Perhaps one of the more unique pieces of transportation infrastructure in the Puget Sound region, though little remarked, are what amount to diagonal elevators. They are very small funicular railways designed for completely automatic operation, just as an elevator is. Usually these are located in areas that make them exceptionally difficult to see up close. From a distance they may be observed from the waters of Puget Sound as they are in use as connectors between hill top houses and water level docks for the obligatory boat. Several spectacular ones are visible from the Victoria Clipper route to Friday Harbor, but only at a distance.
One remarkable trait many of the ones in the Puget Sound region seem to have in common is their construction by a company in the region. This isn’t something that must be procured from halfway across the world, or even halfway across the country.
These photos are of the unit at the Warbass Way Marina in Friday Harbor. The public is not allowed to ride their particular device. The top level is a public viewpoint though, which allows a closeup view of the entire machine.
While the viewing provided by the viewpoint is intended to be of Mount Baker, peering downward allows a nice look at the elevator track.
In some areas of the world escalators are used to extend the reach of deep level stations to cover areas beyond what would be possible with simple vertical access. Very shallow stations are convenient, but if a deep level station must be built (such as seen on the Moscow metro) that depth may as well use that depth to some advantage where possible. Escalators, however, are not accessible to everyone so a different solution would be required for stations doing this in the USA.
Small automated funiculars such as shown here could be used alongside escalators to produce stations that reach further than typically accomplished with standard vertical access. A minimum of two would be best at each location as one alone would represent a single point of station failure.
As an example, Husky Stadium Station might benefit from these. The station attempts to serve the University of Washington, a number of bus routes, and the UW Medical Center from beneath a triple direction tangled intersection centered around a private parking garage. The station is reasonably deep due to the underwater tunnel. Depending on the minimum slope possible with these devices, diagonal access towards the UW campus and the bus stop on Stevens Way could help make this station a bit more accessible from the campus itself, and provide somewhat better transfers.
In a city with as many hills as Seattle, the ability to move diagonally between areas is a necessary part of getting from place to place. Short funiculars are certainly impractical in some locations, but in others they might prove a very useful link.
Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”) is employed by a small company that manufactures electrical equipment for railroad cars. Typical commute: TriMet #10.