Smashes, SMASHES! into that poor little car. :(

Alternative title could have been: Driver weaves around car sitting in the left turn lane, ignores the red light, tries to turn left from center lane, ignores train signal, inevitable happens.

91 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Fun with headlines”

  1. I would change “coukl” to “should”. The KOMO title could imply it’s the train’s fault, in the minds of those that don’t think things through, and perhaps are anti-transit to begin with.

    I hope ST give the Train Operators more leeway as to whether a collision was preventable on their part, as I have heard that Metro can be pretty harsh in that manner, when it comes to Coach Operators.

    1. Although it totally is the driver’s fault here I still think it’s a mistake that there isn’t clearer train/vehicle separation here. At this point it would clearly be absurdly expensive to do actual grade separation, but I think that ST should invest in either gates or bollards that come out in advance of the train.

      It would serve as an obvious visual reminder, and in the case of bollards, would physically protect the train from dangerous drivers.

      Also, I’m pretty sure I read that once there is gates or a physical barrier between the train and traffic the train no longer has to obey the 35 mph speed limit, which could shave a few minutes off of journey time (every little bit counts).

      1. If the most common Link/car accident is cars turning left on red, then if these kind of gateless intersections are know safety hazard locations, why don’t Link trains be required to slow to a crawl through them while blasting their horns? Wouldn’t that be the safest thing to do?

      2. Why aren’t there gates at every intersection, preventing idiots from turning left on a red? This is just some idiot who completely ignored the law, common sense and basic safety rules and got into an accident. This happens all the time, the only thing that made this one interesting was the fact that it involved a train (which also made it that more obvious that the driver was an idiot). I can see the guy arguing this in court “Well then the train came out of nowhere, and swerved into me. I tell you judge, it was crazy”.

        But yeah, gates might prevent an idiot or two from doing this.

      3. Stephen,

        That is exactly the sort of expensive and counterproductive overreaction politicians recommend after genuine tragedies.
        Lets not spend tens of millions in rising/dropping bollards to prevent people from suicide by train, and stop the train for hours every time a bollard gets stuck, iced, or a car stops over one and gets spiked.

        Glad the car driver is alive, hope he loses his license permanently.

      4. Not all of Link’s numerous collisions with automobiles involve a left hook. Occasionally someone who had too much beer already is racing to get to a championship parade, doesn’t see there is not way through the intersection, and wraps his racer around a power pole between the tracks.

        Or, someone steals a car belonging to a reporter, and wraps it, at high speed, around the power pole in the middle of the tracks.

        Or, in the middle of a blizzard, a car slides through a fence, rolls down a hill, falls out of the sky and lands upside down on an aerial portion of the tracks.

        So, let’s not spend a few million installing crossing gates to try to reduce the number of train-car collisions, even if nearly all of them are left hooks, because, well,

        Neighbors want peace and quiet. And one of the scenarios listed above could still happen. So, let’s not even try to reduce collisions.

      5. @RossB,

        I wouldn’t call this an “accident”. That implies no one was at fault. Clearly, in this incident, the driver of the car was at fault .

      6. @Skylar — I used the word idiot in the paragraph three times, and you thought I felt otherwise? Of course this was a “collision”, not an “accident” (as my old drivers Ed teacher used to say). But the word “accident” is commonly used to refer to a collision where fault was clear, but the collision occurred accidentally (I really don’t think the driver meant to hit the train).

      7. Ross, I definitely didn’t mean to say that I was confused by what you meant, it’s just a pet peeve of mine to hear something that inconvenienced hundreds (maybe thousands) of people, probably did thousands of dollars of damage, and could have resulted in serious injuries as just an accident. While the driver might not have intended to hit the train, with all the signage on that section of MLK, it certainly was no accident.

      8. Gates would be relatively cheap, and not having train/car collisions would be better for the image and reliability of link. And if gates allowed the trains to go even 10 mph faster… totally worth it.

      9. There are various problems with gates. Among them, the standard used on freight railroads is the gate is supposed to be down a minimum of 20 seconds or something around there before the train goes through.

        I would instead start with crossbucks with standard crossing flashers. Those are pretty standard “train is coming” indicators. If those don’t work then maybe gates.

        Grade separation is nice, but it makes station access a bit harder if you are building neighborhoods around the stations.

        Some of these roads are called “auto sewers” and most civilized countries bury their sewers. Therefore, I contend that I would prefer to see one of the busy roads grade separated instead by digging a pit and shoving it indergound at the intersections. Not only does this help Link traffic, but it removes a station access barrier in either one direction or the other (depending on what road gets buried). In contrast to making Link elevated, this way Link remains part of the neighborhood and easy to access from the pedestrian level.

        See SE 17th and Powell in Portland for a partial example of dropping a busy street under another and a railroad.

    2. All these accidents could have been prevented if Link were underground or overhead. The train would also be faster and less prone to delays. All of these drain operations money year after year, but they’re never mentioned in the cost estimates of surface vs grade-separated alignments. If they were, the cost difference between the alignments would narrow, and surface wouldn’t look so misleadingly cheaper.

      1. I agree. The speed difference would be minor, but the difference in reliability and especially headway would be huge. If not for that, we could be running the trains more often *right now*, let alone in a few months when U-Link is complete.

      2. I keep hoping someone on the ST Board asks for a study to let us know how much doing some or all grade separations costs. It doesn’t appear that anyone cares to find out right now. Some information might be in the old DEIS but the cost data would be quite outdated.

  2. I hate to be a broken record, but can someone at STB get Mayor Murray or Kubly on the record, particularly after this ST mess, on the Ballard Spur, WSTT, grade separated transit. If you put the pieces together (Ballard survey offering streetcar stops, SDOT folks hating the Ballard Spur) they may be “on board” with the ST plan. If anything, it would give Seattle Subway a heads up on who might try to squash any efforts they try.

    1. That would be nice. This is the way I see this playing out:

      1) The state has to give ST3 authority. If you are looking for the full amount, it doesn’t look good from where I sit (in the cheap seats). I have no idea what the legislature is thinking, but I see a lot of grumbling about all of this. When reps from Ballard (Ballard!) start raising issues about the funding and priorities, it doesn’t look good ( The only people who want the full amount are folks like Dow Constantine, and right now lots and lots of transit people are saying Sound Transit, and in turn, board members like Dow, are idiots, and that they won’t vote for ST3 unless dramatic changes are made ( So how is someone in Olympia supposed to fight hard for full funding when the hard core supporters of transit don’t like the way the agency is doing things and have said (in large numbers) that they will vote no? I think we will get a smaller package, if we get anything.

      2) On June 4, “Sound Transit will kick off a month-long process to hear from the public about what projects should be studied” (

      So that basically gives us a month to get them to include WSTT and Ballard to UW light rail. Or we wait until June, and start pressing then. I’m not sure which approach is better. If we want to pick a particular project (or set of projects) we need to have an idea of how much money we have. But if we want them to present rough ideas for later consideration, then I think we can start now. We should ask them to include both of those projects in the June meeting.

      1. We do both. In May we tell them we don’t like the concepts and what’s missing from all of them, and mention that the “passenger-mile” metric is outdated. Since the concepts ignore subarea equity, our feedback can ignore it too. In June we tell them exactly projects we do want and their priorities. We can help Snohomish and Pierce by outlining a robust alternative to their spine idea. Start with ST’s “enhanced ST Express” from Link’s termini and go from there. Perhaps throw in Swift II – V, or variations of them. For instance, can Swift V (Smokey Point) serve Everett CC without too much detour?

        Looking at Community Transit’s website, its long-range plan is from 2011, and it plans to update it in 2015. So it’s quite recent, and therefore a starting point for where transit is needed.

      2. The passenger metric mile is stupid. There are really only two metrics that matter:

        1) Overall transit ridership increase per dollar. Focusing only on Link (ridership per dollar) sends us to pink buses and streetcars. Pink buses are a result of the bad metric because Metro could just paint a few buses pink, and then announce that their new transit line is a smashing success. Streetcars are no faster than the pink buses, so for those that ride the line, just as meaningless. But focusing on overall ridership means you have to do the hard work of determining how light rail fits into the rest of the system. Basically, it incorporates several things:

        1 A) Service hours saved by the buses and applied to a better overall network.

        1 B) Time saved per rider, which then leads to higher ridership. That, of course, can be its own metric:

        2) Time saved per rider. So plan X only adds a few thousand riders — maybe those riders just got a huge improvement in their ride. If you build out a system well enough, you eventually get there. Eventually everyone who would consider transit rides transit, and there is little you can do to increase ridership. We are nowhere near that point, which is why the first metric (overall transit ridership increase per dollar) is the best, by far.

      3. Ross,

        Ruven Carlyle isn’t against ST3 or the full $15 Billion. He’s pretty adamant Seattle and his district need it. His objection is strictly with possibly using property taxes and due to the way those taxes are authorized it counting against constitutional and statutory caps. In short he doesn’t want Sound Transit using a tax base that has traditionally been used for education.

    2. Point blank:

      “Mayor Murray, is this what your recent announcement of Westlake Ave transit lanes and (marginal) signal priority was really about? Are you desperately attempting to spin a planned ‘Ballard streetcar’ announcement into something that isn’t quite so obviously wasteful and ineffective?”

      1. I’d even add to the question the recent Ballard survey, where two streetcar stops were offered (including one on Leary) as possible options for Ballard stops.

    3. I think we need a series of posts discussing what should be in the package.

      UW Ballard is obviously up there, but what in Pierce and Snobimish subareas? East King?

      1. It seems like the consensus of the comment threads is:

        * Pierce gets Tacoma Link expansions, more Sounder, and a WSTT that will stop their buses from getting bogged down in Seattle traffic.

        * Snohomish gets express buses to Paine Field Boeing, and grade-separated ramps to Ash Way.

        * East King gets Link to Redmond and more express buses everywhere, with grade-separated ramps and freeway stations.

      2. It really depends on the size of the package:

        I think for North King County it should be

        1) UW-Ballard
        2) WSTT
        3) West Seattle (though for *purely political reasons* [Exec Constantine is from WS])

        For East it should be:

        1) Extend to Redmond
        2) Bellevue to Issaquah
        3) New study on the east link sandpoint crossing

        I have no idea what the other subareas should get as I’ve never been around there. That’s up to them to advocate for. As long as they don’t take any of our moneys to build it (if anything it should be the other way around…)

      3. I think the ST2 package allowed money to study future transit packages, which we’re seeing drive the ST3 suite of projects. A study of a potential Sandpoint crossing could be included if ST3 passes, but if approved it wouldnt get built until ST4 if that ever happens.

      4. One more thing. You can put dollar figures on some of the projects. ST already studied Ballard to UW via bus and/or LRV and Ballard to Downtown via Interbay/QA. Those projects were around $2 and $3 billion respectively (assuming LRV not bus) and don’t get you to West Seattle. That leaves $10 billion for other projects assuming the $15 b’n gets approved.

    1. Raking in cash on a real estate empire stolen from Japanese-Americans his grandpa personally lobbied to put in camps, and making cheesy videos about how ‘Muricans love their cars because “freedom”, are probably things that Kemper could do from home.

  3. Ten seconds. By windscreen reflection, LINK driver visibly calls in soon as train stops. If driver wasn’t over speed or texting at the time, there’s no way he or she will be found at fault.

    Not simple misreading of signal or mirror. Good question what tests found in the motorist’s bloodstream. Or who exactly was chasing him with what intent? Likely hard to find that out, since safer to be hit by a train than “snitch.”

    Notice that first impact pushed in the side of the car, and shoved the car aside, but didn’t tear it or roll it. LINK cars all have a rounded shield like a knight’s visor over front and end couplers. As opposed to every other North American system, where the train leads with a block of steel that could knock down a wall.

    Wish we had footage of first response by either public, police-and-fire, or aid car. Weird that there the place was so empty in daylight. What was location?

    Many similar systems in the world operate under same conditions. But given that CentralLINK is our airport line where schedule performance is critical, there’s no question that the surface stretch of MLK should have been at least “undercut” at major arterials and stations, with absolutely no cross-traffic elsewhere.

    Technically, neither sweat nor brainer on MLK right now. Same with arterial running Elliott or Leary Way when built. Which like MLK are impossible to drive across at rush hour trains or not. Build accordingly.

    Mark Dublin

    1. People are somehow under the impression that saving a few seconds or a minute is worth the risk of a collision. That’s why people speed through amber lights often actually speeding through a red light since they were going too fast to stop in time. It’s the reason people go 45 MPH on 23rd Ave or MLK. People have this feeling that if they just go a little faster and just make that one more light that they will be where they need to go gaining lots of time when in fact all they gain is a few seconds if that. How many times has someone screamed past you only to be stopped with them at the next light. Their speeding accomplished absolutely nothing.

      As far as notice all trains ring bells when crossing an intersection. If drivers choose to ignore the bells that’s their folly.

      1. Hate to say it, but you really can save significant time with “strategic offensive city driving”, which does not necessarily imply recklessness.

        Whereas speeding recklessly on the highway will shave off a shockingly small amount of time on anything shy of an intercity trip, shifting lanes to evade lethargic operators and making strategic vector adjustments in order to make lights you otherwise wouldn’t have can have a highly advantageous cascading-savings effect on a city journey.

        This is especially true in Seattle, where some faction at SDOT continues to privilege some arterials over others with cycles of 2-3 minutes or more.

        A 25 minute drive to Capitol Hill can easily be pared down to 15, in identical traffic conditions, if I make the intentional choice to reach for my Boston-honed urban-driving skills. Recently, I got all the way down 5th, from Denny to Marion, without hitting a single red. This involved honking at more than one intersection-blocker, evading two taxis that failed to signal before pulling out, and running a couple of yellows (but no reds), but it’s hard to argue that didn’t save me whole minutes just on a single mile.

        Again, this is “awareness driving”. No autopilot. No recklessness. No vindictiveness. No technical speeding. And frankly a safer track record.

      2. It matters for bus driving also. On the freeway, I’ve seen variations in travel time by as much as 10 minutes or more, under identical (heavy) travel conditions, simply as a result of some drivers knowing which lane to be in, and others not.

        On surface streets, the parallel situation is moving over to the left lane when the right-turning car in the right lane is stopped for pedestrians in the crosswalk.

      3. I would really like t see some documentation that proves this. It’s always been my experience that speeding (not just a few MPH over the speed limit but significant increase in speed) only gives significant gains when going on a distance of over 100 miles.

      4. You’re still thinking in freeway metrics, and in that case you’re right.

        City strategic driving isn’t about speeding, per se, as much as it is about anticipation the best position to be in at any given moment, so as to not getting stuck behind the idiot who will block a lane for an entire cycle because they didn’t bother to signal in advance and never learned to pull into the intersection to let others go around.

        Making lights that you’d miss driving on “Seattle Autopilot” absolutely adds up quickly.

    2. Mark –

      The coupler covers on the LINK trains were first designed for use on Houston’s system, where they had a rash of train vs. car accidents (some of which were pretty bad for the car) in the first year of operation. Designing and installing these covers was really a no brainer … hard to understand why so many operate without them.

      I was pretty impressed with how quick the operator got on the radio to call for help and report the collision. I think it would have taken me at least a few more seconds to survey the situation and get my wits about me.

      There was another train waiting at the station coming the other way. Imagine if that train had been moving and hit this guy coming the other way after the car was pushed onto the other tracks. Ugh.

      Finally, like you, I would love to see the toxicology report on this guy. Even if he made it across the train tracks, where exactly did he plan on going on the other side, with MLK moving pretty fast in the other direct.

      1. Actually, coupler covers are fairly common now. I’m fairly certain they were required years ago for tram-train type operations, where “light rail” cars are operated in a mixture of main line and street railway service.

        The problem with them is they make coupling and uncoupling time consuming and difficult, and as the cover sticks up you probably wouldn’t want to operate a lead car with the cover not in place.

        In order to be cheap, TriMet initially coupled and uncoupled cars regularly at the Ruby Junction station stop. Converting the two car trains to single car trains for midday operations kept the “Your trains are operating nearly empty” complaints down, and could be done really quickly with the exposed coupler.

      2. Here, about the 2:20 mark in this video, you start to see how much more complicated the coupling process is with the covers:

        With the open couplers it was a 15 second process requiring one person on the ground giving a hand signal distance indication.

      3. Most importantly, the coupler is folded behind the cover. If it weren’t the coupler would extend nearly a foot beyond the cover and be the lethal instrument previously described. And it looks better too when covered!

  4. Hey, Sam, sorry about your car. LINK driver probably had horn on full blast but-let me think- Captain and Tenille?- were singing too loud about their muskrat research.

    But there’s both compensation and a new career available to you. Have wrecking yard stand your creation up on end, weld a plaque onto it, and contact the Transit Arts Project.

    When Downtown Ballard station opens, you’ll get massive positive public acclaim for your tribute to the beloved Driving Academy which is now the underground garage of the kind of building that gives density a bad name.

    Whole new world ahead, Sam.


  5. You people are always decrying regressive taxes, so this story from Finland in the New York Times got me to thinking, if this rich dude gets fined $58,000 for going 64 in a 50 just cuz he’s rich and can afford a bigger fine, then why not do this with Link and Sounder fines? So if you make over, let’s say, $100k/yr, your ticket isn’t $124, but more like $524. You “progressives” would be ok with that, right? Betcha then you wouldn’t giving up trying to get to Shoreline. F Hypocrites.

    1. Your idea has some merit, Sam. We’ll start charging you $50 per comment you post, effective immediately.

    2. I’m not sure what you’re on about. I think fining relative to income makes a lot of sense. I also think most on this blog don’t think government offices should be put in places that are easy to access for the rich but hard for three poor. Why would we want either egalitarian fines or egalitarian court locations, but not both? It seems to me you made up ridiculous ideas and then put them in others’ mouths for the express purpose getting that good feeling of self righteous indignation.

    3. There was something in one of the media awhile back about Finland’s thinking re: level of traffic fines. Official said that fines are adjusted according to violator’s income to get same level of attention.

      Unspoken but doubtless true in Finland, the nearby Scandinavian lands, and most of the developed world, is that difficulty of passing a driving test is one of the chief generators of high transit ridership.

      However, in deference to basic Northern Hemisphere human right, Helsinki provides a streetcar that is a rolling old-fashioned pub. Run time too short on LINK. But on First Hill Streetcar- ’till missing southbound wire is put up, should be many an accident free and leisurely evening.

      Since our country is supposed to be the land of common sense- well, one of our founding documents was called that- in the Age of Reason- we could just do this:

      Standard driving test should be enough signage and regulation knowledge to assure candidate can read. Followed by about a week of actual driving under observation by a senior police instructor.

      Who then has the authority to issue one of two documents:

      1. A driver’s license renewable in a year.

      2. A Statewide transit and ground transportation pass good for same amount of time.

      Insurance rates and fatalities should plummet. Along with travel times. And transit ridership will leave every vehicle packed every route on shortest possible headway.

      Problem(s) solved.


      1. @Mark,

        Agreed that driver’s licenses need to be much tougher to get in the US. In my ideal world, they would be like pilot’s licenses – medical exams required yearly, constant refresher courses, different ratings depending on the conditions and type of vehicle, etc. Violations would be dealt with severely, and potential consequences would include loss of driving privileges for life.

    4. Some things should be progressive-ly based, some things should be usage-ly based. For example, we don’t think electricity and water should be progressively charged for. Sales taxes, OTOH, makes up almost all of our state revenue and that should be charged on some progressive basis, otherwise the poorest among us gets taxed at a ridiculously high rate (17% for the bottom quintile IIRC)

      Tickets probably should be ‘usage’ based because [in theory] it’s a violation which has a fixed cost to society relative to income.

  6. OK, I’ve thought about this some more. This is basically a repeat of part of comment to the excellent question that mdnative raised. But this approach, I believe, should stand alone as a proposal for helping to fix the morass that Sound Transit appears to be in.

    First, a little background:

    On June 4 Sound Transit will kick off a month-long process to hear from the public about what projects should be studied as candidates for a Sound Transit 3 ballot measure,” Constantine said …

    It is worth reading the whole thing (

    From what I can tell, they will do a little research on some projects, then present them and ask for input about the various projects. The planning process looks pretty good, really, since it will include “projected ridership, conceptual costs, potential for transit-oriented development, potential for integrating rail and bus services, and other key attributes”.

    But the key is — we need to have both the WSTT and Ballard to UW light rail on that list. Without those two projects, we are doomed to failure (look how many solid transit supporters said they would oppose ST3 with the current set of projects).

    So, I have no idea how to lobby those folks, but I think we need to. Maybe someone at Seattle Subway, or someone on this blog can put together an “action alert” proposal. I think the proposal is pretty simple, really:

    Ask the Sound Transit representative to consider UW to Ballard light rail along with a second downtown bus tunnel for ST 3 planning.

    The trickier thing is who to ask, who to write, and what other things we should include.

    1. Some thoughts on projects in Pierce County sub area:

      + diesel light rail / light commuter rail from Tacoma dome to DuPont, eliminating full Sounder service to Lakewood.

      + extend Tacoma Link to Old Tacoma via an elevated track above the BNSF main line. (Long term, this would go to the Point Ruston development and serve as a higher speed spine to the entire area north of downtown Tacoma).

    2. Is it even possible to ask them to consider something not on their list at this point? My assumption is that the board has effectively already made up their mind.

  7. Just wondering if anyone knows where I can get a copy of “The Book”, Metro’s transit operating handbook. Doesn’t have to be current. I have a .pdf of one but I would like a tangible copy if possible.

    1. M, what is a “transit operating handbook” and what does it contain?

  8. General question: as someone who will be a future resident of Seattle, but not until after the public comment process is over, yet who is still very interested in seeing ST3 done right, who on the Sound Transit board should I make a point to contact?

    1. Would you buy a house or condo?

      If so, just identify yourself as an out of state real estate investor.

      1. Not in the short term for sure. I’m one of those sometimes-maligned software engineer transplants. But I do know I want to live in Seattle proper and have a serious interest in how this pans out.

      2. Perfect. Call yourself a potential out of state real estate investor.

        Better yet, take a vacation to Bermuda, write your message from there, and add overseas to the term.

    2. Any of the Seattle representatives, or all of them. They are Mayor Murray and Concilmember O’Brien. King County Exec Constantine also represents you. Of the county councilmembers, McDermott is Capitol Hill, West Seattle, and part of near-South Seattle, and Phillips is northwest Seattle down to Belltown, but they presumably represent all of North King to ST. The other King County boardmembers are in suburban ST subareas.

    3. If you move here, just remember this. Sound Transit is the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority. It’s not the Seattle Transit Authority. It’s an agency designed to build transit for the whole region, not just Seattle. There are some here that are confused by that, and when ST focuses on areas in neighboring counties, ignorant Seattleites, like a petulant, spoiled child, stomp their foot, run to the STB comment section, and throw a 400+ comment tantrum over their transit agency mother not paying them enough attention.

      1. … and remember this as well: Ballard itself, within its very tiny boundaries, has half as many people as in all sprawling Federal Way. They don’t lose their importance just because they’re in the same jurisdiction as downtown Seattle.

      2. This would be true if most of the regions population and jobs were concentrated outside the city limits.

      3. Seattle and the Eastside have an interesting dynamic where a lot of jobs are on the Eastside, but the people working them have no desire to live there and instead live in the city. Half of the workers of Belltown, for instance, work on the Eastside:

        This emphasizes the importance of regional connectivity, and highlights the need for transit options in Fremont and Ballard. Fremont doesn’t even have BRT let alone rail, and a good chunk of Ballard is out of walking distance of RR D.

      4. Before, you people used to say that rail, like Jack’s magic beans, sprouted development wherever it was laid down. “Behold!” you bellowed. “Look at all the new multi-family development along MLK that Central Link spurred!” “Without East Link, there never would have been the Spring District!” But now that it’s someplace far outside of Greater Seattle, you’re changing your tune on whole rail creates development.

      5. Not really sure what your post is, but the anger was over 3 things I think, and none of what you claimed

        1) NKC subarea money will be used outside the subarea
        2) The proposed projects are stupid (Ballard-UW not even an option)
        3) They are at-grade for no reason

      6. “This would be true if most of the regions population and jobs were concentrated outside the city limits.”

        They are, or at least the population is. Seattle 652,000+. King County 2,000,000 (Seattle is 32% of that). Snohomish County 759,000. Pierce County 832,000. King+Snohomish+Pierce = 3,591,000 (Seattle is 18% of that). The county populations include areas outside the ST district, but since those aren’t urban concentrations they’re presumably few people.

  9. I think that this video can serve a very useful purpose in that it presents a direct example of a situation that would be either an automatic train/bus/taxi system or by a human transit driver.

    After a collision like this, I’m sure the driver was able to determine whether any passengers were injured (like any riders who’d been standing in the aisle before the impact), or if there were other hazard (like, possibly, a burning car). A human driver can call HQ and coordinate the response, but what would an automatic system do?

    1. Say that the driver had been knocked unconscious or otherwise incapacitated by the impact. The same questions apply.

      In either scenario there would need to be a way for the central control to monitor and respond to the situation. The’s the same as any other driverless system.

      1. Yes. Exactly.

        And if a drunk or crazy passenger starts to assault other riders,I’d think that there will have to be a real-time way for the command center to find out about the problem and make a quick and effective response.

        But I haven’t heard about how the current “self-driving” systems are handling potential problems like these.

      2. With an automated driver, I’m thinking a panic button would be necessary. But I really think until we get grade separation for ALL of Link rail… this is an academic question.

    2. SMP, best answer to your question is another question:

      How many fully automated systems of any kind, in the entire world, operate on right of way that is not completely reserved for the automated machines alone?
      Likely answer? None.

      And best answer for future: On skis across the frozen flames of Hell. Remember that any computerized system is exactly as intelligent as the dumbest thing a drunk, coked, or low-bid-contracted-out human tells it.

      With the capacity to send a mass casualty mistake worldwide before a single skilled human can lift a finger to set it straight.

      And even more important: the one thing a computer can’t do is the same thing as a professional engineer won’t do: At any given time an for every possible situation, Tell you what you SHOULD do.

      Last I checked, Vancouver Sky Train carried personnel aboard in sport jackets and ties most of whose time was spent assisting passengers, but who could also unfold the control console under the front window and drive.

      Question for automated-car fans: Inspected how often, and parts changed how often, under how good of a mechanic? Next time in heavy traffic on I-5, do a 360 degree shoulder-check and imagine being helplessly linked to the junkpile next to you.

      And how many of your companion motorists are thinking the same thing about your car?

      Just sayin’….


      1. I can confirm that Skytrain in Vancouver is completely grade separated with no crossing of any kind. There are also attendants that can drive the car manually if necessary, but there aren’t very many. Certainly well less than one per train. As to the reliability of parts, I have wondered when I’m on it.

        The important thing is that the computer knows where all the trains are, has an ability to control the trains, and that the trains can control themselves. The linear induction motors will work when only a part of the train is electrified, and trains can brake both with the motors and with friction brakes. I certainly hope that when the trains lose power that the friction brakes are automatically engaged, and that if the system loses track of one of the trains that all the other trains are stopped. I also hope that there is a tamper resistant part of the computer control system that has override power to maintain train separation. Skytrain Control is a secure facility, but even if people were to gain access, I hope that it would be difficult to program mayhem.

  10. Is it still possible to give feedback on the Bus to Link options? I thought the public comment period ended on March 31 but I keep seeing signs on so many bus stops encouraging riders to give input, no due date listed.

    1. Yes – Metro will be coming out with a single proposal (rather than two alternatives) soon, after which there will be an additional public comment period.

  11. It’s been a while since I’ve posted a map. The last time I did, I showed my ideas for new interchanges on the proposed 48S electrification in the Central District. When I uploaded those maps, someone commented that the 44 wire desperately needs some emergency turnbacks installed. I couldn’t agree more, and I have my ideas below:

    45th & Stone Way
    15th & Market

    1. I definitely agree the 44 needs these turnbacks. I remember a few times when the 44 has simply been canceled during winter snowstorms because of its inability to deal with the hill from 46th to Market. I wonder if the western one should be moved closer to the hill – maybe at 8th Ave NW? That way the 44 could at least do some kind of shuttle service on both sides of the hill.

      1. Maybe. My initial thought was to place the Market turnback just before westbound buses enter “downtown” Ballard, but your suggestion also works. Ideally, both could be used, but if I had to choose one of the two (8th or 15th), I am unsure which one is better.

      2. Great thought, nice maps, but probably not worth the millions of dollars it will cost to install these loops for a section of wire that will be rarely used.

        Remember that when the new buses go into service in the next year it will be no big deal to short turn in an emergency. Drivers will simply flip a switch on their dashboard to drop the poles, then they can use the battery pack to drive the motors as the bus turns around and then the driver can put the poles back up at their earliest convenience (probably at the next stop).

        Also considering how long it took to get the new wire installed at 3rd & Mercer… the new buses will be on the street long before these turnback loops could be built.

    2. The Stone Way turnback is a good idea, but why in the world would you have a short turn less than a mile from the end of the line? A 15th NW and Market turnback would never be used.

  12. I hope to G*d that hit hurt just enough to get some sanity into that driver’s head. Geezus, to not see a train coming?

    Get out of driving and ride a bus. The driver’s vision or judgment is not good enough to drive.

    1. Easy, Joe. Remember car could have been stolen by somebody who didn’t see the baby in the back seat. Or driver could have had a heart attack, with last move being to floor the pedal.

      No way to scold the way out of crashes like this. Grade separation really helps, though.

      But meantime, in a transit driver’s general indoctrination, we’re taught to internalize the idea that every non-transit vehicle is essentially a moving fireplug.

      Meaning that every car or truck we can see, windshield or mirrors- eyes always moving- we’re already figuring out ways to avoid hitting or getting hit by it.

      By the stats, success rate defies a universe of odds.


      1. To that Mark I would add I became an un-Driver despite my deep desire to have a Ford Mustang in the driveway – I’m an avgeek, remember – because I can’t see well enough to drive. Frankly there are just some people who should not be behind the wheel and I hope this individual, after coming to within a shread of limb & life, will quit driving voluntarily.

        For me, it was taking the family SUV up a tree. Literally. SUV was safe but I got the hint.

    2. The same driver being so obviously inattentive could just as easily be turning directly into pedestrians crossing the street with the signal with even more dire and tragic results. Wonder who carries their insurance risk. This scenario unfolds far too often all over the city with not nearly the same degree of media attention.

  13. Speaking of headlines, I recently chastised a Seattle Times article, about one of these LINK demolition derby’s for referring to it as a “Sound Transit Train”.

    While technically correct, it seemed like it wanted to deflect blame from LINK light rail to the entire ST system, or maybe make an allusion to the Sounder train.

    1. Well when you’re stupid enough to drive in front of a light rail vehicle or a Sounder train, doesn’t matter. Total fault of the car driver. Great YouTube!

      1. Great idea, Joe! Every transit instruction department in the world should make YouTube required watching! Opens a whole world of transit crashes in all possible places and situations.

        If public ever finds out about it, however, cat-owners will somehow have to get their furry movie stars aboard buses or streetcars that crash in order to get any career exposure.

        Though training your cat to spring suddenly out of your purse and wrap its claws around the driver’s face is even more against Code than having it create or have kittens in front of the on-board video camera.

        Ok, places everybody. Now take it from “MRROOOOWWWR (screeeeech) CRASH!” And…ROLL ‘EM!


  14. Does anybody take the train from kent station? Do you know when the parking is usually filled up? I might need to start taking the train for my job in seattle. I’m thinking the 7:13 train but unsure about the parking situation.

    1. Parking can nearly almost fill up. When I took the very latest trains (that was when they only had 6 trains, so the 7:57 or 8:32), I almost always had to go to the very top floor and find one of the few remaining spots. When it actually did fill up, I parked in the regular mall lot and did not get ticketed. It’s unclear what the policies are.

  15. And send the idiot driving that white car a nice big bill for all the damage s/he caused.

    For bonus points, take a page from Japanese etiquette and make him/her write a public apology letter for everyone that his/her irresponsibility delayed that day.

  16. Was at 3rd and Pike Sunday evening, my first PM trip there since the “9.5 block” strategy was implemented. I really don’t think it’s working, based on what I saw. Lotsa bloods making all sorts of noise. All of the cops in the area were busy sealing off the Westlake station entrance on Pike; I guess there had been a fight down there. Meanwhile tons of open dealing and shit-talking at the NB 3rd and Pike stop. It felt way less safe. I also think that reducing the foot traffic on that block by moving stops is going to have the opposite effective of the one intended.

    The word has gotten out about Westlake Center though. The plaza in front (the .5 block of the plan) was simply deserted.

    Maybe things will settle a bit. Anyone who’s lived here for a few years can attest that the sudden arrival of nice weather seems to make people a little nuts. Spring mania. People have come out of hibernation and have forgotten how to communicate. So let’s hope for the best downtown.

    1. Unfortunately it also appears that many of the Third and Pine non-bus-riding crowd have now migrated to the bus shelters outside the Medical-Dental building on Fifth and Olive, a stop that was preferred by many bus riders who wanted to avoid the sleaze element on Third.

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