48 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Watch out for that Tram”

  1. When I said watch out for those cars in the Vision Zero post, I was accused of trolling and blaming the victim. I’ll be watching to see if the same commenters who bashed me, also bash this video.

    1. Two different things, Sam. In the Vision Zero post, you were advocating that pedestrians need to be more visible to drivers who are doing illegal or unsafe things (like blowing through a stop light or making a turn without checking blind spots). You are right that pedestrians doing dumb things, like in this video, need to be more vigilant. Notice that, in the video, every case of the tram having to avoid a collision resulted from the pedestrian being where he or she should not be, whether on restricted tram tracks–these are marked by signs and paint–or crossing against a lit signal. Also, unlike cars, the tram physically can’t swerve or make an unexpected turn and the tram makes a lot more noise than a private auto so almost all pedestrians will be aware of its presence and its only possible movements.

    2. When pandas said, “Watch out for those pandas!” in the Pandas Zero post, pandas were accused of trolling and blaming the panda. Pandas will be watching to see if the same pandas that bashed pandas also bash these pandas.

      Panda, panda panda panda!

    3. From the looks of the equipment- who makes those trainsets?-streetcars that fast are fairly new to Dublin. Year before last, I spent several weeks intensively riding street rail in Gothenburg, western Sweden.

      In Gothenburg, you can’t even call it jaywalking. People generally walk anywhere they feel like, and whenever. Especially in the hub of the city, which is interlaced by car lines.

      In the city center’s blocks most crowded with both streetcars and pedestrians, there are very few traffic signals for either. Aboard one of their new fleet- Bredas, which operating crews and passengers hate for their terrible quality- I saw a young woman pushing a baby carriage at a good clip approaching the train from the left.

      Part of a fair crowd of other pedestrians crossing the tracks in all directions as the train crossed a plaza without signals or markings. The driver didn’t even ease up speed. He just tapped the bell. The woman didn’t even look up, but simply slowed her own speed as the car rolled by.

      The senior transit supervisor I was riding with said: “We always do that, no exceptions. Trams have the right of way. People expect it.”

      Which is putting it mildly. From the their own time as baby carriage passengers, everybody in the city knows that grooved rail and catenary mean “listen for the bell.” Though steel wheels also send vibrations ahead of the train.

      This is the real safety mechanism for street rail- long, deep, widespread public experience. It’s also the trickiest for places where street rail has never existed, or in Seattle’s case, ran so far in the past that few people alive remember it at all.

      So best not to think in terms of blame- though European driving rules are hard on motorists who damage public transit by getting in front of it.

      But for pedestrian safety, more about intensive operator training, and perhaps measures like presence of uniformed transit personnel on foot in heavy pedestrian zones, speaking one on one with people who have close calls.

      And definitely, frequent intensively supervised school field trips teaching children the facts of life around streetcars. Though experience gained as a baby carriage passenger will come fastest, and last longest.

      Mark Dublin (which isn’t any more Gaelic than the name of the Irish capital itself. Very few Irishmen carry it. Dublin was a Viking trading town- a straight north-south bearing from Iceland.)

      1. Sam, Mark, excellent work as usual. Your sunday comments never fail to dissapoint! Always hilarious!

        Keep fighting that crazy with crazy!

      2. From the looks of the equipment- who makes those trainsets?

        It’s a variation of the Alstom Citadis. The earliest stock was 70% low floor, but the newest cars are 100% low floor.

        The first line wasn’t so great, and it shouldn’t be surprising I suppose that somehow Ansaldo Breda was part of that. Today, Alstom not only builds the trams but has a contract to maintain them, as well as other infrastructure maintenance.

        They run at 70 kph / 42 mph when they are in private right of way.

      3. Unfortunately the First Hill streetcar is building public experience which is the opposite of safety-supporting: the tracks have been there for a year and there is never a train on them.

        So everyone please remember to look both ways and help spread a culture of watching out for the streetcar.

  2. When I was in Dublin last year, I rode Luas quite a lot. The tram operator had to make an emergency stop–like what happened when the person in the red coat crossed onto the tracks–two times that I remember. What stood out to me is just how fast those things can come to a complete stop. Granted, the red coat incident is in the city centre so the tram is moving quite slow but somebody walked onto the crossing in Sandyford and the tram went from “pretty good clip” to zero in seconds.

    Crossing issues aside, I liked riding Luas. All of it is in its own lanes, there are TVMs and real-time boards at every station, and the trams have a lot of interior room for standing. Personally, I liked standing at the far forward of the train and being able to see through the operator’s windscreen as the tram went down the line. The Irish government is building the Luas Cross City route that will connect Luas Red and Luas Green and remove the 15-minute walk between the two. (Remind you of any other city’s streetcar/tram network?)

    1. It comes down to momentum or Mass X Velocity

      For speed laws to have any applicability, they have to take into account mass (and hence stopping distance).

      A car going a certain speed has nothing in common with a train doing the same speed, but having many times more mass.

      Maybe, for instance, a tram should be going only 10mph in a dense city.

      1. No, it comes downtown the force able to be applied to hold the object back.

        Autos are limited to stopping distance due to the flimsy material their tires are made from. It’s about four vehicle lengths for every 10 mph.

        Standard trains are limited by the melting temperature of the steel brake shoes. It winds up being about one train length at most, or vastly better than autos.

        Trams and light rail cars have (or at least should have if built since the 1920s) magnetic track brakes. Normal wheel to running surface limits no longer apply there. The limit there is how badly do you want to injure your passengers?

      2. And yet, many times I have jumped out in front of cars while trying to cross the street and in all instances they were able to stop quickly.

      3. No, John, it comes down to track brakes as Glenn mentioned. You don’t know what those are I gather from your post, but they’ve been a part of high speed streetcars since the Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC, but not Portland Community College) specifications in 1932. They are powerful bar shaped electromagnets a couple of feet long hanging supported on springs within a very strong steel box between the wheels on the power trucks which when energized snap onto the rails with significant strength.

        Their braking force completely overwhelms what can be done with shoes or regenerative brakes because one unit has roughly two linear feet of steel as wide as the track rubbing on it instead of the relatively tiny cross sections of a pair of wheels. They can send an entire car full of standees tumbling if they’re not holding on. In fact, a PCC car in full track brake mode could stop faster than an automobile of its day. It would probably not stop faster than a modern disc braked sports car, but they could throw folks around to an amazing degree.

        Back in the late ’60’s, I was on a PCC car that came out of the west portal of Sunset tunnel relatively quickly late in the evening (there’s a fairly sharp “S-bend” there) to find a slow-walking person crossing the tracks on the north side of Carl Street, ignoring or oblivious to the warning bell (it was the ’60’s in the Haight….) Yes, we were only going about ten miles per hour because of the curve, but I swear we stopped in ten feet. I hit my head on the grab bar of the seat ahead, fortunately not terribly hard. It was amazing, like the Hand of God reached down and grabbed that streetcar.

      4. How do you explain all the LINK crashes then?

        Shouldn’t they have slammed on the brakes?

      5. Just because it is a far better braking system than anything possible with rubber tires doesn’t mean it is instantaneous. Also, the operator needs time to apply the brakes, and if you look at the Link crash video from a couple of weeks ago it is clear that sometimes they are not given even enough time to hit the brakes.

        As I said above, it also depends on how much you want to injure your passengers. They limit the reaction time on the track brakes because otherwise you injure or kill people inside the train. The brake rate is set to be the maximum they regard as safe for standees.

  3. Did not find the information on the luas.ie site had to go to Wikipedia, but Luas is Irish for speed.

    1. I’ll prob happen before march – February maybe. Metro is doing their restructure in march.

  4. The Seattle times editorial on move Seattle is rather silly. “why doesn’t it fix congestion?” with of course no ideas of its own. It also laments the reductions in free car storage.

    Here’s how we fix congestion and fund transportation improvements without property taxes: congestion and per mile tolling.

    1. It holds transit up to an impossible standard and sets it up to fail. And the editorial board just assumed that four lanes is twice as good as two lanes without even looking at the counterevidence. Four lanes requires cars to change lanes to turn left or right, and it encourages them to switch lanes to pass other cars. All this lane changing slows cars down and drags down the surrounding cars, and it leads to significantly more accidents. So four lanes is not twice the capacity of two lanes at least on city streets, and the road diet proponents say that cars flow better with two lanes. The Times didn’t address that at all, and it wants the city to wave a magic wand and reduce congestion. But The Times well knows that building the road lanes to significantly improve congestion would cost huge amounts of money that The Times would not support, and would require knocking down houses to widen the roads.

      1. Also a big part of congestion has more to do with intersections than road width. Big-ass roads with lots of intersections get congested in heavy traffic just as smaller ones do. There’s no way to have a city without some congestion, including sprawling forms of city, because whether you’re packed tight or spread out wide, everyone still has to go across eachother at intersections!

    2. “The Seattle times editorial on move Seattle is rather silly. “why doesn’t it fix congestion?” with of course no ideas of its own. It also laments the reductions in free car storage.

      Here’s how we fix congestion and fund transportation improvements without property taxes:….

      This would be a WONDERFUL follow-up editorial for the Seattle Times Editorial Board:

      Explain how ADDING lanes and Parking solves the problem.

      Does Mike Lindblom have any insights as to why I haven’t seen an article or editorial promoting that solution?

    3. A weight-mile fee like Oregon’s commercial vehicles pay might be acceptable, but only with the agreement of the rest of the State; it would have to be passed by the Leg.

      Congestion tolling is out of the question because most of the congestion occurs on Federal Interstate Highways which cannot be tolled except to expand the capacity of an “Interstate facility” [typically a bridge, tunnel or lanes separated in some easily understood way from the general purpose roadway] or to replace in its entirely such a “facility”.

      It is absolute lunacy to expect Congress to make any change in that law before 2022, and then only if Democrats win a strong majority of both the House and Senate and already have the Presidency from 2020. That is not likely.

  5. East Link Rail Maintenance Yards = 25 acres. Hudson Rail Yards in NYC = 28 acres. The Hudson Yards development, which will be built over the rail yards, will have 5000 new residences, and over 17 million square feet of commercial and retail development. Sound Transit, are you paying attention?

    1. I don’t know if the East Link facility would be worth doing as a multi-level structure as there is lots of other cheap development options in that area.

      However, the vast tract of land taken up by KCM and Link south of downtown Seattle definitely seems to fall into the same category as Hudson Yards.

      Lest anyone think that Hudson Yards is quite, this is Grand Central Terminal:
      note that the actual station footprint is the building in the far left side. There are somewhere around 15 buildings above the station tracks, approaches, return loops, and everything else that is down there.

      1. Glenn,

        My wife and I stayed in the Roosevelt Hotel (the rear half) last year for six days. I did not know that we had suburban trains running 14 stories underneath us.

        But we did make a pilgrimage to GCT of course. It’s is spectacular!

    2. Yeah, density in that part of Bellevue is limited by current reality that people living there will own a lot of cars and drive them a lot, which has a lot to do with land use patterns and infrastructure that isn’t going to change dramatically within a generation… there’s less potential and more intense vehicle access requirements. To put it lightly, Bellevue ain’t Manhattan (quadruply so east of 405). Nowhere around here is.

      One apparently practical proposal at Seattle scale that at least used to have some official support is this one in Pioneer Square. The example is instructive — only without on-site parking to conflict with the intense bus access requirements is it plausible to build something like this with remotely decent street-level characteristics.

    3. Sam,

      When Bellevue fills up ST will be sitting on a gold mine. The expected time for that occurrence is the 34th of Octember in the Year of Our Lord 2867.

      1. Anandakos, your comment is just hilarious–you’re so clever!–but likely wrong. The area in question isn’t very dense right now but it’s not exactly empty. It doesn’t have to be Manhattan to be worth more to Sound Transit as housing than as a maintenance facility.

        I predict Sound Transit will move the transit facility further east and redevelop that lot in my lifetime. It might not be a goldmine, but it’s a solid investment.

    1. Definitely not good news.

      I would think one problem would be the sales tax base doesn’t seem that extensive in Island County. If people want to shop, they go to Mount Vernon or Everett, and for some things Anacortes.

      It seems like there should be some sort of federal grant money for transit that goes beyond the FTA grants if a significant portion of the local economy is tied up in a mitary facility.

      1. Thank you Glenn. Now all the pressure is on the State Legislature.

        I can assure you that I’ve had conversations with the appropriate NAS Whidbey official. Sadly the base bureaucrat isn’t going to lift a finger.

        I also know Congressman Larsen is aware of the situation and may be able to get federal help. The problem is that earmarks are now banned due to rampant abuse by others, the Island Transit Board dragging their heels before making decisions, and more.

        All on the state legislature now.

  6. John, I’m not sure what you look like, but because I value my car, there are definitely people I’d make more effort to avoid hitting than others. So for your own safety, whatever the Art Commission thinks, don’t improve anything.

    But since this is an open thread, suggestion for next week’s video:


    Cliches like “Crumbling Infrastructure” don’t quite carry the same resonance as the more accurate phrase “Falling apart because one major party is using our accumulating public damage for blackmail, and the other is too gutless to call them on it.”

    There’s an old saying: “Choose your enemies carefully, because you’ll soon come to resemble them.” In our case, the Cold War has definitely left our national hardware a mirror image of the old Soviet Union.

    However, current enemies won’t leave us a bruise or a dent on that score. For at the pay scale of the lands where it operates, ISIS is known to pay its fighters excellent wages.


  7. Interviewed on Friday for the Seattle Transit Advisory Board. Interviews continue next week, and I’m told that the candidates that will go before the City Council will be selected first week of June. Anyone else on here interviewed or will be interviewing?

  8. Community Transit is seemingly adding its routes to Google Maps. For example, at Lynnwood TC, plenty of local routes are now listed alongside the existing entries for ST Express.

    1. I should add that it’s only route numbers and their bus stops [but mostly at transit centers] in southwest Snohomish County (as of 2:00 pm Sunday). No real-time arrivals or even schedules, no lines on the map (which many transit agencies don’t provide, but Metro does), no bus stops for most places. It’s a start and hopefully it’s a full rollout.

    2. Also, if you’re wondering where Swift is, it’s listed as Community Transit Route 701 (its internal number that’s also used on OBA).

  9. Whenever bus stops are temporarily moved due to construction, etc. I wonder why Metro has not spaced them out better. For example, in Wallingford on the northbound 16 there are three stops very close together between Stone Way and Densmore. Then there are NO stops at all until Meridian and 50th, a very long stretch. At the very least, I wish the drivers would alert passengers to this.

    1. You’re right. There are two closed stop, one due to road construction and one (which will presumably be closed for a longer time, due to the construction of the new CVS A smart driver would say, at Densmore in front of the library “due to construction, our next stop is at 50th and Meridian.”

      My wife said her driver simply opened the door on the west side of Wallingford where there is no marked stop. That’s a major stop.

  10. Here I have some ideas on what can be done for the upcoming U-Link restructure.

    First, here is my idea on the modifications to the existing ETB junction at 19th & Thomas for accommodation of the “new” route 12. The switches for the 12’s turns favor the diverging route by default and the wire south of Thomas is retained for deadheads via Madison.

    Here is my second one: In the golden age of railroading, many suburban stations’ signage gave not only of the town in which the station was located, but also the mileage to the nearest major cities at both ends of the line. I think ST could do the same with the Link and Sounder stations. Here is a mock-up of this concept. (I do apologize if my mileage figures are inaccurate). It is useful for tourists and newcomers–it gives them the general direction to each station at both ends of the line and also the mileage (to see how far they’ve travelled and how far until their destination).

    1. Having highly visible signs at stations that display the next station in both directions is the standard the world over. Why Sound Transit doesn’t respect their passengers enough to display actually useful information at stations is a flashing neon sign of either ST’s ignorance or apathy, the verdict still being out which it is.

      1. I just find it ironic that here you have noveau riche urbanites, spending $54,000 per annum for pre-pre-schools designed to turn Junior into Baby Einstein, and meanwhile the kid is choking down stupid-gas that will end up with him taking a janitorial job at the local cannery and living off the money Mom and Dad socked away while their hedge fund was raiding my 401k. Was it worth it?

      2. Hey, I think the pre-pre-schools overdo it, too. But if we’re throwing around insults, I could find it ironic for someone to commute three hours a day and live miles away from everyone so his kids can have a good childhood… only to have them fail college due to severe depression and head right back to home. Good thing the suburban house’s big enough for them to stay there indefinitely.

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