm, the two lines whose Flexity Swift cars are exact same caliber as LINK’s Kinki-Sharyo units, are called “Tverbanna”, with the term applying to their function rather than mode.

    Line from Sickla Udde to Alvik is “must” ride to see what’s included in this terminology. Reserved surface grade, very narrow neighborhood lined with shops, restaurants and parked cars, and 60 mph reserved grade with spectacular sightseeing views.

    Which is “link”, since one of the lines’ chief purposes is to connect at least two Chicago CTA scale subways. Hmmmm- I thought ST naming committee just had breakfast meetings someplace they served Jimmy Dean. Which brand -name would still be trademark infringement even if bolded and capitalized.

    That’s why ST left out the little trademark symbol after the “K”.


  5. Alex,

    My earliest transit memory was standing in the aisle of a northbound Rogers Park ‘El’ car when I was five in 1950, scenery being 360 degrees’ view of wet wool coats warming me more than their owners. My mother insisted that I learn to give ladies my seat- something, from polite thanks to giggles, considered as charming as we thought of 1899 manners in 1950.

    The reason for the large transit caliber and massive loads of those years was that a factory economy had to move huge numbers of people two and from work, each one at exactly the same place and time every work day.

    The proliferation of automobile-friendly postwar suburbs- new homes and large lots for veterans and their wives who had really earned a break from Depression-era cities- finished off the already-dying Interurbans, and weren’t at all slowed down by the excellent electric rail closer to Lake Michigan.

    Whose trains and former stations have themselves been experiencing a rebirth these last twenty or thirty years. Brick buildings I remember from the fifties now look the same, except for cleaned brick, new paint, and very high rents- because they’re as close to the ‘El as the Blue Brothers’ hotel room ’til Carrie Fisher blew it up.

    Times change, people change, transportation changes. Less a platitude the longer one’s life. Also reason present weary political aversion is truly unwarranted for the very just-turned-voting-age people with the ability to seize major political parties from precinct level up.

    As well as starting new ones, as in countries that don’t say “light rail.”
    The lock has long since rusted off the doors of the basements containing the machinery you need for the job.


  6. Rode the C-line to west Seattle and was pleasantly surprised to see OneBusAway finally get things right, in spite of the holiday. The C-line showed up in both directions precisely when OBA said it would come.

    1. Less traffic on downtown streets as well as on Avalon and the bridges to prevent the disruption of timing.

  7. I don’t mean to upset all of the enlightened urbanists here, but the little item:
    “•Long ‘out of scale’ for the traditional high-rise neighborhood, the First Hill
    McDonald’s is closing, replaced by a more neighborhood appropriate
    17-story tower” leads me to once again comment “it all depends.” First Hill
    is not exactly a “traditional high-rise neighborhood.” It has been an area of
    a multiplicity of structures, some high, some low-rise, and some super-high.
    The experience of having the variety of views of the sky and the interruptions
    of light don’t really count for anything I realize, but one shouldn’t be surprised
    if some First Hill regulars are less than thrilled at the prospect of another
    duplicate Coppins Well type project. On the other hand, I’m sure many
    will welcome the loss of the McD ‘commerce zone’ in the parking lot where
    innumerable transactions can be observed daily. Where will that trade
    (which cynics might refer to as a vibrant streetscape activity) go next, I wonder.

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