64 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: DC’s 82 Streetcar Line”

  1. So why in the world was the Rainier Avenue Freeway Station closed for the Rock & Roll Marathon? Buses should still be able to access it from the main freeway and return to the main freeway via seldom-used ramps. The only issue I can see is if a driver mistakenly returned to the eastbound Express Lanes, but barriers should be put up like every time the Express Lanes are westbound. I was involved with a Transit Hike starting at Jimi Hendrix park in which only myself and the organizer showed up, and we waited for one more participant to walk over from International District Station.

    1. Any guesses whether Rainer Station will remain open for most of the upcoming Link construction, or whether it will be closed for several years on end?

  2. I had no idea that the transitions from underground third rail to overhead wire went so quickly that they had cars that served both types of line.

    1. Fascinating video of PCC cars from 50 years ago running overhead or third rail. So much has changed since then, so I hope they weren’t building a system for 100 years and racking up debt for 50 of that.

      1. I rode on those style of PCC cars…they were still around when I lived in Philadelphia (1985-1986). I had no need to commute on them, but took a few joyrides.

      2. Glenn, one thing past I hope I live to see become the future: a United States of America that with no effort can make tough, simple mechanisms that last forever. Not complicated, crappy real estate bets at taxpayers’ expense.

        And Mic, ask your banker which is more solid from his point of view: a PayDay consumer loan for a week, or an equipment loan for an asset that lasts for a hundred years and pays itself off in fifty? To an enterprise who will keep on borrowing and reliably repaying for a hundred more?

        Though if your bank’s loan department is “WooHoo”, knowledge that US taxpayers will bail it out makes a balance sheet an example of a past long overdue for a change. Though if replay of Crash of 2008 brings its begging a different response…direction of gravity is eternal.

        Mark Dublin

    2. The narrator refers to the “plow pit” where a worker underground changed out the underground power collectors — removing them from the outbound cars and attaching them to the inbound cars. Had to be one of the world’s worst jobs, especially during DC’s relentless summer heat. Re the speed of the changeover, I’m sure the film was edited to remove the longer pause.

      1. and one of the most dangerous. People have been electrocuted from taking a leak on third rails, or even on overhead catenary from a bridge. I can’t imagine the ‘pit’ was water proof.

      2. It couldn’t have been too slow, or they would have just had transfers.

  3. Several things to note: For the first bit of this video it appears that the streetcar does not connect to the catenary and only connects later. Interesting how much of the 82 route is exurban. The tracks really seem to be overgrown with vegetation outside of the city. I’m guessing that this video was produced in the mid ’50s but I saw at least one vehicle that appeared to be from the ’20s. Since I don’t drive any longer I’m wondering if it’s still common to see vehicles that are 30 years old on the streets.

    1. More and more common. Cars are very reliable these days and last a very long time. In the 70s it was unusual to see a car made in the 50s (I remember my grand parents DeSoto being quite notable). Now days, a 95 Honda is just another car on the road. The 80s were not a great decade for cars, but they are certainly out there (especially the Japanese ones). An 85 Corolla is generally considered just an old car — not a “classic” the way a 68 Impala (in decent condition) would be.

      1. Not as much in the snowbelt; salt damage from road salt (which is a terrible idea, but that’s another topic) tends to destroy car bodies after 20 years.

      2. Even in the rust belt older cars aren’t the uncommon sight they once were. A 20 year old car is just another car nowadays where anything older than 5 years used to be considered ‘old’ and often was rusting out at that point.

      3. Two reasons older cars keep hanging around:
        1) they no longer need emissions testing to renew their license tabs,
        2) OBD1

      1. Wow, those bus routes are circuitous. I guess anyone in D.C. who wants to travel in a straight line is expected to choose the subway.

      2. And *this* is why the “flexibility” of buses is a disadvantage. They get all these stupid little detours added to their routes.

      3. Except when they are institutionally afforded no flexibility at all, and run the exact same jawdroppingly stupid route that the equally stupid streetcar ran 80 years ago.

        But we wouldn’t want to let facts get in the way of our boisterous pronouncements, would we?

      4. That DC map is a map of a handful of different routes. They’re basically feeders, as the trunk service is the train, and most of the detours are to train stations. I don’t know enough about DC to comment on station placement, nor to judge this service pattern, but I wouldn’t condemn it on the basis of this map.

      5. The portions of the 81 and 86 lines shown on Rhode Island Ave run on the right-of-way of the streetcar line from Branchville to Beltsville, which was discontinued around 1949. Service from
        Mount Rainier to Branchville ended in 1957. Judging from the new cars at the two dealerships seen, the film was taken that year.

    2. Joseph, look up “Interurban”. From 1900 to end of the fifties, electric car lines were pretty much like what local and regional buses are today. And over decades, grass often grows in places where it didn’t use to. Like Downtown Detroit.

      DC still had streetcars in 1958, when family vacation went to Washington DC. In late ’60’s, we moved from Detroit to Glen Echo, in the Bethesda area north of DC. The streetcars were gone, but the streetcar tracks still ran river-side of MacArthur Boulevard to the Glen Echo amusement park. Also shut down.

      Anybody been out MacArthur lately? Someone told me that the boulevard had a permanent structural limitation: an aqueduct underneath it gave it a serious weight limit. Like about many things, I’m curious how much has changed.

      And more, how many things can be changed, and in what directions?


  4. Kenmore is going to have a meeting on Wednesday entitled “Don’t let high capacity transit pass by Kenmore.” I’ll be there.

    1. Kenmore is right to be worried. Kenmore is too small to qualify for a rail megaproject, and ST is increasingly uninterested in doing the small- or medium-sized infrastructure project that was an important part of Sound Move in particular.

      There is a placeholder in the draft project priority list for system access projects; check out PR-1 on page 11 of this.

      Kenmore, like every city not on the spine, should be pushing for more money behind this. And also looking to see some of it earmarked for SR 522. ST’s prejudices against buses may be too much to overcome, but they are still nominally supportive of projects that get people TO the rail stations.

      1. Dan;

        I too do not like Sound Transit’s bias against buses. Putting light rail for Paine Field in ST3 could doom the whole thing… when buses would work.

        Also light rail simply cannot go everywhere. Light rail is not meant to go everywhere. Light rail is a great mode of high density transit buses and transit oriented development feed into.

      2. I wouldn’t get our hopes too high for light rail, for ST3 at least. The outcome I’m hoping for is better bus service. If 405 BRT really happens, one of the alternatives is a trunk and branch model including a branch going out to Kenmore. If that happens, maybe we can get the branch to go further west and connect to a light rail station.

  5. So it looks like most local transit agencies are running a Sunday schedule on July 3rd in observance of independence day, and running a Saturday schedule for July 4 (which is actually the normal schedule since July 4 is on a Saturday this year). Why is that? Is it normal to observe independence day July 3rd? I don’t think most people get July 3rd off. And some people only live near bus routes that don’t run on Sunday or stop running really early on Sunday.

    1. This is an unique issue becayse the 4th US a Saturday this year. As most government workers have the weekend off already, agencies will observe the holiday on Friday or Monday if the holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday. Due to the nature of how transit is utilized and staffed, most drivers would have the 4th off anyhow because they already picked their Saturday work which is has less runs accomodating lower ridership. Running Sunday service on Friday, July 3 solves a few issues. Lower ridership, I’m sure most people who can will turn 2015’s Independance day into a 3 day weekend. It also allows more drivers to take advantage of a long holiday weekend as well . And there may be a provision in the bus driver’s contract that Sunday service can’t be run two days in a row unless a holiday is immediately after a Sunday, like July 4, 2016. Hope this helps.

      1. Sounds like this is done strictly for the convenience of the drivers and not for the bus-riding public. Not good.

      2. Wow, that’s a stupid reason if I ever heard one. So the reason they have the day off isn’t really that it’s the fourth of July, but rather it’s that they budget for X weekdays running a Sunday schedule every year, with no consideration to variation in days that holidays fall on.

        And if it’s true that the union doesn’t let them run a Sunday schedule twice in a row, then that’s stupid. Two Sundays in a row is worker abuse, apparently. It’s a darn good thing that we have these unions making sure that this doesn’t happen. It’s nice to see that these unions have good priorities :-) (that’s sarcasm).

        Meanwhile, it’s the transit riders that suffer because of this. My bus stops running 3 hours earlier on Sunday than on weekdays. And Metro isn’t advertising this change very well at all. I can guarantee you that people will pile up at bus stops expecting the weekday run. Uber, Lyft, and local taxi-cab companies have Metro to thank for this one.

      3. I can understand why you think that. But, on a regular work weekday, there are clearly defined morning and afternoon peaks with a midday lull. It doesn’t make operational sense to have weekday service out on this July 3rd. I’m sure Metro has decades of historical ridership data to justify this move. Even cities larger than Seattle, like Chicago, will run less service this July 3rd.

      4. If you are required to work on an observed holiday, and you presumably don’t want to, then you need a better union.

        As TJ states, these days have less work-day ridership, and therefore doesn’t justify the expenditure.

      5. My earlier reply was in response to Elbar. This is in response to a AlexKven. I don’t know for sure if KC Metro has that Sunday provision in its contract. I do know many transit agencies elsewhere in the country have that provision per union negotiations. You sarcastically think it’s a bad idea. But, how would you like it if Metro decided to run Sunday/Holiday service this July 3, 4, and 5? Having that provision in the contract was obviously hashed out so drivers can maintain their pay. But it also means that during any given 7 day period, Metro operates the most service possible. Sunday service, everywhere except NYC MTA, equals less service.

      6. Not all hokidays are created alike. There are ‘stay at home’ holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, when little or no service is needed. Then there are ‘go-out-and-do-stuff’ holidays such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July when in most instances having buses run on a Saturday or even a weekday schedule makes much sense.

      7. Part of the reason why parking for the Fourth of July fireworks is so bad is that everyone knows that the transit to get home after an event like that under the Sunday night schedule is laughable. For local residents who can just walk or bike, it doesn’t matter much. But for those coming from south Seattle or the Eastside, often driving and parking becomes the only reasonable option – even if it means driving and parking a mile or two away (tip: with parking close to Gas Works Park nearly impossible to find anyway, just aim for a space near I-5 and 45th St. and walk in from there – this way, when you finally do make it back to your car, you can at least get right on the freeway and not get stuck in traffic).

    2. A minor but important semantic distinction, please. The 4th of July is always *observed* on the 4th of July. When the 4th falls on a weekend, workers are usually granted a day off on Friday or Monday, in lieu of the paid holiday. Independence Day festivities are always on the 4th of July.

      1. “Observed” is the business term for a Friday or Monday that is taken off in lieu of a weekend holiday. That’s when the business is “observing” it.

  6. One thing I like about this movie is it shows how this was really a Regional (and in some sense, Heavy) system for the time. While originating in the “dense city” (and for anyone who has been to Washington DC, it is one of the most spread out, of course). all the way deep into the hinterland.

    By the way, does anyone know that this sleek train running alongside it at 9:43 is?


    1. Definitely a Baltimore and Ohio train. It’s probsbly a local of some sort as it is using older heavyweight stock from 1920s or so. Non-air conditioned stock had mostly been relegated to locals and commuters by the 1950s.

  7. Can anyone here convince me that East Main is a better station name than Surrey Downs or 112th and Main Street? Even if you don’t believe it yourself, there’s a few people at ST who think it’s a great station name. And these are some of the best and brightest people in public transit in the nation, right? So what am I missing? Convince me why East Main is the superior name.

    1. I’m sure this isn’t ST’s reason, but I like “East Main” better than these other names because it’s shorter. It would be better if they didn’t insist on putting “Station” at the end, and I’d probably chop the “East”, too.

      1. Ok. Now, why East Main? Why not just Main? Or Main Street? Or Main and 112? Or Main Street Station? Why is the word East in the station name?

  8. Can someone explain to me why they’re saying ULink extension will take 8 minutes to go from Westlake to UW Station? At 3.1 miles that’s an average of only 23.25 MPH. That’s a terrible average speed for an average station spacing of 1.55 miles. With that kind of spacing is should be up in the 28-30 MPH range.

    Wasn’t it originally supposed to be 6 minutes from Westlake to UW?

    1. ST build in excessive dwell time – Cap Hill station will not be exempt from this nonsense. Blame it, at least in part, on joint ops in the downtown tunnel.

      1. is this excessive dwell time basically schedule padding for making sure buses are clear of the next station?

    2. Does this have something to do with the buses still being in the tunnel? Will we back to 6 minutes when the buses are gone?

      1. @Chris Cee

        I know that, but there might be a delay while trains wait for buses to vacate Westlake Station.

    3. The 8 min va 6 min transit time husky stadium to west lake is because of joint ops in the tunnel. Get the buses out of there and the transit time will drop to 6 mins.

      1. How do the joint ops in the tunnel affect trains running in a section of the tunnel (Westlake to UW) that doesn’t have joint ops?

      2. @Chris Cee

        Its simple:

        The trains might arrive near Westlake station in 6 minutes, but they may have to wait a minute or two in the curve near convention place for the buses to clear out before they can actually arrive at Westlake and let people off the train.

        Its also possible that some schedule padding is being done to avoid having the average wait for bus departure cause a long delay in the tunnel before Westlake (though above average bus delays could make this less effective).

        Either way, its entirely possible that 8 minutes could move to 6 after buses are out of the tunnel. Its hard to say without asking the folks who generated the new estimates though.

      3. Or maybe they just arbitrarily decided to run part of the new $2 billion alignment super slowly for no fucking reason.

        Just as today the trains amble down the Pine Street tunnel at
        5mph for no fucking reason, even when the bays are empty and the signal is unambiguously green.

        We just spent $2 billion on an explicit service promise, one which never wavered until months before the opening date. Yes, that’s unacceptable. Yes, that demands answers (not blame-shifting).

      4. I’m pretty sure it has to do with how much air the ventilator shaft can move in a minute. Opting for the smaller diameter fans reduced the headways to 4 minutes from 2 – so there’s your extra 2 minutes. It’s not ST’s fault – just math.
        Headways will be further reduced by the width of the pedestrian bridge at Northgate Stn, because of traffic volumes of cars going under it.

      5. What is your evidence that it will be 6 minutes without joint ops, or that has absolutely nothing to do with ventilation fans. Did you actually see or hear that in an ST report or discussion? (I don’t necessarily expect chapter and verse; I often don’t remember which report I saw something in or where it is now.) But there’s a difference between saying “I think” or “I’m pretty sure that” (mic above) or “I read somewhere” (me sometimes) or having an obviously personal/industry-standard-based belief (DP) vs asserting something as 100% fact. Only an ST engineer or somebody who has read their reports would know definitively what the post-joint op time will be, and even then it’s probably an estimate because nobody knows until it’s actually tested (and then confirmed with actual passenger loads). So either you need to say where you’re getting your information from, or readers will not believe it’s that incontrovertibly true.

        To me it’s logical that travel time will improve when buses leave the tunnel, but whether it improves by 2 minutes who knows. If it does improve by exactly 2 minutes, that would confirm ST’s original time estimate, although in that case I wish ST would just say, “We’re adding 2 minutes because of bus-related delays.” My own timing of departing Westlake to departing Intl Dist (or arriving Intl Dist to arriving Westlake) is 10 minutes daytime, 2 minutes after 8pm. (Not including non-boarding stoppages which sometimes add 10-15 additional minutes of delay peak hours.) That’s a dramatic difference, and if we take the midpoint as the possible daytime travel time post-joint ops, that could decrease Westlake-SeaTac from 37 minutes to 33 minutes.

    4. Westlake to UW is not 3.1 miles. Capital Hill to UW is 3.1 miles, and Westlake to Capital Hill is another mile or so. Throw in some padding for station stops, acceleration, and deceleration, plus the 10 mph stretch just north of Westlake station, 8 minutes is what you get.

      1. asdf2, the full length of the U-Link extension is 3.15 miles. Capitol Hill to UW is less than that.

      2. The neighborhood is Capitol Hill not Capital Hill. If you’ve lived in Seattle for more than six months you should know.

      3. Wrong. Westlake to UW is 3.1 miles. If you don’t believe me, look at the literature from Sound Transit about the ULink extension (which is Westlake to UW). Every piece of literature they have on the project says that the extension is 3.1 miles.

  9. More thanks than I can put down here, Oran. Would like to talk to you about every detail. This piece sums up, more completely than I’ve ever seen, the world that made the United States of America a place to look forward to taking my part in a few years ahead. From the viewpoint of a kid thirteen years old in 1958.

    Truth to tell, many of the things I loved were already dying. But many if not most Americans expected that every passing thing would be replaced by something better. Washington DC- like vast majority of America- included terrible racism. Which people were already getting jailed or killed to change.

    I wonder, though, how many people share my curiosity about what our country would look like, including transit-wise- if the Viet Nam war had never involved us except for humanitarian relief? To me that war damaged our country worse than anything besides the Civil War.

    A combat wound our country got that could very well leave it Killed In Action.

    Mark Dublin

  10. Prop 1 report. The 71/72/73X has gone from full standing loads and danger of pass-ups to only a few people standing, or at least moved more in that direction. I’m seeing three northbound buses in 15 minutes during the 7 and 8 am hours rather than two (73, short 73, and 71; whereas before the middle run did not exist). It’s hard to say how much of this is Metro vs UW scheduling: ridership drops by half outside Fall/Winter/Spring quarters and I think it’s finals week now. The 10 reassures me with its evening/Sunday frequency. Crowding at 4th & Pike is probably less but I’ve only been there a couple times since the change. The 26/28/131/132 may have less severe delays although I wouldn’t count on punctionality yet. I haven’t seen the 8 so I don’t know how it’s doing.

  11. That trolley ran a block from my old house in College Park. Thanks for posting the video!

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