It is very cool that the agency itself produced these videos. CTA sees them as a tool to help riders familiarize themselves with the system and as a historical record. If you a lot of free time, check out the full-length (real time) videos!

128 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: CTA Ride the Rails”

  1. All, if we were to remove all on street parking and bike lanes on broadway, could we fit dedicated streetcar/transit lanes and general traffic lanes? I really feel like when the streetcar opens there will be so much dissapointment in thier performance/speed that something will have to be done.


    1. Wasn’t Broadway 4-lane in the past (according to historical photos posted here)? That would suggest the answer is, “Yes, we could fit them.”

      But speed isn’t even the primary thing wrong with the streetcar, and it’s hard to remove that much parking in a business district.

    2. If you thought trams/street cars were going to be fast you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Inner city travel whether it’s by bus or street car is *never* going to be all that fast. Buses in town generally go not more than 10 MPH. Light rail if you’re lucky will hit 30 MPH. If you’re lucky trams will be at the very fastest 20 MPH.

      Getting rid of infrastructure might help one bit of the infrastructure i.e. it might make the trams go a bit faster but at what cost?

    3. Let’s lower the speed of cars on local roads for safety sake, but increase the speed of the streetcar? What happened with being concerned for the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians?

      1. We can remove the parking in front of Broadway businesses if the residential areas East and West of Broadway can be paid parking with no residential permits.

    4. I really feel like when the streetcar opens there will be so much dissapointment in thier performance/speed that something will have to be done.

      We could start by not building any more mixed-traffic streetcars.

      1. Let me fix that for you:

        We could start by not building any more streetcars.

        There is no point in building our streetcars at all. Our streetcars carry no more people than a bus, but have none of the advantages of a bus. On the other hand, creating bus only lanes is always a good idea.

      2. Along with comfort and capacity- whatever actual number of people aboard either vehicle, the bus always feels more crowded- there’s a another thing:

        Fact that a streetcar can’t steer around obstacles gives the authorities the incentive to make sure they don’t have to.

        Since buses can theoretically get around things, they generally do have to at least try- whether there’s any room to do it or not.

        As for private cars, parked or otherwise, public streets belong to the people of the city, who can direct their elected representatives as to their use.

        Commercially, in modern cities, there comes a tipping point where the business community decides that good transit is the most effective means of persuading their customers to be delivered directly to their doors.

        After leaving their cars either safely at home, or in lots and garages attached to transit stations placed where parking doesn’t pollute or degrade the shopping experience.

        Whatever his views on transit, Kemper Freeman doesn’t allow anybody to drive an SUV down one of his mall corridors. And bet there aren’t any parking meters in front of any store inside Bellevue Square.

        Mark Dublin

      3. @mark d,

        You are correct the advantages of streetcars do exist, but technically usually just come down to slightly higher capacity and marginally better operating economics.

        The real move towards SC’s comes down to a very old adage: Quality sells. The superior riding experience of SC’s is really what sells them to the public and produces the higher ridership that SC’s almost always enjoy.

      4. The theory about streetcars getting their own ROW just for being streetcars hasn’t panned out in Seattle.

        It took the idea of putting a few more buses on Westlake Ave to get transit lanes. The lanes are mostly for the buses, and the streetcar gets to join in, due to the historical accident of being right-side-running.

        A similar convergence of priority would work on Jackson/14th/Broaday only with contraflow lanes and the direction of the streetcar reversed. That seems unlikely to be technically feasible, much less politically feasible. My hope is that the Broadway streetcar eventually gets extended to U-District Station on the north end, and Beacon Hill Station on the south end, with 5-minute all-day headway.

      5. 18-minute frequencies!
        Guess the theory of trains being so awesome that you can “expect” them to come along soon hasn’t panned out either.

        If I were a First Hill resident or employee about to lose an hour of my life every day for the rest of eternity because this crap happened instead of Link, I’d be readying the Molotovs.

      6. You guys don’t get it. Our streetcars don’t have more capacity than our buses. The operating savings are based on the extra capacity. So, basically, to say that streetcars have higher capacity and better operating economics is simply not true in our case. That is like buying a mini-van with four seats and telling everyone that it can carry more people because it is a mini-van. NO — NO IT CAN’T! IT HAS FOUR SEATS!

        Sorry for the caps, but we should be realistic here. Some streetcars have a higher capacity than some buses. But as has been detailed over and over, that is not the case with us, because we bought some very roomy buses, and some very tiny streetcars.

        As for the ridiculous idea that having a streetcar will somehow force the city (or other agency) to do the right thing, and make room for them, just look at our history. We’ve had the streetcar for a very long time, and we are finally getting them (along with buses) their own lane. What happens when a car backs up the street — will that somehow be prevented? What if there is an accident — have we somehow prevented that, by eliminating all cars in the area out of there? No. Oh, and by the way, Madison BRT will have its own lane, and the bus will be able to go around cars if and when that happens.

        Look, we have a light rail line that shares space with cars. This causes the occasional problem. But the train doesn’t share the road to nearly the same degree as the streetcar does. But more than that, the light rail line shares the road only for a very small segment. The rest of the time it travels in a grade separated line. Finally — it does carry more than a bus. Lots and lots more than a bus. It was built from the very beginning to carry a huge number of people. The streetcars aren’t built for that — not even close.

        I’m all for saying that there are trade-offs with any approach. There is definitely a trade-off with building a light rail line as well as building one that travels on the surface for a while. The same is true for many decisions and ideas (Ballard to downtown light rail, a gondola from Capitol Hill to South Lake Union, etc.). But our streetcars don’t offer any important advantage over buses. We can paint them pretty colors, cut ribbons, give them their own street, serve coffee, tea and beer, but they are just no better than our buses. There is no trade-off, it is simply a waste of money.

      7. A streetcar isn’t necessarily direct competition for either a car or a bus. It has its own dynamic by virtue of being so massive. It is half transit and half traffic calming device. It’s a massive elephant in the road, designed to slow everything down, including itself. Since it only goes relatively short distances (in the city) it only has to be faster than walking, a cab being that much more expensive.

        By the way, an ideal technology for Seattle would be the new China-built Hydrogen tram. Not only could this serve off hours as an “HMU” on non-electrified tracks, but for new tracks you wouldn’t have to worry about cumbersome and complex catenary.

        China’s Hydrogen-Powered Future Starts in Trams

        Chinese officials intend to bet big on the tram technology. Plans call for spending 200 billion yuan ($32 billion) over the next five years to increase tram tracks more than tenfold, to more than 1,200 miles, and to buy more trams, according to the Xinhua state news agency. Sifang also makes more traditional trams that connect to overhead cables or carry batteries.

      8. Years ago when the city was first considering streetcars, I attended an open house on three modes: bus, streetcar, monorail/light rail. The city was deciding which mode to expand with. I was living in the U-District then so it was either the 1990s or before 2003. I don’t remember the third mode exactly but it was either light rail or grade-separated rail. The posters showed the tradeoffs: buses least expensive, streetcars in the middle, high-level rail most expensive.

        I said go either high or low, but not in the middle. Grade-separaed rail would be a quantum leap in mobility that’s well worth the price. Buses being cheapest allow more routes and more frequency. Streetcars are the worst of both worlds: higher operating costs and not much better than a bus. I still feel that way. If they already exist or are being built, I’ll support them, but we really should have done something else instead, either less expensive trolleybuses (going down), or their own ROW (going up).

        DP: It was First Hill who insisted on the streetcars. Link wasn’t going to happen due to risk of cost overruns; you can blame Tim Eyman for creating that atmosphere of fear. First Hill could have been sensible and allowed an untra-frequent trolleybus line to emerge, but they wanted rail! rail! rail! and shouted down alternatives. So don’t cry for First Hill: they got what they insisted on. But Madison BRT should improve the situation.

      9. You mean that the groupthink-of-the-moment-influenced board types at First Hill’s one or two most prominent institutions “insisted” on streetcars.

        The people who live there, work there, have appointments there, and use transit there just wanted something better. Which they did not get.

        Also, didn’t those power brokers insist on both a minimum frequency and a maximum travel time? It seems there is no basic promise of usefulness that cannot be violated with abandon by our transit “leaders”.

      10. “a cab being that much more expensive.”

        Even that’s not necessarily true. Cabs charge by the mile and it’s long-distance cab rides that are expensive. The FH streetcar is so short that a cab ride between any two streetcar stops would run at about $7-8. Still a significant premium for a single individual, but whenever 2 or 3 people are traveling together, the streetcar fares will provide no significant cost differential over a cab.

        One could almost make the argument that if the cab is just going to get stuck behind the streetcar anyway, one may as well just ride the streetcar. Except, when the expected wait time for the streetcar, alone, already exceeds the drive time in a taxi, that argument pretty much goes out the window.

      11. “The people who live there, work there, have appointments there, and use transit there just wanted something better. Which they did not get.”

        If they had done that, they might have a better situation now. But they ignored ST’s advice to consider a wider variety of options, and instead said nothing less than a streetcar was an acceptable compensation for losing the Link station, to the point that the ST board felt it had no politically feasable alternative but to accept the streetcar.

        This also shows the problem of American-style democracy, where the neighborhoods not only want to vote on transit projects but they want to shape them too even when they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s also why the ST board are politicians rather than a panel of transit experts, because we can’t trust a panel of transit experts.

      12. @Mike — The posters showed the tradeoffs: buses least expensive, streetcars in the middle, high-level rail most expensive.

        Right. But again, that may be true of expenses, but it isn’t true of capacity. I think a lot of people assume this. I know I did. I think it makes for an interesting argument, really. An interesting thought experiment, if you will: Assuming a streetcar can carry more people than a bus, at what point does it make sense (especially given the extra cost and other weaknesses of streetcars).

        Hmmms, that’s a good one. I’m sure Toronto folks think about that one all the time, and debate it quite a bit (especially since they’ve already heavily invested in streetcars). But again, we don’t have that problem, for us, the situation is simple: Assuming a streetcar can carry no more people than a bus, is there any point in using them (especially given the extra cost and other weaknesses of streetcars).

        The obvious answer is no. It’s like handing someone a broken bicycle and then racing him. Someone might say “well, if the race is up a hill, I think the runner has an advantage, but once they go downhill, or you hit the flats, the biker should win”. Except the bike is broken! I don’t know how many analogies I have to come up with. This was a mistake — a big mistake — made by people who didn’t ask the right questions. For example, no one asked “Hey, will this carry a lot more people than one of our buses?”

        It is just crazy to me to think of what we could do with that money. We could build the bridge over I-5 connecting Link with North Seattle College. We could add a couple more stations (at Graham Street and NE 130th). We could improve bus lanes throughout the city or just pump it into needed bus routes. But no, we have a very expensive streetcar that is worse than a bus route, overall, because it has all of the disadvantages, and none of the advantages.

      13. I think a major problem on Broadway isn’t with the mode, but with the design at the stops. Private vehicles will be unable to pass around boarding streetcars at many of the stops and will spill back across intersections behind the stops. Keep in mind that several of these stops will not only be for streetcars but for buses. Thus, it’s going to be possible for a streetcar to be stopped between a loading bus and a few vehicles behind it, and vice versa. I won’t be surprised if this proves to be a terrible disruption to transit reliability.

      14. As much as I agree with Ross and d.p. I have to say I do support the CCC and the Roy extension. The improvements from the CCC and Westlake bus lanes plus the extra length make the SLUT worth a bucket of warm spit.

        Support of further streetcars or extensions is conditional on designing and building in in accord with following surface light rail best practices:
        -Surface lines should be at least given transit lanes shared with buses.
        -Beter still exclusive ROW
        -Full TSP on any new limes.
        -Frequency should be at least every 10 minutes midday.
        -Lines should be engineered to allow use of longer vehicles. Stops should accommodate trains capable of carrying at least 2x the crush load of a 60′ hybrid bus.
        -Retrofit any portion of existing lines used by new lines to meet the above standards as much as possible (sadly transit-only lanes likely aren’t possible on Broadway between Yesler and Denny.
        -Demand in the corridor served should be close to or exceed the capacity of buses at least during peak.

        So I guess the short answer is I don’t really support streetcars but do support surface light rail.

      15. Chris;

        Add 100% low floors and lots of wide doors.

        One problem with this Inekon / Skoda design is that it doesn’t have the equipment needed for fast on and off station stops. 100% low floor cars have lots of wide doors (or, at least should) so that their boarding and detraining is a lot more like a subway car. Indeed, many of them are essentially designed like subway cars only they have sidewalk level floors. They still lack a bit of the open floor plan due to the wheel wells, but that is definitely the direction Europe has gone with all new tram/streetcar orders due to the improved station stop timing.

        Toronto, and now Ottawa, are the first in North America to go that direction, and I think that Toronto’s long experience with streetcar operations has given them an advantage.

      16. If they had done that, they might have a better situation now.

        I know of no evidence that the tens of thousands of regular transit riders to and through the First Hill area — who were, make no mistake, willfully screwed over by Sound Transit — collectively voiced a demand for “nothing less than a streetcar”.

        Don’t make the mistake of conflating the views of hospital executives and a few local loudmouths with the needs and desires of the general riding public.

      17. Given the fact that our streetcars have absolutely no advantage over buses (a fact that seems to often be ignored) I really can’t support their use. Maybe they will be the “stone soup” of our surface system. Put in the streetcar line, do everything you mentioned Chris, then allow buses to take advantage of that. We could save ourselves a lot of money, of course, by simply skipping the “add stone to soup” part. Just do all of those things you mentioned, but for buses. That’s exactly what we are doing with the Madison BRT line. It won’t be perfect, but when all is said and done, it will probably be much better than a regular bus, and have as many enhancements as the streetcar, but without the drawbacks.

        To be fair, there is one situation where I would support a streetcar, and that is where it is politically impossible to put a bus. The only example I can think of is through the Seattle Center. A route along Thomas, from Eastlake to 1st Avenue North, then north to Roy would be outstanding. You can’t build it until Bertha finishes up her work, but once that is done, Thomas will go across Aurora. Thomas is still a street through the Seattle Center, but it is a bit narrow in spots. I would guess that the Seattle Center folks would balk at a bus route through there. but could be talked into a streetcar (just look at how cute they are — Ding-Ding!).

      18. It’s not true that our streetcars have no advantage over buses. They separate the driver from rider interaction, and offer 100% off-board payment and level boarding. Those are huge advantages compared to our bus system. The only disadvantage is the can’t-go-around one.

        Whether those advantages are worth the additional costs is a valid question. But there are advantages.

      19. “Don’t make the mistake of conflating the views of hospital executives and a few local loudmouths with the needs and desires of the general riding public.”

        Another aspect of democracy is that if you want to affect the outcome, you have to vote, and if you want to affect an agency’s policy you have to give official feedback. There’s no evidence that the feedback or ST’s polling was limited to “hospital executives and a few local loudmouths”, or that those people didn’t reflect a wider public opinion.

      20. And that’s why the Seattle process is demonstrable crap.

        Achieving the best results for the silent majority requires giving actual experts

      21. asdf2 sagaciously replies:

        One could almost make the argument that if the cab is just going to get stuck behind the streetcar anyway, one may as well just ride the streetcar. Except, when the expected wait time for the streetcar, alone, already exceeds the drive time in a taxi, that argument pretty much goes out the window.

        I am pretty much saying the first point, however, your second point, about wait time, is interesting.

        Thus the streetcar, by delaying a private cab, imposes a burden on the cab, in essence “bringing it down it its level”.

        However, the person paying for a cab still derives a benefit — not having to stand in the rain because of decreased wait time.

        And the cab company doesn’t care — he gets paid by both the minute and the mile…along with the associated revenue from taxes the government can collect.

        Win-Win-Win (well, except for the passenger…)

      22. And that’s why the Seattle process is demonstrable crap.

        Transportation brass with overly specific “visions” unrelated to mobility outcomes have their say. The loudest loudmouths have disproportionate say as well. And the tiny percentage of riders who think “surveys” matter get a tiny bit of say too.

        The only people left out completely are the overwhelming majority who don’t obsess about transit but just need for things to work better finally. You know, the populace!

        Ribbon cutters, retired cranks, and blog-inhabiting foamers do not represent the needs of populace well. Achieving the best results for the silent majority requires giving actual experts the keys at some point. That’s what real cities do. In Seattle, experts are the only ones not allowed to drive.

        Evidence-based planning yields superior results to our “process”, whose outcomes are so famously poor that even its participants make jokes about it. “Ha ha! We suck and we make everything terrible! Time for another round!” While real people suffer the effects. Hilarious.

      23. Martin,

        Ross is responding to the habitual placement of “capacity” at the top of the oft-regurgitated list of “inherent streetcar advantages” seen here and in every public discussion of a proposed American transit project in the last decade.

        While the list is filled with faith-based memes that are plenty easy to debunk — “expectation of permanence”, “economic effects” — capaciousness is by definition objective. And in the case of every U.S. “modern streetcar” project to have wound up with the same vehicles we have, the “capacity advantage” is demonstrably false.

        The fraudulent capacity advantage is further relied upon to tout supposed operating efficiencies (ignoring capital expenditures outright). Such cost efficiencies are of course b.s. for any transit corridor with such weak demand that it can’t even be bothered to come four times an hour in the off-peak, but in streetcar fanatics’ “if you build it, they will come” logic, the higher capacity eventually pays for itself.

        Except that the capacity does not exist. This lie has become fairly intrinsic to the pro-streetcar case, and so it must be called out. Every. Time.


        To your other points of comparison:

        1. Yes, removing driver interaction is awesome, and though there are plenty of zero-driver-interaction buses in the world, you are not wrong to observe that in North America is seems easier to come by on rails. Of course, the isolated dual cabs on our super-short streetcars is one major reason for sub-standard capacity.

        2. Our streetcars do not have have “100% off-board payment”. Functionally, our streetcars have so far had no payment at all. And it seems the intention is to continue offering ticket machines on board every vehicle, because who wants to miss a trolley with 18-minute headways while they were struggling to feed an off-board machine? You could have ticket machines and imaginary fare inspectors on buses too, you know.

        3. Our streetcars do not have “level boarding”. There is still a ramp for wheelchairs, and it still retracts slowly. Wheelchair access is certainly easier from the middle than at Metro’s poorly-designed front door. Ever been on a London bus? Wheelchairs board in the middle, in doors just as wide and to a space just as open as the middle of our streetcars. No forced tie-downs, either.

        4. Our streetcar egress is actually pretty bad in general, actually, for a vehicle with two wide doors and one skinny one on each side. Find yourself on a rush-hour trolley with even 50 people on it — hardly “full”, mind you — and you will notice it is already substandard enough to affect the dwell time, and to miss yet another light (possibly thanks to pathetic acceleration.

        In short, even the on-paper advantages simply don’t exist in reality!

      24. I’m really not interested for these purposes in what buses on other continents do. If I could wave a magic wand and get Metro to adopt worldwide best practices, I would do so. In the meantime, all three situations I cited on the streetcar are demonstrably better than the corresponding situation on Metro buses.

        Now maybe you don’t care about that stuff, or value it less than what we theoretically might have spent it on for bus service, but I know that when I travel to SLU (which is not often) I prefer it over the 40, particularly if I have a stroller.

      25. As Ross already said, those situations are all better because nobody uses the streetcar, and nobody bothers to pay.

        That makes it a pretty irrelevant source of comparison if your aim is to suggest these “streetcar-specific” attributes can scale in any way, in our real world.

      26. @RossB

        Sorry, but the SLU SC is configured for 140 people whereas your typical DE60LF usually only holds 110 to 115. In my book that means the SC has more capacity.

        And at least in theory 2 SC’s can be coupled together, although they have not configured the Seattle SC’s for this eventuality. Doing so wouldn’t be that expensive however.

      27. Ross,

        I guess what I am saying is I support future light rail lines with a surface routed component similar to Central Link. The reality of out region is we can’t afford to stick all of our HCT in tunnels or even elevate it. Nor does every corridor or neighborhood need the additional capacity this brings.

        Still any routes considered should have at least one of the following characteristics:
        1. Uses a route where buses are politically impossible (say through a park).
        2. Demand exceeds the capacity of buses at least at peak (assumes using real rail vehicles instead of the current Czech toys).
        3. Part of the route is grade separated.
        4. Extension of an existing rail line.

        In cases 1, 3, and 4 demand should still be relatively high. No stupid routes through the middle of nowhere for the sake of rail.

        My support for the CCC and Roy street extension is really a case of #4 in spite of the fact the Roy extension is likely to be built to the same standards as the FHSC and the additional vehicles bought for both are likely to be more Czech toys. Yes you could do both with buses but the transfer penalties would kill ridership.

        Hopefully the demand on the CCC will be such that we are forced to upgrade station platforms and buy real rail vehicles. Heck we might even be able to get Tacoma, Portland, Tucson, or D.C. to take the old Czech toys off our hands.

      28. Yeah, whatever, Laz.

        I’m sure that this dinky — 30% shorter and also thinner than a Link car, and with significantly less usable interior space — is going to easily accommodate 70% of a supposed “Link crush load”, especially with frequent ons and off.

        People routine describe a SLUT car with 50 people on it as “feeling full”. That should tell you something. More people than that would be physically sitting down on Metro bus.

        And as I’ve long mentioned, buses can — and do! in the United States! — have open floor plans too.

      29. Personally rather than reconfigure our Czech toys for coupled operation in revenue service I’d rather just buy some proper cars. Perhaps some similar to the ones TTC is getting?

        Also we have the slight problem of not really needing the capacity. Perhaps with the CCC that will change but not right now.

      30. There are also buses with level boarding and off board payment systems. They exist in the distant, far away land of Snohomish County. So, just to review: buses are capable of level boarding, off board payments, lane separation and just about every advantage known to our little streetcar line. On the other hand, some streetcars have bigger capacity. But not ours. Take out a few seats from one of our (big) buses and they are the same.

        Which means the only advantage to streetcars is their ability to easily reverse directions without turning around.

      31. @Chris

        Still any routes considered should have at least one of the following characteristics:
        1. Uses a route where buses are politically impossible (say through a park).
        2. Demand exceeds the capacity of buses at least at peak (assumes using real rail vehicles instead of the current Czech toys).
        3. Part of the route is grade separated.
        4. Extension of an existing rail line.

        1. Yes, absolutely. Somewhere on some thread somewhere (and I really should make this a Page 2 post) I suggest running a streetcar through the Seattle Center. You are absolutely right, sometimes you just have to accept an inferior technology (or at least arrangement) so that you can do what is right.

        As far as your other points are concerned, I agree. Our light rail line is essentially that. It is capable of carrying a huge number of people. It runs grade separated for most of the way, but runs on the surface (with traffic lights and everything) for part of the way. Any extension of that makes sense. Extending our streetcar system does not, because it doesn’t have the same capacity. Not even close. But we might as well re-use our existing light rail cars, rather than buy a whole new set of equipment. So any new line, whether it is mostly surface or not, will still be considered our “light rail”, not our “streetcar”. Again, it isn’t that I’m anti-streetcar, I just think what we call our streetcars (to South Lake Union and soon to Broadway) are crap. But our light rail (which if you are standing on MLK could be considered a streetcar) are much, much better.

      32. Ross,

        Vulcan and the other businesses who largely underwrote construction of the streetcar were not going to build the bridge across the freeway from Northgate to NSCC. They were not going to pay for the 130th or Graham Street Stations. They were not going to pay SDOT to paint bus lanes on various city streets. And they were not going to pay to run more buses generally through town.

        Nor was Sound Transit going to do any of those things instead of the Broadway Streetcar.

        If you want to tear the tracks up and pay back the various stakeholders who contributed the vast majority of the cost of South Lake Union’s and ALL of the Broadway’s car, say so. Otherwise, please try and wrap your mind around that idea of making lemonade out of lemons.

        The thing has been built; it and the Broadway car exist. South Lake Union might be made useful with the exclusive lanes it’s going to get, especially apparently if the city does them on Fairview. When it’s joined to the Central City Connector, which the council has pretty much decided to build, your objections notwithstanding, it will link all those new residences just to the east of Amazon to the Pike Place Market and the entertainment districts at the south end of town.

        Sure, people could get on the C-Line and walk from Third, and some will. But some of those wealthy people who live in those mega-expensive condos and apartments won’t but will ride the streetcar. Should such people be catered to? We all have to make that judgment individually, but I’d say that the five or six million dollars a year that the South Lake Union car costs (it should go up to $10 or 12 in order to provide brief headways once the CCC opens) is a tiny amount to spend to capture the property taxes those huge buildings will generate for the city.

        Whether the street car was “pivotal” in the development of the Denny Triangle and South Lake Union will doubtless be argued until the Rapture. But the thing is there.

        Please, try to wrap your mind around the concept of making lemonade out of lemons.

      33. And you certainly can’t run Link trains on the South Lake Union trackage. For the same reason that the tunnel had to be shut down, true Light Rail Vehicles have much higher axle loadings than do the small streetcars. They have much higher axle loadings than do tram style streetcars as well. Both trams and the Czech models have the wheels closer together so more wheels carry the same structural weight. They have smaller traction motors as well, which saves a lot of weight.

        So you couldn’t run Link trains on the SLU trackage even if there were a connection. The whole thing would have to be rebuilt, which of course is not going to happen. If Link goes through South Lake Union, whether north-south as the “modified E option” or east-west as a close-in circumferential arc, it will have to be in a subway.

      34. Ross,
        In effect I’m seeing the SLU line, CCC, and Jackson Street tracks as proto light-rail line. The Broadway ROW is fairly hopeless unfortunately without a major rebuild.

        To go through my points again:
        1. This could also include lines with elevated sections. For a number of reasons I don’t think building elevated roadways for buses would go over well.
        2. The current streetcar lines are certainly capable of carrying more people than a bus in the same corridor. It just takes better vehicles. Improved frequency

      35. … continued [hit post by mistake]

        2. The current streetcar lines are certainly capable of carrying more people than a bus in the same corridor. It just takes better vehicles, improved frequency, and the demand to fill the service. The CCC and SLU may see this, it is doubtful the FHSC will once it turns off Jackson.
        3. This is part of option C and E for Ballard as well as the modified E currently being discussed. I could see other possible future surface lines having small elevated or tunneled sections.
        4. As I said I support the CCC as it is pretty much a done deal and does almost everything I want surface rail to do other than use something other than toy Czech cars. The Roy extension is more complex, but as long as we’re going to have a streetcar on Broadway it might as well serve the entire commercial district. Other future extensions might make some sense as well, particularly if built to surface light-rail standards.

      36. Anandakos,
        I know our Link cars can’t use the current streetcar tracks for a number of reasons including axle loading, turn radius, and loading gauge.

        However it is certainly possible to buy cars with higher capacity that fit our streetcar axel load limits, handle the curves, and fit the loading gauge. For that matter if you can fix the loading gauge issues on the streetcar portion you can build cars that could be used on both the current streetcar tracks and the current Link tracks.

      37. And you certainly can’t run Link trains on the South Lake Union trackage. For the same reason that the tunnel had to be shut down, true Light Rail Vehicles have much higher axle loadings than do the small streetcars.

        Anandakos and Chris;

        I’m not so sure about that at all. Link cars are 102,000 lbs. but the technical data I have for those doesn’t give me the maximum axle load. Average is 17,000 lbs per axle, but the motorized ones probably have 300 or so lbs more on them.

        The Skoda 10T3 weighs 63,400 lbs on four axles and all of those are powered, so an average of about 15,850 lbs per axle is probably accurate of the maximum loading.

        A difference in the range of 5,000 lbs per axle is really nothing for rail equipment. That’s a margin of error equivalent to a crowded load standing over one axle rather than another. I really don’t think they have designed the track of the SLU line with such very tight weight limits that they wouldn’t be able to handle a little more weight.

        I’ve looked at the curves on the SLU line as best as I can on Google Maps – you can’t measure the curve in person because the tightest stuff is in the shop complexes. The only curve that seems outlandish to me for the Nippon-Sharyo cars is one curve in the SLU maintenance shops. The other curves seem well within the range of sharp curves you see in the Link shop complex. They don’t use those sharp curves in regular service on Link but you could if you needed to.

        The primary problems are:

        1. The loading gauge as the space allowed is very narrow. That would require a jackhammer and some concrete filling and street furniture moving. If a connection were built between the two that would be a small issue compared to digging a huge hole in the street.

        2. A more difficult issue will be the 750 volt to 1,500 volt overhead wire issue. The voltage really isn’t that different (there have been places where 11,000 volt overhead has been converted to 25,000 volt overhead). An awful lot of these lines are highly overbuilt. I’ve run into specifications requiring the insulators on the car power supply use insulators rated at a minimum of 2 times nominal line voltage + 4,000 volts. If that is the case with this line then they could probably use the 1,500 volts just fine in the existing line, but with a bit less margin of error in the insulators. Really, if the spikes in the line get to 5,500 volts then there is a serious problem with the power supply at the substation end of things.

        If the line isn’t that overbuilt or they won’t be satisfied with the lower safety margin in the insulators, then they might have to change out a few insulators to get to 1,500 volts.

        The substation is a different matter. The 1,500 volts could come from an existing Link substation if it isn’t too far away but how loaded is the substation now? Can the existing SLU line substation be adapted to provide 1,500 volts instead of 750v by using a different set of taps on the power supply?

        Until someone takes a detailed look at all this, I wouldn’t be able to say for sure if the line would or would not be able to take a KinkiSharyo Link car. However, I also don’t think you can categorically say that it is impossible to do without a detailed look at things. On the surface I can’t see any true obstacles that would be impossible to surmount.

        I mean, other than the fact that nobody wants to do it, of course.

      38. Glenn,
        Thanks for the perspective of someone who knows the technical side of things better than I do.

        If we do replace the Czech cars on our streetcar lines I’d rather see fully modern 100% low floor equipment such as the new TTC cars rather than the Kinki-Sharyo cars.

        So far I haven seen anything even semi-serious proposed where you’d want to run cars on both the current streetcar lines and the current link lines. The two things I see possibly driving changes are:
        1. High ridership on the CCC forcing Seattle to buy larger cars.
        2. Adopting option C or E for Downtown-Ballard rail. Capacity would have to increase, also most of the negatives in those two proposals were due to mixed traffic and at-grade running through choke points.

      39. I’m no expert with streetcars. The highest voltage stuff they normally let me play with is 480v Amtrak HEP.

        I really like where this is headed with the new Alstom 65mph low floor car for Ottawa. You no longer have to choose between higher speed or 100% low floor and many high capacity doors.

      40. Oh, and there is another thing with the voltage: overhead voltage isn’t constant. It varies a lot over the length. The Skoda 10T3 used by Portland is specified as 550 to 973 volts, if I remember right. I’ve never dealt with substations, but I believe they can usually be tuned to provide slightly higher or lower voltage.

        So, the high voltage range of the Inekon cars and the low voltage range of the Nippon Sharyo cars may be close enough to allow the line to be tuned to power both (but never an Inekon car on the 1500 volt sections of Link!).

      41. Glenn,

        I know there are mainline electric trains that operate on multiple voltages. I believe there are also some tram-trains that do as well. So new cars could be designed to handle both voltages.

      42. Spokane and Inland Empire Railroad was doing the dual voltage thing well over 100 years ago, but that was 600v dc on the street railways and 6,600 v ac on the interurban line. The difference between 750v dc and 1500v dc really isn’t that huge considering the voltage fluctuation around which the cars are designed to operate.

        Certainly, it is possible to do dual voltage if necessary. However, it’s nice to not have to order specialized voltage converters.

    5. Here’s a crazy idea: When a car blocks up the streetcar line, which will inevitably happen, can we just give the street car permission to gently nudge the car out of the way? Maybe even fit it with a plow or cow-catcher-esque type thing to do it. Goodness knows the streetcar has the power to do it, just no authority to do so. We could even put up signs that warn drivers of the dangers to their car of blocking up the streetcar.

      I’m only 95% kidding here

  2. The post ends with an oncomplete sentence, but I assume if we have a lot of time we should check out the regular speed versions.

    1. Thanks for fixing it Oran, and thanks for the video. I was born in Portland, but as a child spent time visiting Chicago. I watched a lot of those lines over that time from the front of the train, as the cabs in those days were half width and there was a seat at the front of the train where one lucky kid at a time could play “engineer” if they were so inclined.

    1. When it comes time to address the whole corridor I hope the residents don’t do what the residents along Sand Point Way did…

      1. Told SDOT, “We’d rather preserve the parking strip than have sidewalks,” resulting in the smoothest, newest Seattle arterial with no sidewalks. It’s one of those things that could happen on just about any arterial with no sidewalks or substandard sidewalks, because whether it’s residential or commercial frontage, typically adding decent walking space requires using space that’s currently used for parking, and people hate that.

      2. Which pissed me off no end because at the time I lived less than a block from Sand Point Way, caught the 75 there (and before that, the 41), yet nobody seemed to care what I or the other folks I saw who also lived close to — but not on — Sand Point Way wanted.

        Most–not all, but most–of those houses have off-street parking anyway.

  3. Some basic information on the red line:

    + It’s 24 hour a day operation.

    + The four track section of the line at the north end is because that section is served by three lines, including an express so certain stations are bypassed by cartain trains:

    + The junction you see on the south side is used to divert trains to the surface in the event the tunnel is closed, and non-revenue move for maintenance reasons. I think they also run baseball game specials on that also.

    1. The Red Line was running express north of downtown, but then became all-stops. In the latter part, the line was four-tracked, but there were no stations for the outer tracks (also there were no trains on those tracks that I noticed).

      Does anybody know what those outer tracks were for? Maybe for non-revenue moves?

      Also, some of the stations had very long platforms, not all of length of them was served by this train. Why would that be? I assume there is signage that tells you where to stand.

      1. The outer tracks are at the north end at Howard. If you follow the link I posted you will see that Howard is served by three lines. One is Purple Line and its express. One set of tracks is operated as the express tracks. You will also notice a few of the stations on that section where the platforms serve both the express tracks and the local tracks by being between both sets going the sane direction.

        Here: this is what the entire regular service (no baseball specials, etc) system looks like:
        Note the red line trains make all stops at the north end, but the purple line trains run as express through there.
        This means you can get from the outer Purple line to the red line area by cross platform transfer at Howard, or go directly downtown by staying on the train.

        It might be a service pattern worth considering for the outer ends of Link if they ever do go all the way to Everertt and Tacoma.

      2. The Evanston (Purple) express trains run only at rush hour, so if I understand your description, that is why you were seeing unused tracks north of the Ravenswood (Brown) junction. Presumably you were there at mid-day.

        It should be mentioned that, between the age of the infrastructure and its many zigs and zags, even these “expresses” don’t move especially fast.

        They do, however, traverse about 8 miles of uninterrupted (and high-frequency parallel-served) urbanity, before returning to local-spaced service in a college-town “suburb” that make Capitol Hill look like Enumclaw. So this is wholly irrelevant for Seattle-area analogues.

      3. In the video you will notice a lot of crews out working on the line. You just see them as orange vested flashes, and in one case standing in front of the train with a flag.

        There is an ongoing effort to eliminte some of the slow speed restricted areas.

        I will also point out how nice and free flowing the freeway is in the first part of the video. Sure, the train may be slower, but it meets enough people’s needs that the freeway doesn’t look like, say, I-5 between Seattle and Northgate.

      4. Yeah, when I rode the Purple Line express last year I was disappointed by how many times the train seemed to have hit a speed limit that forced the train to slow down automatically.

      5. And this has officially become the thread where the guy from Portland stops making pronouncements about Seattle transit based on a handful of experiences, and starts making pronouncements about Chicago transit based on a handful of video plays.

        The freeway you see at the beginning is the Dan Ryan Expressway. If you have never witnessed congestion on the Dan Ryan you don’t have standing to make pronouncements about Chicago transportation. I’ve seen electronic signs suggesting surface-street alternate routes due to Dan Ryan congestion as far back as the Skyway.

        Also literally every comment in this discussion about transit speeds has been about the north side. The Dan Ryan is on the south side. There is no freeway around the north side lines; instead there’s a city, a city that built up around trains.

      6. Which should be a poster child for why Link would be best built some distance from I-5. That line has gone down the Dan Ryan for decades. There’s lots of stuff along it, but the north side does much better.

        Taking the closest land to the stations and converting it to vast highway lanes dampens station development.

      7. >> Which should be a poster child for why Link would be best built some distance from I-5

        I agree. It is crazy to run a line up I-5, like we are doing, especially when I-5 has HOV lanes (or could add them). I do think having one station (possibly the terminus) by I-5 has some merit, though, so that buses can quickly funnel riders to the light rail line. East Link will have that, in Mercer Island. To a lesser extent that is also the case with South Bellevue (for 405). The Mountlake Terrace station serves that purpose for North Link. At that point it is silly to keep going up I-5 (but they are anyway). Either cut over or end it.

        With South Link, of course, they still don’t have a station serving the southern end of I-5. Such a station would be helpful, of course, as a way to tie into Link. Since Link is too far away from Seattle at that point, express buses would probably just keep going (make one stop on the way). This makes the I-5 location different — you want it closer to the city. If you put it further south than Kent, for example, you force Kent in choosing between shuttle buses (to a slow Link system) or express buses (that completely avoid Link). You can do both (of course) but that splits the coverage (making each weaker). It takes about a minute to stop off at a flyover station (like Mercer Island) which is a lot cheaper than sending two sets of buses in opposite directions.

        Speaking of which, there was an interesting comment by Tacoma Mayor Strickland: “When you get off the plane at SeaTac, you can go to Seattle. You need to be able to go to Tacoma too.”

        That is a wild statement by the mayor of a city of 200,000. How many cities of that size, that aren’t connected to bigger cities, have their own light rail line, let alone one connecting it to the airport? I give him credit, though, because he is at least honest about what he wants. This isn’t about getting folks in Tacoma a quick ride to Seattle, it is about getting suburbanites a quick ride to Tacoma. Kudos if he pulls it off, but I’m not sure how many people in Federal Way/Kent/Fife/etc. want to chip in for a quick way to Tacoma.

        I sure hope Seattle comes up with a really good plan for ST3, because my guess is that the way things are going, the areas outside the city will reject it handily.

      8. Evanston is a lot more dense than the average suburb, but as a city it is not as dense as Capitol Hill (3,743 persons/km^2 vs. 4,526 persons/km^2). Capitol Hill is also rapidly becoming more dense at a rate I think Evanston would struggle to match. So the Capitol Hill-Enumclaw comparison is not quite fair.

        Except for the ~4 block radius around Davis station, there is a lot of SFH in Evanston in the walksheds of the Purple Line stations and a lot of nearby no-density Northwestern properties (tennis courts, parking lots, open fields) as well. Evanston also has massive parking garages adjacent to Davis station. If that was describing Capitol Hill, I think this blog would be rather unhappy with the land use choices. Certainly the park proposal for Roosevelt got a frosty reception (not that I disagree) and that’s a lot better than parking garages.

      9. “That is a wild statement by the mayor of a city of 200,000. How many cities of that size, that aren’t connected to bigger cities, have their own light rail line, let alone one connecting it to the airport?”

        It’s the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, not the Seattle International Airport. :) Although it’s interesting that Strickland doesn’t even mention the 574. Does he know it exists? What’s wrong with it?

        “This isn’t about getting folks in Tacoma a quick ride to Seattle, it is about getting suburbanites a quick ride to Tacoma. Kudos if he pulls it off, but I’m not sure how many people in Federal Way/Kent/Fife/etc. want to chip in for a quick way to Tacoma.”

        The quote is specifically about airport travelers, but I have seen other signs that Tacoma is more interested in light rail as a way to attract high tech companies and their workers (i.e., commuters) to downtown Tacoma, and to make south King County residents more willing to go to Tacoma, than as a way to commute to downtown Seattle. If so, it would be nice if they would explicitly acknowledge that.

        And also acknowledge Link’s probable 70-80 minute travel time between Seattle and Tacoma compared to less than 60 minutes on the buses and Sounder. That’s the only rational starting point for discussing Link to Tacoma.

      10. Evanston is a lot more dense than the average suburb, but as a city it is not as dense as Capitol Hill (3,743 persons/km^2 vs. 4,526 persons/km^2).

        Obviously I was being a bit hyperbolic with the Enumclaw thing, but still, yes and no on the mathematical comparison. Capitol Hill is, of course, just one neighborhood, of just under square miles as census-defined. Your Evanston calculation averages that entire city (just under 8 square miles), including areas far further from the El than even the remotest part of the Hill from our pathetic single Link stop.

        There are some legitimate apples-to-apples: both places have some areas of very high residential density, multiple mixed-use commercial and activity centers, and a variety of forms (including, in both places, lots and lots of single family on small-ish lots).

        But the extent of the density where the Purple Line lands is notable: much of the corridor — three or four stops worth, including the in-betweens — resembles the Summit Avenue area. That’s Capitol Hill’s very highest density, extrapolated over an entire swath. Capitol Hill doesn’t even extend its moderately dense forms as much as this.

        I am confident that if you divided the City of Evanston into “east” and “west”, the aggregate density of the “east” half would blow Capitol Hill’s out of the water.

        And then, of course, there’s the fact that Evanston is on the urban-proper fringe, and that 8-10 miles of consistent-high-density sit between it and the center city, contiguous with Evanston’s built environment and thoroughly network-effecting its transit. Sort-of-comparable Capitol Hill sits right next to downtown Seattle, and has no further analogues anywhere in the region… much less in places like Federal Way, which would be the sort of absurd “express” analogue Glenn was straining to make.

      11. Evanston is a lot more dense than the average suburb, but as a city it is not as dense as Capitol Hill (3,743 persons/km^2 vs. 4,526 persons/km^2).

        [Alex’s quoted comparison should be italicized, obviously.]

  4. Does the Chicago Red Line run some sort of skip stop service. It looks like its skipping a few stops in the latter half.

    1. Those are Brown line stations.
      It’s sort of like skip-stop service, only it is a particular line that serves those. Note on the map the brown line and red line serve the same 4 track main line on the southern end. Then, they separate again with the brown and purple going to the loop and the red going into the subway tunnel.

    2. I think I remember that years ago, trains and stops had “A” and “B” designations.

      However, since this is an open thread- which in Chicago has to be as thick as a ball of yarn- the destruction of the Blues Brothers’ downtown transit-convenient residence points an extremely important fact about Chicago:

      If you don’t wanna be incorporated into the running gear of any CTA car, especially one of those Morrison-Knudsen ones, you better not disrespect a nice Romanian-American girl whose father owes favors to guys wit’ names like Mad Pete Trullo.

      This public service announcement is brought to you by the maintenance crews of the Chicago Transit Authority, who don’t like wise guys either, especially when they make us dismantle publicly owned equipment that’s gotta be run on a hot day.



    3. The busiest El lines used to have A/B skip stop service even until the early 90s. More important stations were designated “AB” or all-stop. But ridership declines and the resulting increased headways made you have to wait too long at an A or B only station, so the entire system eventually went all-stop.

      On the segment where the red and brown lines share track the red line is essentially express and the brown line is local.

  5. Interesting thing about that particular line is how little has changed over sixty years, especially between Morse and the city line at Howard. Last time I rode that line, about thirty years after we left, I could recognize individual pieces of cast iron structure, down to the bolt.

    The old brick apartment buildings look exactly the same as they did when Morse was our stop, except they’ve been sandblasted and the Mayor of Chicago probably can’t afford the rent.

    Even though the noise and the vibration can shake pictures off the walls, these places are terrifically desirable. It’s worth that much to be close to the ‘El.

    Great visual is scene from the first Blues Brothers movie where Jake and Elwood are relaxing around their hotel room, with the PCC cars- same company as built the streetcars of same time- going by about five feet from the open window.

    Just before Carrie Fisher takes down the building with an anti-tank rocket- which was probably quieter than the ‘El.

    Before the PCC’s there was a generation or two of all-metal cars. But I can remember riding wooden cars with open vestibules at each end of the car- and air-operated cast-iron gates on the raillings.

    The express track at some of the stations didn’t just carry the CTA. Quite an elemental experience being on one of those platforms covered with ice thicker than the boards, and only about ten feet wide, when the Chicago and North Shore Interurban came by at top speed.

    Most of their fleet were combination of George-Benson-Cars-on-Steroids and an earthquake. Which further north, would go right down the main streets of little towns out of a Twilight Zone episode where the guy is thinks he’s in his boyhood home but is really dead. With drugstores with soda fountains.

    But the same fleet also contained two trainsets of the Electroliner. Go online for it. All the bistros were still in what was left of France after the war, but the cafe section of the train had white tablecloths and real coffee. You can find a menu online too.

    The North Shore also routed around the Loop. Combination of the Monorail and the California Zephyr. Needless to say, the fare wasn’t very affordable.

    In general- nobody could call Chicago climate temperate any time of year. In winter, wind on those platforms would cut the eyes out of your head. Summer- smell or average CTA platform was same as roofs the trains went over- fresh liquid tar.

    Average pre-air-conditioning rush hour load were working people who smelled like sweat. Tempting to do the “back in my day, people had to…etc.” But at least for eight year old boy, whole experience was being part of a city and country of real energy and strength.

    As well as corruption and racism, but average ‘El riding 8-year-old didn’t know about either. Unless they happened to be black. Or, say, a Polish teenager who keeping his eyes open riding through an Irish neighborhood.

    We lived in Rogers Park, about a half mile from Lake Michigan. Every Saturday, I’d get on at Morse Avenue, and ride downtown for charcoal drawing lessons at the art museum that would make SAM look like a dime store. Something that would have gotten my parents put in jail for child neglect now.

    But one thing about all those working people- not once did I ever get the sense I was in danger. However, anybody who’d harm a child definitely was. Maybe slower video catches the way the trains would shake and rock.

    But good background music would be a jazz saxophone. Many thanks.


    1. “the main streets of little towns out of a Twilight Zone episode where the guy is thinks he’s in his boyhood home but is really dead. With drugstores with soda fountains.”

      A Stop at Willoughby. One of my favorites. It also says indirectly says where he lives and which railroad. The conductor says, “New Haven! New Haven is next…. Willoughby! Willoughby is next.”

    2. The Red Line looks like it has been dipped in carbonite since I moved away from Chicago. It’s amazing how none of the stations have changed. Or had any repair work done. When I visited recently I was shocked at the condition of the elevated bridges — rusted and cracked. The purple line bridges in Evanston look like they’re going to fall down as well.

      1. Some work was done at Wilson, Sheridan, and Addison to allow Purple Line trains to pick up there inbound. I’m not really sure why (Wilson used to be my stop, and I don’t think it was ever too crowded to board).

        I lived in Chicago when that I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, so infrastructure grading was unusually current, and I heard someone on a Red Line platform comment, “Which do you think would be graded worse, the I-35 bridge or the Red Line?”

    1. From the Marina district to downtown? That’s twenty minutes on a regular bus, so maybe ten or fifteen on this bus. That’s hardly long enough to do much with wifi or charge anything.

      1. That 20 minutes of being on Muni reminds people that there is a world out there where their “innovations” (uber for dog walkers! tinder for speakeasies!) are irrelevant, and this bitter truth is well worth the additional $4 to be able to ignore for another day, as they go on sipping venture cappuccinos.

    2. “That’s an opportunity for private transit with lower costs.”

      Hahahaha! Whaddaya think they’ll take the difference in profit rather than pass it along to the customer? Especially since they’re targeting high end people willing to pay a premium for luxury amenities, rather than a discount Walmart-bus. Will they pay the drivers more than minimum wage? Will they have stable shifts and benefits?

      1. Who said anything about passing along savings?

        What it will do is show how easy it would be to out perform Metro when you’re not shackled to 6 figure union wages and, sadly, the social service requirements.

      2. I don’t think it will outperform Metro, because it doesn’t have the same requirement. Metro could be ridiculously efficient and fast if it simply ignored its desire to give everyone a decent amount of service. Run only express service (like this); cater only to the wealthy (like this); charge a lot more for riding the bus (like this). In some ways, the only competition here is not Metro, but Sound Transit. Sound Transit buses are extremely popular because Metro has already done the heavy lifting. There is no way Metro could replace their system with Sound Transit’s, because it doesn’t serve enough areas.

        These look a lot like the company buses, which also makes me wonder how they compare. One difference is that the company buses only serve the company employees. Work at Microsoft, but not an employee? Sorry, you can’t ride the bus (even if you are willing to pay). So this could serve contract employees, or folks who work at smaller companies. The obvious route is Ballard and Fremont to South Lake Union, but the buses actually go that way — so other than an express (which skips one or two stops) — I’m not sure what this gives you, other than a luxurious ride. But Ballard and Fremont to the east side is a different matter. There are some options (via Sound Transit as well as Metro) but I don’t think any of them are great. So I could see this filling in the gaps.

        Personally, I think Seattle could use a much better carpool system. The “car sharing” thing was very disappointing, in this regard. That is basically a taxi, which is a completely different animal. But if people could better coordinate their rides, I think it could be extremely popular. There are tons of people driving around each day because they’ve looked at the bus options, and it just doesn’t work for them. Car pools have fallen out of favor, and people don’t even consider them. To make matters worse, they seem focused around an employer, which only works if the employer is big, and the only place around. There are a bunch of places in Fremont, for example, none of which are really big. My guess that there are a lot of people who would gladly share the ride, if they only new someone else was headed their way.

      3. There was another article somewhere talking about private luxury buses more generally, not just from the Marina to downtown SF. It postulated that they could potentially replace public transit, drive it out of business, or make it so only the poor use it. But that’s not thinking about the totality of people’s trips. It’s one thing to pay $6 for a luxury bus from Redmond to downtown or Ballard to downtown peak hours. It’s another thing to go the last mile to First Hill. Or to go a short distance from Ballard to Fremont, or Ballard to Wallingford. How many private buses will provide that? How many will run mid-day, or every 15 minutes, or all evening? Which private routes will serve Pinehurst? What about Rainier Valley?

      4. I hate to tell you this Mark but the vast majority of Metro drivers aren’t making 6 figures.

        The need to run coverage service and to provide social services like paratransit service is where a lot of metro’s costs come from.

  6. Speaking of “help[ing] riders familiarize themselves with the system”, has anyone noticed how bad Sound Transit is in this regard (or maybe its just me). For example, here is the page for Westlake Station: If I’m trying to actually ride the train, I suppose I could wander around and find the doors, but I think that is pretty poor. They have a picture (which is somewhat helpful) but that is about it. The map is very generic, just showing the general area. Then they provide “driving directions”, which is just laughable. Who the hell drives downtown to take a subway? Meanwhile, here is Wikipedia’s description:
    It mentions four entrances, and details the main street entrance (on Pine Street between 3rd and 4th). If I was looking for the entrance, this is exactly what I would want. It also mentions that there is an entrance via Westlake Center, which I think would be of great importance for folks trying to connect to the monorail.

      1. Would you please consider working to undo the well-intentioned but highly problematic attempts to link the DSTT with various “BRT” articles and categorizations?

        Between its short length and 30-year history of serving a variety of mostly-highway-oriented commuter expresses, the tunnel has arguably long been more like a linear version of a downtown bus terminal, and has little to do with any working definition of a “BRT” corridor anywhere in the world, at any level of service quality.

        I have noticed a troublesome trend on Wikipedia, likely attributable to the number of computer-savvy professionals living and working in Seattle, by which Seattle “examples” are shoehorned into articles on a variety of subjects, often with disproportionate weight and sometimes to the genuine detriment of the subject being described or catalogued.

        The DSTT is among the worst offenders, occupying two full paragraphs of the primary BRT entry, despite not being a “BRT system” in the slightest.

      2. Good point, Mike. It was a hybrid system. It mostly served the suburbs, but within the city, it had a couple parts of BRT:

        1) Grade separation.
        2) Off board payment. Remember, this was back in the “ride free” days.

        While the ride free system had lots of flaws, it meant that a rider downtown could just hop on a bus at one end of downtown and hop off at the other. But I think it was simply too short to really qualify as a BRT system — it more like a little piece of BRT in the middle of express buses (even the UW bus was express). If they had extended the tunnel out to the U-District with several stop along the way, then I think it could have easily qualified as a BRT system.

      3. What Ross said. At barely over a mile long, it simple isn’t extensive enough to be considered a “rapid transit” corridor, which is absolutely intrinsic to what “BRT” is (thus the name).

        Furthermore, it was never designed for intra-downtown travel, as is obvious from the terrible access penalty — again, almost like a downtown bus terminal, extended across downtown — so it was never intended to be used in a corridor-like manner at all.

        You could make a case for it with the addition of the SoDo busway, if the busway were scheduled in a remotely common-corridor “RT”-like way. Which it never has been.

        Wikipedia entries are supposed to be thorough yet neutral primers on a given subject. Swift should be included, and RapidRide is a heck of a good case-in-point on the sub-topic of “BRT creep”. But don’t you find it troubling that a significant percentage of an article on Bus Rapid Transit is devoted to the squinty-eyed, definition-distorting, protesting-too-much inclusion of a piece of infrastructure that has never been BRT at all?

    1. It’s a challenge to find the entrances to the downtown stations and I haven’t seen any indication that they are going to fix it. There was ST’s signage standards update project which seems to have gone in to a black hole.

      The reverse is also true. There are no maps within the stations to help people get to the right exit and to their destination or bus stop. Metro’s downtown maps are too generic and not detailed enough.

      1. I agree. More than once I’ve come out of a station and had to take a second to see where I was. This is the city I grew up in (and a part of the city that hasn’t changed that much)! I feel bad for tourists. I wonder how hard it is to get from the monorail to Link, or vice versa? My guess is that it isn’t easy.

      2. There is apparently an elevator from the north side of Westlake’s mezzanine that goes directly to the monorail platform (though I have never used a DSTT elevator). Otherwise, most tourists would take the nearest exit to Pine Street, cross Pine, go into Westlake Mall, go up to the food court, then find their way to the monorail platform. Almost no one uses the direct stairs from 5th Avenue, in my experience.

      3. Among the intangible benefits of streetcars is the willingness to ride them over buses. I ride the SLUS several times a week and if the headways were smaller I’d ride it every day. I know there are buses down Westlake and I ride them too if I happen to be standing at a bus stop when one comes by. But from Westlake Center the streetcar has a direct path to SLU. To ride the 40 I have to walk a couple of blocks west, stand among the nastiest people in the city breathing marijuana smoke to board a bus that probably smells like puke to get to the same place. For whatever reason the streetcar still smells nice, is kept clean and works well.

        Maybe it’s a subjective thing – streetcar = higher class transit. We all know it’s not faster although dedicated bus/streetcar lanes and timed lights would help a lot. I also think the deviation to Terry is unnecessary.

        I’m also looking forward to the FHSC as it will give a nice direct route from the ID to Capitol Hill. These are two places I spend a lot of time and there isn’t currently a nice direct route between them. Currently I have to ride downtown and transfer making the trip much longer.

        We have to think of out-of-towners too. Someone could fly into Seattle, take the Light rail to the ID, then streetcar to capitol hill to stay in any number of Bed and Breakfasts there. That’s an easy clean connection. They could also take the Cascades from Portland or Vancouver and do the same. I realize that the Link to Capitol Hill will do the same but you get ONE stop and if that isn’t close to where you want to be then tough luck.

      4. @Grant — When I was a kid, I would take the bus from Magnolia to the Central Area. I would start with the 19. This was a fun bus. I would sit in the back, spread out and look out the window as the bus cruised along at a pretty good clip. I had plenty of space back there. Then I would switch to the 3 or 4. Suddenly it got a lot more crowded. Sometimes I had to stand, too. Funny thing, though. The buses were basically the same. Weird.

        Basically Grant, you are saying that the streetcar is great because no one rides it. OK. I suppose it is the opposite of the Yogi Berra quote (no one goes there anymore, it is too crowded). I think if the streetcar had wall to wall people, and you had to stand up the whole time, the charm of the streetcar would wear off very quickly. Is the streetcar somehow immune to humanity’s problems (including vomit)? No, of course not. The difference is that so few people ride the streetcar that those few that do love the ride. Of course you do. It is like having your own private bus (I’ve been there).

        Every other advantage you think is unique to the streetcar can be applied to a bus. You like the route that the streetcar takes. Great. So run the bus on that route. Same with the new streetcar route. There is nothing special about streetcars that make them uniquely capable of following those routes. It is the opposite. There are routes that a bus can make (involving a hill) that our streetcars can’t make.

        Is there a psychological advantage to the streetcars? Maybe. But we could easily paint several of our buses to achieve the same thing. Our trolleys, for example, run on electric wire through the city (which is a bit unusual, and worth celebrating). We could paint a few of those with pictures of the North Cascades (where much of the electricity comes from). Now we would provide tourists with something that is unusual in the world and actually special about our town — a publicly owned electric utility which provides renewable energy at a really low cost running trolleys that cruise up hills really fast in a city surrounded by spectacular mountains. I’m guessing a tourist would enjoy that a lot more than these Disneyland style streetcars that look exactly like every other town’s Disneyland style streetcars. Keep in mind, the tourists are *not* riding the streetcars. For every streetcar rider, there are hundreds who walk to Pike Place, or wait in line to go up the Space Needle. The streetcar has simply not been the draw that people thought it was going to be. The tourists you mention that stay on Capitol Hill could easily take a bus if it ran on the same route. They’re certainly not going to ride the streetcar because it is a streetcar.

      5. There are a certain group of non-railfan transit users who will prefer something on rails over a bus. Someone I know got called to jury duty and took MAX to downtown Portland rather than a bus that could have done it in the same amount of time and was closer to his house. He had a hard time explaining why he found MAX preferable, other than “it’s easier”. (This from someone who is nominally part of the Lars Larson anti-rail crowd.)

        In 1948 or so, there was a survey of Portland residents about their preferred transit mode. The trolleybus came out on top. Next came the very neglected, rough riding, battered streetcar and interurban lines. In a distant final place was the sleek new comfortable (but, at the time, loud and smelly) diesel bus.

        So, there are those that prefer rail over bus, even horribly neglected falling apart at the seems rail over sleek new modern bus.

        However, in parts of Europe they recognize that in order to have a good quality of life, rail for the sake of rail isn’t good enough. To not choke on traffic you have to have a significant portion of trips made by transit.

        Attracting those that will take transit just because it’s there isn’t enough. You will fond that systems in Europe that have rested on their laurels have ridership that has either fallen or stayed about the same. Those that are making continuous efforts at service improvement, especially trying to be speed competitive with driving, have increasing ridership.

        The Skoda tri-section was a good design in 1985. That’s when efforts for the new tram line in Grenoble reintroduced the concept of the low floor streetcar, which started operating in 1987.

        Today, this isn’t enough. Today agencies want the best performance they can possibly get so they are able to attract as much ridership as they can.

        You’re not going to maximize the ridership by operating at walking speed.

    2. Finding the signage which describes the train direction on the platform is usually like a “Where’s Waldo” game! It’s hard to find anywhere on any platform! In most other systems in the US, the direction of the train is the first or second-most important signage on the platform. It’s particularly important in a tunnel, where people can get their directions confused.

      It could be fixed TOMORROW by change the “Welcome to…” electronic signs to tell the riders which direction the trains are going.

      I’ve written letters to Sound Transit, and pointed this out many times here. It seems to have no impact. I think it’s going to take a deluge of emails from many riders to change this simple, obvious oversight. I’m discouraged that ST is so negligent that they won’t even have the decency to send me a response telling me that they have forwarded my concern. It’s like I don’t exist. And IT’S OFFENSIVE!

      1. Maybe a few stickers could do the job (a big “North” with an arrow). Slap a few and folks at Sound Transit might bet the hint. From the sound of it, I think the same thing is needed for getting from Link to the monorail.

    1. It means you are taking up a seat at the front of the bus that should be reserved for seniors and riders with disabilities.

    2. Well, Sam, based on family experience in the credit union movement in its early days, while banks may be less blatant about it now, there are polite ways of telling certain people that the bank doesn’t want their business.

      Also, like my grandmother whose Yiddish accent bespoke the very financial acuity lacking in the financial wizards that crashed our economy in ’29, as practice for 2008- many people from more realistic parts of the world understand very well how much of our bank-located wealth is a methane bubble on a feedlot floor.

      And a huge percentage of the world’s population know from direct personal experience like having relatives disappear that best wisdom makes it life-and-death that nobody can get their hands on any record of how much you have, or where you got it. And especially, where you paid it to travel to on transit.

      Information that the NSA will likely delete a lot of cat video footage to make priority viewing.

      Also true that while the money you hide in the mattress or a crack in the wall could be stolen or eaten by a rat, at least you won’t turn on the morning’s news and find out it no longer exists.

      I also believe, maybe mistakenly, that every raggedy dollar bill and dented penny is our country’s government-backed lawfully protected means of exchange. Which can certainly be collected someplace besides the front door of a packed bus in the DSTT at 5pm.

      As for attention from the immigration authorities, I think many who wear the uniform, from immigrant families like all of us whose forebears gained this continent through their immunity from smallpox, feel in their hearts that the presence of these cash users benefits our land with constantly fresh energy and initiative.

      And also, that generous access to the United States frees other less fortunate countries from the presence of people like……well, comment policy forbids getting personal, no matter how well deserved. And truth is, just about all of us descended from people like us, whose forebears’ neighbors decided they’d make good Americans.

      Mark Dublin

    3. Thanks to the moderators for deleting this comment. I read it when it was first posted and immediately had the same reaction. Let’s keep this to transit – real transit.

  7. In all the hubbub about Capitol Hill and UW Stations we seem to have forgotten Angle Lake Station. I looked around to see if it would open at the same time, and ST is saying “late 2916” (project page) and “Fall 2016” (May 2014 open house). The latter estimate “includes 5 months of float”, so If none of the float is needed the earliest it could open is May.

    The other thing I haven’t heard about is bus reorganizations for Angle Lake. Metro’s projects page and Have a Say page don’t have anything on it.

    1. I can’t wait to see what kind of Magic TOD springs up around Angle Lake in “2916”.

      Maybe there will be a ring of Burj Khalifas with the hoverlake suspended between them.

      1. There’s already a TOD-looking building on the northeast corner perhaps a block away, and a large Safeway plaza across the street that could be redeveloped.

      2. @Mike: I think you’re looking at 216th; the station is going to be at 200th.

        IIRC, some time ago a developer announced an office building near the station (on a site that’s currently an airport parking lot) pending a lease with an FAA office that’s currently in Renton.

      3. I’d have to go back and see, but I’m sure I was at 200th and took some pictures and walked to Angle Lake Park. I was going to post the pictures but I never got around to it for several months and by then somebody else had posted newer construction pictures.

      4. @dp,

        No need to wait – Wright Runstad has already announced the first mega project in the area. It’s not as big as the Spring District, but it is larger than anything that has been built in that area for a very long time.

        TOD is a coming, I guess you missed it.

      5. But anyway, good for SeaTac, getting that one office park that’s still on the drawing board. And that the vast majority of employees will inevitably drive to, worsening traffic.

        This totes convinces me that billion-dollar rails tens of miles from anywhere are catalysts for successful and organic urban placemaking.

      6. Angle Lake is close enough to the airport to generate plenty of development. I’m kind of surprised it isn’t more developed right now. Then again, like a lot of the area, there is very big money to be made from parking. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone puts in a big parking garage right next to the station. Cheap rates and you wouldn’t have to bother with the shuttle. Then again, places that close to airport are usually handy for things like conference rooms and hotels. All of that seems likely.

        As mentioned, Wright Runstad is building an office building, possibly for the FAA (that makes sense as well). To quote the spokesman, “Housing has potential, but I think the stronger markets are office, hotel and retail”. I would agree with hotel for sure. Office seems a bit limited, but there are plenty of people who deal with the port, and they need an office. Conference room space is really what that is about (my guess). In other words, office space that is occupied by different people every day of the week. Retail probably follows both (you want to serve those office and hotel occupants). Maybe I’m selling the area short, but except if you have a lot of people flying in — people who don’t want to travel very far from the airport — I’m not sure if you can attract that many office workers (even with Link).

    2. Whatever bus reorganization happens as a result of the Angle Lake Station, I doubt it will be anything significant. At most, we’d be talking about a minor reroute or extension to a couple of milk runs in the area. However, looking at the only routes that pass nearby on the map (A, 156, 166, and 180), I struggle to come up with a significant benefit to modifying any of these routes to serve the station over what they are doing today. The crux of the matter is that these buses already connect with Link at SeaTac airport station, so connecting with Link again at Angle Lake Station a mile south doesn’t add any significant value.

  8. Here is another CTA connections video. This is of the Pink Line:
    This line is on the surface and operates partially in a median. The median strip is essentially in an alleyway rather than an actual road.

    There are some speed restrictions before a double cross over, then around 2:10 the train picks up a bit of speed. After Cicero it moves along pretty good for a ways, but there isn’t quite as much street around it after that. Sadly, there are still a lot of speed restrictions in places, but in other places it moves right along. It finally starts to move along a bit better around 7:30, but by then it is on elevated.

    Not that ST could operate in the Rainier Valley that fast on its median route but it’s nice to think about what could be possible with a bit of better protection between autos and the line.

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