Sounder Bruce (via Wikimedia)
Sounder Bruce (via Wikimedia)

This is an open thread.

101 Replies to “News Roundup: 12 Weeks”

    1. I’m not a fan of these programs, especially around Seattle where our existing infrastructure is generally pretty good – especially Downtown. It also seems like the amenities seem to go where the company wants the ads rather than where they would benefit people. Further, I don’t like the idea of handing over the public right of way to corporate interests.

      1. “It also seems like the amenities seem to go where the company wants the ads rather than where they would benefit people.”

        Evidence, please.

      2. The last time I was in San Francisco, a very large number of MUNI bus shelters each had one of the end walls be a full-height glass-covered, brightly lighted advertisement. Definitely a deterrent both to crime and vandalism.

        On every one of them, the light and color in places where safety depends on the first and positive aesthetics on the second, justifies whatever funding arrangement provides them.

        The fact that San Francisco- and many other cities around the world- have shelters like this and Seattle doesn’t really pretty much describes Seattle as a place to live compared to other places.

        Anything public calling attention to itself by being bright and attractive is bad manners.

        Mark Dublin

    2. In NY and I think SF, the owners of the shelters (who are selling the advertising space), also maintain the shelters. This alone would start offloading a giant cost that metro current handles. Also, having brightly lit, attractive shelters even with ads is ten times better than the 1970s/1980s designed and built ones metro currently employs.

      1. It sounds like for you and I’m sure for some other folks the tradeoff of advertising in the public right of way offsets the benefit of the newer shelters. I think handing over the public right away to corporate advertising is a bad idea. Of other cities that have gone with these street furniture programs I think Boston has seen the most negative impact aesthetically – they have these stupid triangular kiosks around town that have two huge advertising panels and a payphone or something similar on the third side as well as “information panels” around Downtown Crossing that just have ads on them – no maps or anything like that.

        Some info on the Boston program, including a giant Nespresso ad defacing the front facade of the Boston Public Library:

        I’d also like to get those wrap ads off the bus windows.

      1. “Vapid” suggests emptiness (as in empty promises or hype), and while I wouldn’t argue much against applying that tag to any of the other Rapid Ride lines for various reasons, my observation is that the changes made for the E Line have amounted to real improvements, both peak and off-peak, for that route, plus the 5, 16, and 26X. It also was a bit less hyped than the C and D lines because there wasn’t an accompanying restructure.

        Yeah, it suffers during construction projects like this, but even grade-separated rail lines can suffer for seasons at a time during construction projects. It’s more troubling that the tunnel portal work will ultimately make it worse…

      2. How about LaggedRide?


        RabidRide: zombies on transit
        RabbitRide: bunnies on transit
        GiraffedRide: tall people on transit

      1. Can’t we at least get a comment from the little dog? Since we still don’t know which character in the picture is Big Don, it’s only fair to give the dog benefit of doubt.

        Especially since it appears to belong to a breed known for being quick and intelligent. Also, since picture seems to show paw on steering wheel, in dog years it may be of age to put in for full-time operator.

        New technology is now able to let a small dog control the brakes and accelerator. And recorded announcements eliminate need for translator fluent in barking.

        Though doubtless it would benefit STB to take some language lessons, because despite large numbers of service dogs on buses, transit still ignores this vital source of comment on realms mankind will never know.

        Also unbeatable investigators to identify precisely and definitively what makes the Bredas smell so bad. And who and what all has crawled into corners and died.

        Also, the tail-wagging explosives-detecting “labs” can fill us in on how safe removal of trash cans from stations really makes us. As well as truth about which security measures really work, and which ones are just fear-inducing hype.

        So suggest we accept all comments from this e-mail address signed with a paw-print. Guarantee that as much as we don’t want to know full olfactory truth about Bredas, every observation will be completely On Topic for hitherto unknown facts about transit.




  1. I’m in Boston right now. Yes, the transit shutdown was annoying, but it was hardly the “end of days” scenario that appears to be the prevailing narrative in the media. There are lots of long and ultra-long distance commuters who choose to live 30-70 miles from work, even though they could afford to live much closer. That is not MBTA’s fault, that’s your fault.

    And, it wasn’t quite a 100% shutdown. I saw a number of buses running, although my guess is it was maybe ~25% of the usual service. But the buses that did run were not overcrowded. Boston itself is mostly flat and fairly walkable if you are able bodied. The biggest issue for me as a pedestrian was the huge piles of snow from plowing the streets that blocked almost every crosswalk. Building managers meticulously clear the sidewalks in front of their buildings, but do nothing to clear a path for pedestrians to get through the 6-8′ tall snow berms at the street corners. Following the letter of the law only helps pedestrians so much.

    Remember, back in 2008 Metro had no service on most routes for a week and Seattle had what, ~12 inches of snow? One day closed for MBTA and people are furious, even though Boston’s had several feet of snow in the course of 2 weeks.

      1. Maybe the poor lady found the Gary Larson cartoon about the scientists finding a cave man sitting in an outhouse frozen in a giant block if ice, and one saying: “Well we’ve got it! Absolute proof that the Ice Age took these people completely by surprise!”

        Leading the official to think that the little building was supposed to be a primitive Boston bus shelter. With present public financing picture, wouldn’t be the only one like that.

        Or had seen the movie where where a new Ice Age freezes the US solid. And over howls in Spanish from the Mexican House of Representatives, El Presidente uses his own authority to grant amnesty to millions of frost bitten illegal aliens.

        Or most likely, she’s speaking from home, where’s she’s trapped because every transit machine in Boston is blocked by so many crashed cars that her replacement will have to be helicoptered in from Brazil.

        Would anybody reading the article do any different than she did?


        And also since dogs were only on topic for Big Don controversy- can only Mark, I mean Bark, once.

    1. “There are lots of long and ultra-long distance commuters who choose to live 30-70 miles from work, even though they could afford to live much closer. That is not MBTA’s fault, that’s your fault.”

      This part doesn’t seem quite fair. A lot of lower income folks can’t afford to live close in but can afford places with commuter rail service (Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, etc.). The Boston metro area has grown in a way that poorer folks are pushed to the older industrial cities on the outer ring – a complete shutdown of the system has a big impact on folks who may have less flexibility around working from home.

      1. Of course there are lower-paid workers in the outer suburbs and this storm was bad for them. They don’t have the financial ability to choose to live closer to work.

        My point was that there are lots of managers and executives who live far away only because they want big houses and land. They do have a choice on where to live; they chose big houses over ease of getting to work, and that has consequences during a snowstorm.

      1. Mostly, I suspect, election outcome would have been different if Greg had campaigned a little harder- reason why he didn’t.

        If you were a savvy seasoned politician like Greg, would you want to be the mayor of any city, as the whole country’s economy plunged off a cliff chained to a gravity-challenged banking disaster?

        That’s why I voted for Mike McGinn this last time. When the chips were down, he took a job nobody else would touch with the greasy end of a trolley pole. Also, isn’t a certain tunnel project turning out pretty much as he predicted?


      2. I think what cost Greg his job was when he gave the City’s response to the storm a “B.” If he had given it a “D” or “F” I think he would have been reelected.

    2. The expectations for functioning public transportation in the bigger east coast cities w/ greater need for daily use are much greater than Seattle where it’s like “Oh closed down for a week, oh ok, we’ll just deal with it, i.e., eat our gruel w/ minimal complaint.

    3. Hating on the T is a major civic sport in Boston, and for the most part participants in that sport have no idea how much worse they would have it elsewhere.

      I’ve long drawn a contrast between the mostly-benign incompetence that seems to rule at KC Metro, and an agency like the MBTA that often seems to straight-up loathe its own customers, yet still moves masses of them around with relatively high efficiency most of the time, as a sheer matter of necessity. (With modeshare that high, the city simply collapses in its absence.)

      In this case, I don’t think anyone blames the T for the results of the weather — the city has gotten literally six feet of snow in less than two weeks, sometimes stacking multiple feet in a single day. The legitimate anger seems to come from poor decision-making about the timing of cancellations, poor reactions to genuine emergencies, and roundly terrible communications. If you took the Commuter Rail into work and it really is your only feasible way home, perhaps the agency shouldn’t announce the cessation of all evening service after the last running train has left. And if I were stuck on a Red Line train with a frozen motor and blocking the entire line, I would probably expect it to take less than two hours to shut off the power and send out a rescue team.

      The repeated and compounded failures that happened while the trains were supposed to be running are far greater than the pre-announced “failure” of shutting down all rail systems for a single service day. And while I think Bev Scott got a massively raw deal in having all the blame for this week fall on her shoulders, she has implemented enough misguided and tonedeaf service policies in her time at the agency — “front-door only” on one of the most crowded rail lines in America, anyone? — that I am quite happy to see her go.

      Anyway, your comparison to Seattle in 2008 is spot-on. We got barely 8 inches, and I literally couldn’t leave Ballard for days. Major arterials were never plowed or de-iced at all. Metro buses were rerouted in ways that had nothing to do with the official “snow routings”, and the resultant system was so disorganized and arbitrary that it was never worth braving the mush-and-ice minefields on the unshoveled sidewalks trying to access them, since you’d likely neither reach your destination nor make it home anyway. The 44 didn’t run for more than a week.

      It is a testament to Boston’s street clearance capacities that any transit continued to run at all on Tuesday. It is also, notably, a giant middle finger to one of the stock arguments of the railfan dittoheads.

      1. Yeah, Seattle didn’t get a lot of snow, but the way we got it was weird. Snow is rare around here, so we have very few plows or other equipment. It is usually gone in a couple days, too. So, while the rest of the country wonders why 8 inches would paralyze us, I’m sure San Fransicso would be a mess with six inches of snow.

        But as you said, the big problem here, like in Boston, was communication. Plow the main roads, reroute the buses, and get the word out. The city could have worked on a handful of arterials and at least got people moving. Something like the “night owl” routes would work adequately. But if you can’t do that, then at least let everyone know what is, and isn’t working.

        Personally, I love snow around here and I loved that storm. I know how to cross country, and skiing around Phinney Ridge was fantastic. There is something really cool about skiing around town, grabbing a burrito, then doing some more skiing. I wish I was in Boston the last couple weeks (I know, I know — there are plenty of people who would have traded places).

      2. The issue with snow here is the temperature stays right near the freezing point so the snow is damp and prone to ice and black ice. And when it goes above freezing in the day and below at night, it makes layers of ice and unstable snow. That’s what makes cars go every which way. And when I lived on Melrose on the steep hillside, I could hardly get in and out of my apartment block without falling on the icy patches.

      3. That’s why you plow-scrape to the pavement, and then add salt and/or grit.

        Yeesh. You think Seattle is the only place on earth with shifting temperatures and hills?

      4. The issue with snow in the northwest is that the big blizzards of, say, the 1950s are so far in the past that preparation for such events simply doesn’t exist at the lower elevations.

        It’s a problem with events like the winter of 1956-57 becoming 30 year events rather than 7-10 year events. The equipment required for such an event isn’t replaced when it’s at the end of its life. It is no longer thought of as a necessity.

        I can guarantee that Link lacks a single snow sweeper, but that Seattle street railways probably had at least two.

      5. On a subway platform in Boston years ago, a “T” driver told me he didn’t feel safe wearing his uniform outside his cab.

        This during a week’s midwinter visit where I could ride service to the basement of just about any major department store or other public building without a coat.

        But I really have to wonder if this trash-talk is sort of like the old vaudeville theater culture: Everybody was a critic, including the guy pushing the big hook out from behind the curtain to cancel a really bad act.

        Rough- but I think performers really believed this kind of predation improved their trade. Sort of like lions did for zebras. For proof- look at condition of dead-cat and hook-proof entertainment media now.

        Undoubtedly, this could explain difference between transit performance between Boston and Seattle. Passive aggression deserves a lot harsher response- and more hooks in the curtains- than the active kind in Boston.


      6. I think the big problem with snow around here is that it is so hard to predict and heavy snow is so rare. This is the one thing that Cliff Mass gets right. Basically, because of our climate, we could get 6 inches of snow, or nothing but rain, and no one (not even the experts) really knows what will happen until the last minute. The snow isn’t harder to deal with than other places, but if you don’t know if it will happen, then it is tough to plan for it. I know some of the recent East Coast storms caught some of the folks a bit unprepared, but only by degrees — it was supposed to hammer New York, but it didn’t. But New York still got some snow, and so the plows weren’t a waste. Boston was supposed to get some snow, just maybe not as much as they got. Besides, it will probably snow next year or the year after. We could go the next five years without snow and it wouldn’t surprise anyone (it has happened before). In the last forty years we probably have only had one or two storms like the Nickels storm.

        You also have the desire (by plenty of people in the city) to avoid putting salt in our waterways. This seemed silly in retrospect, but understandable given the amount of money and effort spent trying to revitalize the creeks in this area (there are salmon runs in the city). So Nickels didn’t use salt because the folks assumed this would be another short lived snow event (and they probably weren’t prepared to use salt). Meanwhile, the next snow event, which occurred under McGinn, was met with equally ridiculous overkill. The streets were plowed and plenty of salt was laid down, only to see unplowed streets melt off by the afternoon (under 40 degree temperatures).

      7. I hate it when people say snow is “rare” in Seattle…it just lets people off the hook. In reality, our average snowfall (from the Sea-Tac weather station) is ~10″ per year. Snow is rare in Sacramento or Houston, but it is very normal (if infrequent) for Seattle. I think newcomers have had some rather abnormally mild winters to make snow seem like a rare thing.

      8. Regarding money, the state government has infamously saddled the MBTA with debt which has absolutely nothing to do with transit service (Big Dig related, mostly), and then underfunded it. This ingenious scheme for passing the buck was developed, according to the last thing I read, by Charlie Baker, who has now scammed his way into the governor’s mansion.

        The MBTA is in some ways pretty well run… by comparison to the state government of Massachusetts, which is run much, much worse, for “three men ina room” reasons similar to the reasons the NY state government is a mess.

    4. There are lots of long and ultra-long distance commuters who choose to live 30-70 miles from work, even though they could afford to live much closer. That is not MBTA’s fault, that’s your fault.

      I don’t think it’s correct to assign all of the blame to individual people, here. Consider this CityLab chart on car reliance in the US and Germany.

      A portion of the blame must rest on the policymakers, developers, architects, etc. who worked hard to create our car culture in the first place. And if we want to reduce our car reliance as a society, then we need to change this culture.

      I’m not disagreeing with you that people could have chosen a lifestyle that would have left them in better shape to handle this snowstorm. But that ignores a lot of other factors, like the meme that the American Dream means a single-family home with a white picket fence, and the fact that highly-rated schools (for whatever that’s worth) often require you to live in a particular far-out suburb, and the fact that a cohabiting couple may truly be unable to find work in the same city as each other. All of these problems can be fixed, but we do ourselves no favors by assuming that there is no rational reason why someone would choose to live far away from their job.

  2. I’m glad to see the Publix building being renovated. I used to work in the ID and it was sad to see how much it had been allowed to deteriorate.

    1. Its time for all of the buildings in ID to be put back into service. The city wants and needs to be firing on all cylinders. I hope to see all buildings with an abandoned top x floors to see restoration work going on soon.

      1. For starters, I’d like to see, just once, the structures on the lid at International District Station used for the kind of outdoor markets and events they were supposed to feature all the time.

        For all going-on twenty five years of the DSTT’s existence. The Waterfall Fountain at CPS. The amazing clocks at Pioneer Square, with construction material for faces and tools for hour markers, left dirty, unlit, and invisible.

        Same with the blue and white reflectors the whole length of the tubes, intended for a spectacular light show through every moving windshield.

        Too bad Federal law doesn’t expand the One Percent for the Arts provision to include savage penalties for every day an installed art or cultural object is left broken or unrepaired.

        Wonder why the ID has let the IDS plaza and pavilion stay out of service so long. Usually the place is a lot more vocal.


      2. Mark, I understood the clocks at Pioneer Square Station to be working again. I know that they fixed the one at Westlake, so maybe there’s hope that some of these other items will be repaired.

  3. Anyone know why Metro renamed the stop on eastbound Pine between Harvard and Broadway “Harvard Ave” on the announcement system?

    I know for a fact that MANY more people are looking for Broadway, rather than Harvard (as anyone who has waited on Pike downtown and has heard 10000000000 people ask the bus driver “Does this go to Broadway?” can attest to).

    1. Westbound on the 10 or 11 it says “Broadway Court”. I don’t see any Broadway Court anywhere.

      1. That’s weird. Must be an incorrect stop label or somebody was entering “Broadway” in bulk for the 10, 11, and 12 and then wound up with “Court” on the brain or something. 12 does have a stop (ID 13282) westbound on Madison that’s E Madison / Broadway Ct. A DPD presentation from two years ago makes mention of a “10th and Broadway Court,” maybe Nagle Place used to be named or was supposed to be (re?)named Broadway Ct?

      2. Broadway Ct runs between Union and Madison between the Silver Cloud Inn and IHOP. But that’s the extent of it. It doesn’t reappear anywhere else in the city.

    2. I noticed this also. Maybe it’s some standardization effort of trying to name all stops as the last cross-street passed in the direction of travel?

    3. This stop has been named Harvard Ave for many years, at least since I lived a block away (~2010). As a rule, Metro prefers to place stops on the far side of intersections, and as a rule, Metro names stops as if they are far-side stops. This is not official; this is just my interpretation based on what I’ve observed at this stop and others.

      I’ve long thought that a better rule would be to try to name stops so that the same names are used in both directions. Sometimes, this rule would produce a clear answer, like when there are far-side stops on both sides of a street. For other stops, like the Harvard/Olive one we’re talking about, there are two candidates, since the eastbound stop is on the near side of Broadway, but the westbound stop is on the far side. In that case, choose the street with the higher classification, based on the city’s street classification maps. If both streets have the same classification (e.g. random stops in a residential area), then just pick one randomly. So long as both stops use the same name, it would still be less confusing than the current system.

      The good news is that Metro seems to understand this. RapidRide largely uses the same names in both directions, with only a few exceptions for one-way couplets and pairs of T intersections. And in fact, OneBusAway reports the name of the stop we’re talking about as “Broadway”, so maybe the work is already being done.

  4. The first of the completed Inekon streetcars for the First Hill line that left the Czech Republic in December, is onboard the ship Tiger that just left Port Hueneme this morning, after traversing the Atlantic and going through the Panama Canal. It is scheduled to arrive in Tacoma on Sunday. This should mean that testing will begin in the not-too-distant future.

      1. I’m not sure how they’ll be treating the queue at the port even after they start unloading again. I predict a loooong wait.

    1. Really disappointing to find out that Port Hueneme is really pretty much in Ventura California. Had visions of our streetcar lashed to the deck of a clipper ship rounding Cape Horn, with the whole crew “aloft” in hundred foot seas, struggling to prevent delivery to Davy Jones’ Locker.

      And then taking wrong turn up a river, where the crew spends whole languorous weeks eating mangoes and drinking things make out of rum and exotic flowers and watching Dancing Girls Swaying To and Fro with baskets on their heads. Wouldn’t “Port Hueneme” be a better name for that?

      Well- maybe the other cars. I don’t know. “Fare ye well all you pretty young girls, for we’re bound for the Port of Tacoma?” Streetcar chanteys just don’t “scan.”


  5. “Republicans are pushing a bill that “clarifies that lawmakers intend to slam the door on paying overruns” for the downtown tunnel project.” [Stranger]

    So they’ll just freeze construction when it hits the budget ceiling? And leave holes to nowhere? Or will they make Seattle pay for the overruns, which is dubiously enforceable.

    “I think it needs to be scaled back even further. Notice how many blocks of single family homes will be wiped out. Whole neighborhoods will disappear. Those neighborhoods are the one key features of Shoreline vs. Seattle. Development should happen and it will happen. However, turning Shoreline into Ballardlike density is overreaching a bit.” [Shoreline commenter, anonymous]

    Well, Shoreline could refuse 185th station and let the funds be redirected to 130th station. It’s the same subarea. The only reason Shoreline is getting light rail at all is it’s on the way to Lynnwood. It’s hard to sympathize with the loss of single-family houses when tens of thousands of people who want to live within walking distance of Link can’t because there aren’t enough units or they cost sky-high. `

      1. The Internet is a wonderful place.

        and I thought the STB was populated by faceless opinionated commenters.

        From the Shoreline Area News link, you’d think there were everyone in Shoreline is afraid to come out of their house!

        Every comment is from Anonymous, and the replies had to refer to the posting times to tell them apart.

        At least they have to sign in to the meetings with their name and address,

        (Except for Karen Easterly-Behrens, – good for her. (If I lived in Shoreline, I would be disagreeing with her, but I give her credit))

    1. Yeah, the idea that Seattle can be forced to build the tunnel is ridiculous. It was always ridiculous. That is why I said we are building a cave, not a tunnel. Get half way done, and the state says it won’t finish it. The city says the same thing, and we have a cave.

      I have mixed feelings about the upzone around stations. I really don’t think we should tie the two together. If Shoreline needs to upzone, then it should happen throughout the city or in area that makes more sense. With Roosevelt it made sense, since it already was a somewhat urban community and they actually begged for the stop and pulled it away from an area that already had high zoning (Greenlake, which as you can see, has a few tall buildings).

      Mostly, though, I don’t want to see stations that make a lot of sense from a bus connection standpoint being rejected because neighbors don’t want the the rezone. I don’t know how much sense a stop at 185th makes anyway (with or without the zoning change). Most of the folks there own their own house, so the zoning won’t do much (and the zoning change is very minor). It will take years before it fills in, and it will never be “like Ballard”.

      The same is even more true for 130th. Half the land around there is park land (parks and golf courses) or roads (I-5 and 5th). Some of the land already has apartments. You can change the zoning and get a few more people to walk to the station, but the vast majority of riders will arrive by bus. The 41 carries over 10,000 people a day, and the 522 probably carries that many as well. That is just for the Lake City Way corridor. You also have Bitterlake, and the possibility of connecting the Aurora corridor (130th is very fast compared to every east-west route from Aurora to a station). I personally would like to see the area upzoned, but I wouldn’t waste any political capital on it. A station there, unlike 185th, is a lot more important.

      1. So the next question is what to do with the cave. A fabulous event space for raves, I suppose….

    2. I wish “Shorelne” could refuse the 185th St station. But, there is a huge disconnect between Shoreline residents and the Shoreline City Council. I have been to many of the neighborhood and the City Council meetings and everyone who is a resident says they don’t want massive upzones and the City Council says they are doing massive upzones. Residents wanted the rail line to go along Aurora Avenue. Sound Transit said that would be too expensive and the Shoreline City Council said they just spent millions upgrading Aurora Avenue and they would fight Sound Transit if they wanted to go that route. Logically, the line should have been built along Aurora Avenue, where there already is plenty of available land to build massive housing projects without tearing down or ripping out residential neighborhoods.

    1. Was just reading that article. It pretty much sucks for ST, but it pretty much sucks all around. The R’s are really playing games with transpo and with general policy.

  6. So the underground subway cannot operate when there’s snow in Boston? And I thought people in western Washington got crazy when it snows…

      1. And, as I wrote above, we’re talking about a full 6 feet of snow, not the 4-6 inches that will grind Seattle to a halt for a week and a half.

        Notable that some well-cleared city-street buses were still running even in the subway and commuter rail systems’ absence.

      2. All the yards for every subway line in Boston are on the surface, and worse, most of them have very long surface sections before they get to the first tunnel.

  7. For digging out Bertha by hand, there’s at least one precedent. On the Channel Tunnel, while the main railroad tubes were bored, cross-passages were cut by mostly Irish workmen using air-driven jackhammers with chisel blades. In the British Isles, term is “air spade.”

    Sort of like sculpting something too big to fit in Seattle Art Museum, though may be good for artistically cutting a replacement for the Waterfront Streetcar barn into the middle of the ugly artificial mountain where the barn and car-stop used to be.

    Advise whole Seattle Subway project and everybody else who wants to learn tunnel engineering via a book you can’t put down. “The Chunnel”, by Drew Featherston.

    Book includes facts like that somebody designed the prototype of all subsequent boring machines in 1885. The British actually started a channel tunnel with one of them.

    But the project was canceled because the army panicked over fear of French invasion. And even more, the British public went berserk with the idea of Frenchmen, Italians, and other guys with knives in their teeth swarming in to take English jobs.

    The plot of the original “Dracula” really was that vampires from Transylvania were buying real estate where they could put their coffins in the basement while they sneaked out to take the jobs of the living. Well, blood maybe, but hey, phlebotomists didn’t like foreign competition either.

    However, it probably saved a lot of lives that the machine didn’t get any farther. All the way to France, there’s a very thin layer of the only kind of chalk (you know, dusty blackboard things, the White Cliffs of Dover and all..) that will hold a bore.

    A few degrees of angle upward, and whole shift drowns in the Channel. Same downward and everybody drowns in the mud. But doubt anybody ever planned on digging the thing out.

    Great other tunneling considerations, too. Like air full of pressurized salt water won’t even send a laser beam in straight line. So first critical surveying question was: “Where’s France?”

    Once they got going, crew used fossils for navigating the boring head. A long drill poked out from the center of the cutter, and brought in samples of the chalk ahead. A scientist examined each sample for the fossils that only existed in the exact layer preventing mass job-related drowning.

    Funny that on the DSTT, Chief Engineer Vladimir Khazak, hating schedule problems over extraneous science and archeology, ordered his crews: “You don’t find a ONE bone!” Wonder if somebody in charge of the Bertha team told his drillers same thing for steel pipe.

    Read the book.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Some folks in Shoreline are convinced that upzones will make their properties ineligible for future home loans. There is no evidence for this as far as I can tell, and Shoreline has addressed the issue here:

    The city of Shoreline has an official response to this here:

    I hope we can find more information to dispel this myth before it does any more damage as low zoning limits (especially near train stations) is one of the factors that contributes to low housing supply and increased living costs.

    1. Low housing supply? In the last 5-7 years, how many housing units have gone up in Ballard, South Lake Union, Bellevue and even in South King County? It really is starting to look like that even building towers and blocks of new housing, housing costs are still going up. So, destroying even more single-family neighborhoods is the only answer? Seems to be, according to this blog…

      1. Single family neighborhoods should always be destroyed. The entire idea is an abomination. What right does the government have to tell people how many families they can have in a house? (In fact, “single family” rules are unenforceable and, in practice, usually not enforced.)

        If you mean “detached ranch house neighborhoods”… those are OK. In Portland, vast numbers of those ranch houses are occupied by house-sharers, or subdivided. Where I live, many have been converted to offices.

        But Seattle has too many samey detached ranch house neighborhoods, and not enough duplexes, not enough rowhouses, not enough apartment-over-corner-store. The same is true of most of the US, thanks to poorly thought out 1950s zoning laws. If you prohibit construction of these popular types of houses (as Seattle pretty much has), the demand for housing will turn into towers and ugly four-packs and six-packs.

      1. Have you actually talked with more than one or two homeowners in Shoreline? No one I know says they’re trying to protect their ‘investment.’ Everyone I know and talk with say they are trying to protect their neighborhood. They moved to Shoreline for what it is and what it has been, which is a peaceful beautiful city that has a few commercial districts that fulfill the needs of the residents. What the City Council is wanting to do is force these residents to accept something that goes against what they moved here for. And no, it is not segregation because I know there are a few STB opportunists who like to throw around that word and the ideas behind it. It is a reality that Shoreline is NOT Capitol Hill, Fremont, Ballard or South Lake Union and the residents don’t want to become Ballard North.

        When there is no more space along Aurora Avenue south of 145th, and when all the areas around the Central Link are built up, then you can consider upzoning Shoreline. For now, the areas around these stations in Shoreline should be determined by the residents that actually live here, NOT by some politicians or people that don’t even live here.

      2. Cinesea, light rail was pitched to the voters (who approved it) as a way to increase mobility in the region while also increasing the ability and desirability of properties to be redeveloped into more dense housing to allow more people to live in the Puget Sound region without increasing sprawl. This is not a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”-style “the plans and drawings were on file” situation. The people who lived there and voted on the light rail knew what they were buying. The people who moved there later knew (or should have know) that light rail is coming and what that entails.

        You wrote: “When there is no more space along Aurora Avenue south of 145th, and when all the areas around the Central Link are built up, then you can consider upzoning Shoreline.”

        OK, so how about we skip the NE 185th Street station until your conditions are met? The point of the upzoning–and of it starting very soon–is to prepare the area around the station for the transition that will be arriving within under a decade. Change happens and, as the City of Shoreline rightly points out, it is best to be prepared. Why do some homeowners get to hold back the value of such an expensive public works project just for themselves? Why should some homeowners prevent others from seeing the best relative value for their own properties?

        You wrote: “…the areas around these stations in Shoreline should be determined by the residents that actually live here…”

        Last I checked, the only people who will be making this decision are the elected representatives of the residents of Shoreline. The rest of us are blowing hot air on Internet forums. You’re making a strawman argument.

      3. Where in the voter guide for ST2 did it mention “increasing the ability and desirability of properties to be redeveloped into more dense housing”?

        Wasn’t there some language in the early versions of the ST2 package for mandatory land-use changes (similiar to 2009’s HB1490) that were later taken out before it went to a vote to increase the chances of it getting approved?

      4. I think this is a myth. I really think that home owners could care less about their property values when it comes to zoning restrictions. I disagree with them on most of these issues, but the ones that vote, the ones that write letters, the ones that attend meetings are terrified that someone will put up an Apodment in their neighborhood, and thus ruin the otherwise beautiful set of houses. They also worry about parking. But I really don’t think there are many that worry about the value of their property going down. Why should they? If an area is upzoned, the area would be worth more (since the property can hold more). It is possible that if you are on the edge of a single family zoned area, that buildings across the street could lover your value, but I really doubt it. I’ve never seen that. Maybe with a mobile home park (and yes, that would be a clear case of “I’ve got mine”) but I don’t think those are on the table. An apartment across the street really doesn’t effect the value of a house either way (although in some cases, I could see it increasing the value of all property in the neighborhood, assuming there are shops).

    2. As I said above ( I have mixed feelings about the upzoning in the area. First of all, the zoning changes are minor, and not likely to make this station a great station. This is what happens when you build next to a freeway. You can’t expect that many walk up passengers. At best you can hope for a bunch of buses transferring to rail. 185th has some potential for this (to shuttle riders from Richmond Beach) but not a lot.

      Mainly though, I don’t want to see this somehow hampering the efforts to get a station at 130th. Like I said above, walk-up riders to a station there will be very small, and practically meaningless. You could change the zoning to allow 12 story buildings and still not get that many people (too much land is used for non-residential purposes). But a station there could be the most popular one north of the UW, simply because it connects to some hugely popular corridors (Lake City/Bothell Way, Bitterlake/Aurora/Greenwood). I would hate for a 130th street station to be hurt by opponents of rezoning.

      I can’t speak for Shoreline, but Seattle should change its zoning more substantially to deal with the rent crisis. But the zoning changes shouldn’t be clustered around a handful of tiny areas (whether they are next to a subway stop or not) but done throughout the city. As I’ve said many times before, the cheapest, fastest way to increase affordable housing in the city would be to liberalize the ADU/DADU laws.

  9. Is there something people who ride the bus and don’t have cars can do to address the terrible tax inequity of not paying road taxes, gas taxes, sales taxes, etc.? Every time I read an article such as the one about the lanes on Aurora and then read the comments, I feel guilty. Does everyone need to get a car, even if they probably shouldn’t drive due to poor eyesight or other valid reasons, or even if they would prefer to use public transportation?

    I don’t see how our bus service will ever improve much or we’ll ever get more light rail as long as the attitude that bus riders are a drain on society and car drivers are carrying us is so common.

    1. How about advocate for an income tax then? I don’t really think many of the stakeholders actually prefer having to keeping go to regressive car-based fees and taxes to get service and projects funded. It’s just that there is no other legal option at this point.

    2. You have zero reason to feel guilty, Norah. This is what you’re contributing to when you take transit:

      You are in fact making that road space more efficient for the money spent maintaining it than it could ever have otherwise been.

      The ones who should feel guilty are those at WSDOT who refuse to prioritize buses through lane-reduced construction areas, depleting the transit advantage and therefore returning more people to their cars and clogging the restricted roadway that much more.

      1. And furthermore, our sales tax is simply whopping. Much of what would be paid for, in many states, from a general fund fed by progressively-levied tax mechanisms, here rests heavily on the backs of those who make the mistake of needing to purchase stuff in order to live.

        You are already paying more than you realize.

      2. In a state with a sane tax system funding transit almost entirely via the sales tax wouldn’t feel so burdensome because it wouldn’t also be funding a good chunk of “everything else”.

        While I know people like to complain about property taxes here they are actually relatively low, especially considering the lack of a state income tax.

      3. Yes, I’d like to hear what these people who complain about bus riders would have to say about the traffic situation if everyone who now uses public transportation at least part of the time started driving everywhere.

      4. The absence of an income tax in Washington State is a very, very serious problem. You’re going to have to pass one sooner or later.

        Most of the states which don’t have a general income tax DO have an income tax, and it’s targeted at the rich:

        Alaska: oil royalty income, corporate income tax
        Florida: corporate income tax, tax on stocks & bonds until 2007 (probably will need to establish an income tax some day to make up for the loss of that)
        New Hampshire: interest & dividend tax, business profits tax
        South Dakota: corporate income tax on banks only
        Tennessee: stock & bond income tax
        Texas: “gross margins” tax on business, effectively an income tax with very few deductions. This started out as a flat “franchise tax” but has been morphed into an income tax over the decades.

        The states which really don’t have an income tax still arrange to tax the rich:
        Nevada: funded by special taxes on gambling and mining (the only two industries)
        Wyoming: funded by severance taxes on mining and oil (the only two profitable industries)

        …and then there’s Washington State. Your tax system is unsustainable. Any sustainable tax system has to get the bulk of the money from the rich rather than soaking the poor. (Because the rich are where the money is.)

    3. Why should you feel any guilt at all? Local roads are almost entirely funded via city and county general funds, which receive no gas tax money and are supported mostly via sales and property taxes. If anything, as a non-car owner, you’re subsidizing the lifestyle of the car owners; the wear&tear done to local roads by cars is paid for by all of society, regardless of their transportation choices.

  10. I’m curious about something, which a few minutes of googling didn’t answer for me – wondering if anyone here would know: how close are we to paying off the ST1 bonds?

    The vote was in 1996, so we should be in the 18th or 19th year of paying what I assume were 30 year bonds. But, additional money may have come in above projections (or maybe below?) which I assume would either have been used to accelerate payoff or reduce the bonding issued in the first place (I assume not all the bonds are issued on day 1).

    So, the main point of my question is: assume that we get ST3 authority, and we start on that project. In another ten years, will we be very close to paying off the bonds that the ST1 authority is pledged against? We would have a vote on ST4 (whatever that is), but could it be a vote to “continue the current levels of taxation, and get new stuff”? (Actually, re-authorizing the authority for a new project, but in practical terms, just a continuation of what we had.)

    1. Go to the investors section of the ST website – you’ll find the link at the bottom of the home page. Acknowledge the disclaimer and then you can get into the investors page that has the pdf files of the actual bond offerings. The maturities are shown on one of the first pages of each offering.

      Some bonds from the 1999 offering were retired as early as 2006 and more tranches of bonds are maturing every year, although they are not huge dollar values. There’s a big tranche ($69MM) maturing in 2021 and an even bigger tranche in 2028 ($205MM) from that same 1999 offering.

      1. Interesting – thanks for the tip!

        So, it looks to me like much more of ST’s finances are “pay as you go” than I thought. If I’m reading this stuff right (which: who knows?), the amounts discussed in the various bond issues are much less than the total project size. I feel like this is more of a way to manage cash flow and get things started early than it is a tool to raise a lot of money up front.

        If that interpretation is correct, it’s not really a matter of when the bonds are paid off, it’s a matter of when the taxing authority expires. Which, in the case of ST1, having been authorized in 1996, and assuming a 30 year authority, would mean that 0.5% of sales tax authority would be available again in 2026 or so?

        (another thing that was interesting is just how small ST1/Sound Move was, relative to ST2.)

      2. kpt I was surprised by this too. (this is a total “me too!” post) Reading through ST’s financials it’s apparent that they are considerably less reliant on bonds than I thought also. Their annual tax revenue is in excess of $800M now and at the end of 2014 they had $900m on hand in cash and other things. While operational expenses are getting hefty as they add service and things come on line it really does look like the bonding is usually used just to get things “going” or when they have to pay bills on huge projects all at once such as U-Link’s tunneling. I have to wonder about the long bond terms they are agreeing to and if it may make fiscal sense to pay them off sooner down the road.

    2. I don’t know when the ST1 bonds will be paid off but the authority is perpetual; it’s not directly related to the bonds. ST1 authorized ST to tax up to a certain percent per year, and ST2 authorized an additional amount. The reason for ST2 and 3 is to accelerate the projects; otherwise they could not start until the preceding phase was paid off. That would mean ST2 opening in the 2040s or 2050s, and ST3 in the 2060s or 2070s. For someone who turned 18 in 2000, they’d be 50-something by the time U-District/Bellevue/Lynnwood opened, and 70-something when Ballard opened. But we have an acute transit crisis now; we can’t wait thirty years. We should have built it thirty years ago.

      Perpetual tax authority raises the possibility of perpetual maximum taxes. But there are two things against this. One, voter approval for each phase of projects. Two, ST’s promise to roll back the taxes when the bonds are paid if no further projects are authorized.

      The state’s relationship to the bonds is that it can’t repeal any tax authority that is pledged against already-issued bonds. That’s what happened with the variable MVET. The legislature outlawed it but the court said it couldn’t withdraw it from ST’s already-issued bonds, so ST has a temporary extension on its legacy MVET until those bonds are paid off.

      1. Ah, so the authority is perpetual. That does change things.

        Still, I guess it’s encouraging that the next project will benefit from the plans for ST1 having been completed – less new money needs to be allocated to get something done, as we can use the old allocation. I wonder if any of that consideration is happening with the ST3 plans?

      2. Actually I believe ST2 removed any legal requirement to roll back taxes once the bonds are paid off. However if no further expansions were approved I believe the board would go ahead and roll back the taxes.

        Even in that case the board would likely keep enough taxes to cover operations and maintenance expenses.

      3. It will definitely keep enough for operations, but that’s only like 1/10th of capital costs.

      4. “Operations” ≠ a permanent major-maintenance budget, nor an conception of the opportunity costs thereof.

        Again, see: crumbling older systems everywhere.

      5. d.p.

        There is nothing to indicate Sound Transit plans to shortchange major maintenance or rolling stock replacement.

        I don’t believe any of the San Diego and later rail transit systems have allowed their systems to crumble in the same way DC or many cities with pre-WWII systems did. It may be these systems are simply to new to hit the crumbling crisis point, or it may mean the reliance on large portions of local financing has ensured there is sufficient O&M money.

        It is something to keep an eye on but I don’t think it is worth losing sleep over something that is at least 30 years in the future and only if the board is utterly fiscally irresponsible.

      6. DC as a built-out network (of the sort Sound Transit would like to imagine itself being someday) is not very old. And its maintenance/sustainability crises, concurrent with demand for targeted extensions and an increasing need for urban infill, have been blown wide open in the last few weeks. BART’s are daylighting as well.

        Sound Transit’s adherence to every worst practice in American transit foresight, and its total indifference to non-political planning, would be reasons to “indicate” it will likely get itself into trouble down the line. Especially if it succeeds in buying itself the permanent oversight of 100+ miles of exclusive infrastructure, much of it forever too-lightly used.

      7. d.p.

        While BART and the DC Metro are newer than most of the system in New York, Chicago, Boston, or Philadelphia they are still older than the light rail systems in say San Diego, Portland or Dallas. I’m unfamiliar with the exact series of events that led to the crisis for DC and SF so I don’t know how much of a danger there is for Sound Transit.

        So far Sound Transit has been very fiscally responsible in its 18 years of existence in budgeting for operations, maintenance, and equipment replacement. That can change but the solution is due diligence to ensure they don’t eat their seed corn. “Let’s not build X because we might not be able to maintain it in 40 years” is a pretty silly argument to make.

      8. But would you not say that the long-term maintenance inherent in any very lengthy piece of infrastructure with poor ROI adds to the argument against building it?

        Inherent maintenance needs have certainly been used as rhetorical weapon against unneeded mega-roads. So why shouldn’t they carry similar weight here?

        Also, has not the long-term experience of every mass transit system, in American and in “responsible” European systems alike, been one of gradual capital belt-tightening as built-in operational costs balloon, inevitably leading to deferred maintenance? I can’t think of a single system where that hasn’t been the case.

      9. DC is, unfortunately, a special case, because it’s not self-governing.

        The long-term experience of every bureaucracy is deferred maintenance, basically because it benefits a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats in the middle-term, and the maintenance bill comes due after they leave office. It’s hard to keep these short-termers out of power, but they can be kept out of power for long period.

        Transit systems on the whole are no more subject to this than anything else. HOWEVER, transit systems which existed during the 1950s and 1960s are far more subject to it, because of the “roads are the future, trains are the past” propaganda and public attitude which dominated during that period. The same is true to a lesser extent of those which existed in the 1920s and 1930s.

        BART’s fairly well-maintained. There were a lot of crazy design choices made by the aircraft engineers who insisted on ignoring all of past history, but *maintenance* hasn’t been a problem there.

        DC, which is nearly a twin of BART technically, is unfortunately a special case because WMATA has developed a toxic bureaucratic culture, so there’s plenty of money for the maintenance but they just aren’t doing it competently. Perhaps this culture developed specifically because it’s DC, seat of Congress. :-(

  11. Accident at the tunnel’s northern portal there was an accident today.

    This project is snakebitten

  12. I just went by Roosevelt Station and they are already beginning to stockpile tunnel ring segments there.

    It seems a bit premature since they haven’t even poured the invert yet, but they are definitely gearing up for the relaunch of Brenda.

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