Sounder Bruce (Flickr)
Sounder Bruce (Flickr)

This is an open thread.

42 Replies to “News Roundup: Letting It Burn”

  1. I had a conversation with a SFD guy today about fires in the downtown train tunnel. He said that most of the public’s concern is based on fires/explosions on oil trains that were going over 40 mph when they derailled/exploded. There’s far less kinetic energy associated with the trains traveling in the neighborhood of 10 mph in the train tunnel so the risk of rupture and/or fire is significantly lower. Not that it’s not there, a fire could happen anytime but as we saw with the derailment in Interbay the cars didn’t rupture. Right now they would seal the tunnel and let the fire burn itself out if it happened.

    Surprised it took so long for a notice about the agreement between ST and Bellevue here. That’s really big news.

    1. The one in Virginia derailed and caught fire on very low speed track.

      One of the problems they have isn’t necessarily the speed, but the fact that if there is a fire near one of the cars the pressure builds up as the material in the car heats up. Eventually the tank bursts, which sends the material in the tank in all directions, which then catches fire.

      There is a proposal to increase the insulation requirements so that the heating of the cars requires more time.
      It’s one of the differences between the tank cars for crude oil and the tank cars for stuff like propane (which do occasionally derail and blow up, but there have been vastly fewer such incidents).

    2. Seconds From Disaster – Tunnel Inferno

      A freight truck catches fire in the Mont Blanc tunnel between France and Italy and 39 people died in the 53-hour inferno.

      1. But how many people are in the train tunnel and the railcars are constructed completely different from trucks.

    3. Senator Cantwell has been agitating for tougher rules on tank cars and on transporting crude by rail.

  2. Looking at the Federal Way Link EIS yesterday, I noticed a couple of interesting things:
    1) The SR 99 median option will involve some modifications to the roadway itself, and the finished product would look something like the Millennium Line guideway up north. How would Des Moines, Kent and Federal Way feel about that, since they finished rebuilding the road a couple of years ago? I believe Tukwila had a similar issue during the planning for Central Link.
    2) There are a couple options for trench stations along SR 99, which seems like a good idea for future TOD, though probably at a cost.
    3) The Kent-Des Moines median station option is questionable; the station is located above ground in the median of SR 99, but the station entrances are right in the median, and to get to it you either have to cross at S 236th or S 240th. Hopefully ST goes for the other station options off SR 99.

    1. @AJ

      Hopefully they will learn from the example of Tukwila that you mentioned and not use this as an excuse to put the station along I-5 instead. Tukwila got a pretty useless link station compared to what they could have had if it had been along highway 99… or anywhere other than at a freeway interchange.

      Heck, even placing the station immediately on Southcenter Blvd rather than hugging 518 like it does might have made the station more accessible to anyone that didn’t just come by car.

      1. I couldn’t believe they built a station in the middle of nowhere. But it makes sense if you realize it’s all about the park n ride. The only one on the initial line, and the only one for south King County. (The extensions were in the far uncertain future then.)

      2. @Mike Orr

        TIBS is also a marginally functional bus connection, but it could have been much more useful than what they built.

        To some extent, the airport station could also be considered a park and ride. It actually has a (pay) lot across international blvd and has much better connections to the airport garage than to the airport itself. Doesn’t the airport offer game day rates for their garage as well?

      3. Mike,

        I believe there was funding for building the line all the way to Angle Lake in Sound Move.

  3. Currently, 33 buses stop on Mercer Island during peak hours, and with the bus intercept, that number may go up to 45.

    “The benefit is that we reduce service time and provide savings in service hours for Metro to allocate elsewhere,” said Tia Raamot, Sound Transit project manager for Eastlink. …

    “This all started because city leaders didn’t want 45 buses doing a loop through downtown,” she said. “We wanted to find a solution that had the least amount of impact on the Island.”

    So the MI leaders want less transit to their not-so-isolated refuge, and don’t want to have convenient transit service to/from their downtown?

    1. Mercer Island appears to be asserting that they hold the cards WRT to a permit, and that

      “We have to move beyond Sound Transit’s historic approach to park and rides,” Bertlin said.
      …appears to be code for excluding non mercer island residents – who happen to be ST taxpayers from the ST funded parking garage.
      Strange they wouldn’t be clear about the goal.

      Here is the link to MI city comment page.

    2. I wonder why the bus intercept has to be on Mercer Island. Wouldn’t South Bellevue Park and Ride be a more logical intercept point, since it is further east/ Just wondering?

      1. There are HOV direct access ramps at 80th Ave SE on Mercer Island, while getting to South Bellevue requires “swimming” from the inside HOV lane after serving the Eastgate freeway station to the outside Bellevue Way exit. This is doable (ST 556 does this) but a potential safety problem due to the short distance involved.

        The time penalty of going to Mercer Island versus South Bellevue is 2 minutes westbound and zero minutes eastbound (due to the light exiting South Bellevue P&R), so basically a wash. The direct access ramps at Mercer Island would arguably tilt the balance.

        Direct access ramps and dedicated lanes on Bellevue Way aren’t in the cards due to lack of physical space, environmental issues (ramps would be in Mercer Slough), and cost, so there is not much chance of improving access to South Bellevue beyond signal priority, but that would nuke traffic on Bellevue Way, which is already a parking lot in the PM peak.

      2. Jason has it about right – MI is right place to do this. And I’m guessing total trip time is better, in both directions, since riders have to pass through MI regardless.

    3. I’m a MI resident, and have worked informally with the city government and Metro planners on promising solutions to bus-service holes left by the (entirely reasonable) elimination of some non-productive routes in the September 2014 service reductions. My experience is that the Mayor, the councilmembers I worked with, and city staff are all reasonable folks with a real commitment to transit.

      There certainly is some NIMBY-ism here, and STB has rightly criticized the city in the past for constraining the size of the P&R garage when it was (re)built several years ago. More recently, a plan was proposed by ST for a 2nd P&R on MI to help handle the extra load with the upcoming closure of the South Bellevue P&R during East Link station construction – and that plan was scuttled by local reaction, an unfortunate outcome as I see it.

      On the other hand, there are some legitimate concerns that deserve serious attention. Buses from Issaquah turning around on MI to connect with Link will generally not be serving MI passengers in either direction, yet there is will be least some impact to MI folks – drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians – which should indeed be minimized to the extent possible. And P&R overcrowding is a real problem in many places, a problem that likely won’t be solved until we face up to charging for P&R use.

      As easy a target as many of us often present, there are also many thoughtful and realistic MI residents, and the Mayor and council deserve credit for being reasonable and pragmatic, even if you don’t agree with all their actions.

      1. “Buses from Issaquah turning around on MI to connect with Link will generally not be serving MI passengers in either direction, yet there is will be least some impact to MI folks – drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians – which should indeed be minimized to the extent possible.” I don’t understand this. We live in a region; there are regional impacts that come from regional amenities. I-90 crosses Mercer Island and it is getting light rail. Large portions of the region–more densely populated and with far higher transit use than the residents of Mercer Island–get no Sound Transit service at all and have no freeway access. On my own way to work, I pass the reconstruction of the North Transfer station for Seattle garbage, the repainting of the Fremont Bridge, the reconstruction of Mercer Street, and the tearing up along Dexter involved in the tunnel project. The burdens of those projects are borne by local residents, while people on Mercer Island sail their boats under the Fremont Bridge and drive to jobs at Amazon along Mercer. You may choose not to use those buses coming in from Issaquah, but they actually serve destinations with amenities not present on Mercer Island (and I suspect visited by persons from Mercer Island in their SOVs at other times). Buses serving the UW that do not stop anywhere near me go by my house every single day; that’s part of the price of civilization. No one offers me any mitigation. It’s the price of living on a bus line. The buses turning around at Mercer Island station are the price of the station.

      2. Yeah, that is not only a selfish attitude, but a rather provincial one. The idea that Mercer Island doesn’t benefit at all from the buses that will serve it is ridiculous and the pot calling the kettle black. Do these folks think people want to go to Mercer Island, but not Issaqauh?

      3. Yes, of course we all have to live with public works that impact us and don’t directly benefit us. But Fremont residents still have a right to diligent planning and engineering to mimimize the impact of the transfer station, just as MI residents should be able to ask for the minimum practical negative impact from the bus turnaround. The good news is that ST’s improved design went a long way in that direction.

        I’ll also add that when I try to open my neighbors’ minds to the fairness and benefits of I90 tolling and to more density at the north end, it does not help if they’re hearing insults and caricature of their positions from transit and density activists. It might be fun to post, but it doesn’t help.

      4. Once Link opens won’t people be more willing to ride collector-distributors to the station? MI will be only three stations from downtown Bellevue arts and (granted, with a walk) shopping venues. I would think that will be attractive to people doing “bag shopping” (that’s when the logos on the three shopping bags dangling from your arm are part of the point…..) at Bellevue Square and very attractive for folks attending arts events.

        And it will be only five stations from Westlake where even more “bag shopping” available, the symphony is right at University, and the Pike Place Market is a short walk away. EVERYBODY loves the Pike Place Market, even millionaires.

        I expect people believe that Link will just be a commuter railroad, but they’ll discover that it’s nice enough inside that they’ll be happy to use it for other things as well.

      5. Anandakos, the downtown Bellevue station will be much more convenient to The Bravern than it will be to Bellevue Square.

    4. So everyone here who is whining about Mercer Island is also against the selfish and provincial restricted neighborhood parking zones near light rail stations in Seattle, correct?

    5. The context behind Ms. Raamot’s comment is that 2 of the the 3 original concept plans for the bus intercept had all buses looping through Mercer Island’s Town Center area, without stopping (the only stop would’ve been in front of the light rail station entrance). The third option would’ve kept the buses confined to North Mercer Way, at the cost of taking two houses for a roundabout. These were all unacceptable (and I argued strongly against taking two houses when other options existed), and so the current plan on the table (option 4) would keep most of the buses on the 80th Ave SE overpass, and have up to 12 I-90 buses doing the loop through Town Center (again, without stopping) during peak. Keep in mind there are zero I-90 routes in Town Center today; everything goes via North Mercer Way, so any buses in Town Center (except for Mercer Island local routes) is an increase.

      As Jim Whitehead noted, the City Council is generally being pragmatic about this and not reactionary, and city staff are reasonable as well. You can’t take too much away from a news article that isn’t providing enough context and is only quoting a single councilmember. I live on Mercer Island and follow this issue very closely, and based on the conversation over the past several months I think your comment “So the MI leaders want less transit to their not-so-isolated refuge, and don’t want to have convenient transit service to/from their downtown?” is not accurate. Some Island residents may want that, and at least one councilmember might want that.

      1. Why won’t there be a stop in the MI CBD? Can’ the city ask for the 12 buses per hour that won’t make the turnback loop at least be available to a stop at the other end of town? I can’t imagine that more than a few per hour will actually have to make the stop, because they’re mostly P’n’R express turnbacks headed for the toolies, so what would be the cost to Metro? Essentially nothing.

  4. Might ask fire department what effect the BN Tunnel full of a burning train will have on the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel? Been told that where the two tunnels are at their closest, just north of Jackson Street, the oil cars will go through about five feet above the DSTT.

    Anybody know if that’s right? Attitude of every agency above, company and governmental except for the Fire Department, guarantee we’re going to find out.

    If our State’s major city faced a threat anything like this from terrorism, Governor Inslee would put his National Guard troops in position to repel it. And if Vladimir Putin even mentioned idea in passing, same for the President and the Strategic Air Command.

    We’ve never in our country’s history experienced a threat of this magnitude to any major city within our borders. Don’t we have natural gas mains underneath Seattle? The fuel tanks of three airliners took down two skyscrapers and blew a hole in the Pentagon. Casualty list, what, two thousand?

    Any estimates from Seattle Fire Department on this one? Since based on their current stance, people, companies, and officials responsible are very likely to blame terrorists. Giving ISIS to a perfect chance claim credit for burning up Seattle without strapping a suicide belt on anybody.

    Anybody think I’m wrong, I hope you’re right. So set my mind at rest and tell me where. Nothing official I’m reading seems to be helping

    Mark Dublin

  5. A lot of people around the world wonder why STB hasn’t banned me yet. And I know the answer, which I can sum-up in two words: It’s because every once in a while I make a legitimate comment which balances out all my other idiotic babble. And here’s my today’s legitimate comment …

    Ok, the whole stroller policy change thing has got me thinking. What other policies need to be changed? Are there any other policies that transit agencies have in place that need a second look? No bikes on buses? The night stop hours? No eating on buses? In other words, are there any other rules that we now take for granted as being well-founded, that now have to be rethought and perhaps changed?

    1. Giving the Seattle Housing Authority a private bus (Center Park), then Metro paying 100% of the operating costs. Whey does King County pick up the entire cost when it only serves residents of a single SHA facility?

    2. There was a big argument here about eating on buses two years ago.

      I haven’t heard anything about the night stop program, but how well-used is it? Perhaps it should be more publicized.

      And I’m fine with taking bikes on buses sometimes when the racks are full, assuming there’s room on-board. I don’t think that’d be common, though, except on 520 bridge runs and Pierce/Snohomish route.

      1. I’ve seen drivers on deadheading 520 buses and reverse-peak 512 runs allow people with bikes on board because the racks were full, but only two or three times.

        Doesn’t really count, but I took my folding bike on reverse-peak 520 buses a couple times. Then I decided it would be easier to lock it up in the U DIstrict during the day. Then it got stolen.

  6. Transport for London adds first hydrogen cars to fleet

    The two vehicles have been purchased by TfL as part of the HyTEC project, which aims to create three new European hydrogen passenger vehicle deployment centres in London, Copenhagen and Oslo to demonstrate the day to day use of hydrogen vehicles and encourage their mainstream use by the public.

    Diana Raine, HyTEC’s co-ordinator and Air Products’ Hydrogen Energy business manager, said: “Based on projected uptake figures, FCEVs could reduce UK annual total vehicle CO2 emissions by three million tonnes in 2030. That’s why, as specialists in this area, HyTEC partners are pleased to be working together with TfL as we help decarbonise road transport through hydrogen buses and now cars. Not only will this technology provide environmental health benefits to the people of London but also help improve the Capital’s air quality.”

  7. Can anybody else hear John Belushi yelling “Food Fight!” in “Animal House?” Does the whole transit world boil (or roast, fry, or poach) down to this subject?

    Can’t we even interject a serious topic into this exchange by conjecturing how much food on DSTT buses would be instantly french-fried in event of a disaster?

    But best thing would be to research the strategy that the Chicago and North Shore Interurban used to control food problem on buses: sell it to passengers, at tables with white cloth. And real coffee.

    Though not espresso, which Americans except those returning from the Italian campaign thought was just Italian for “real fast train.”

    So my thinking is that as LINK and our street rail system build out, we start converting one LINK car-section per train to Electroliner Memorial service. And also, I saw in more than one northern European city, add a pub-streetcar to be rented out for excursions.

    And added benefit: health department would start demanding higher level of cleanliness than now frequently prevails. And also, like any restaurant, nobody would take it wrong to insist that all food eaten on board be bought there too.

    See why you get to stay on STB, Sam?


  8. Whoa! Talk about psychedelic white rabbit hole to the ‘sixties experience! Wondered what happened to all those comments about food and realized I’d followed a link and gone back in time to a previous posting!

    Which leads directly to the fact that, as whole MUNI operations crew knows, there’s no need for rule prohibiting dropping LSD on transit. Because so much of the real experience is so tie-dyed nobody needs to waste a good sugar cube.

    Also: anybody want to bet that vapes will all go away with the end of that weird movement concentrating on cast-iron zeppelins crawling with zombies? Steam something or other? Which, come to think of it, pretty much describes the Breda fleet.


  9. Uh ohhhhh, another snarky Mercer Island link comment *womp womp*.

    I can’t believe those pesky uber rich people (with all of their cheap, flat, abundant and undeveloped land in their downtown core) would continue to be so against regional transit! I mean hellllooo wake up and smell the times are changin!

    Gosh they really grind my gears! Its about time they understand that they are NOT a sleepy suburb!

  10. Dead Ed Orcutt,

    I would propose that WSDOT (and even other state departments) start keeping funding within the WSDOT regions or even the counties the funding is generated from, rather than subsidizing smaller regions or counties. Then, projects like the 520 bridge and 99 tunnel would get fully paid for sooner, with less tolls required, plus greater opportunity for transit funding. Meanwhile, hypocritical leech towns, such as Kalama, would shrivel up and die. You would be forced to move to a liberal dystopia, such as Seattle, and ride our communistic public transit (or even contribute to global warming by riding a bike), because you could no longer afford your luxury car, paid for by your legislator salary.

    Your friend,

  11. Speaking of dystopian visions of the future that you guys would actually like…the movie Americathon (1979).

    The gas has run out. Everyone lives in their car, and bikes to work (even in LA!) The President has retreated to the “Western White House” — a run down condo in Marina del Rey.

    The opening scene of everyone getting up and “bike commuting” to work is especially classic.

    You can rent the whole thing on Amazon or borrow from KCLS

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