98 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: 1950s Intro to DMUs”

  1. Last night, while looking for something else, I ran into this 1993 footage of the bus tunnel:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=etT_wVuKy_I

    Interesting to note:

    1. Speed limit signs are 20 mph on the sharp curve and 30 mph elsewhere. Not the universal 15 mph that seems to be in effect today.

    2. buses pass each other in stations.

    1. Oh, and also the text says something about how Essen has a combined trolley bus and tram tunnel. So, at least one place has figured out how to do that.

    2. As long as we’re talking DSTT, if find it ironic that the bus tunnel was supposedly designed to convert to rail as a big talking point to support mass transit in Seattle. Well, it got converted with considerable time and effort ($$) and rail will prevail in a few years.
      Now, Seattle is seriously talking about the need to build a 2nd tunnel, initially for buses, but convertible for rail as the big draw.
      Hmmm, why didn’t ST just dig the 2nd tunnel from day one, and leave the DSTT for buses?
      Of course back then the DSTT had the theoretical capacity of an 11 lane freeway (remember that talking point?), in each direction. It then magically lost 50% of its capacity somehow.
      If history serves us correctly, maybe the WSTT (2nd tunnel) should be for rail only from the git-go and we should be looking at the 3rd tunnel designed for buses.

      1. Considering the large number of trolley bus routes that will never see light rail, maybe the WSTT should be trolley bus only.

        Or, go see what Essen is doing and see if it works any better.

      2. Using the existing DSTT significantly reduced the cost, and may have made the difference in getting ST1 approved. Not converting it to rail would also have been seen as a waste, since that’s what it was intended for. Also, the decision was made in the early 1990s when the population and congestion was significantly lower. Perhaps they didn’t anticipate the population explosions in the late 1990s and mid 2000s.

      3. I’m not sure about ‘significantly reducing cost’, when closing it for 2 years and re-opening Pine street is factored, never mind about being in the wrong place to serve 1st Hill because of geometry.
        Seattle has grown at 1% since 1990 (515k to 662k), so hardly an ‘explosion’ of the masses.
        As far as getting Sound Move passed, that’s anyone’s guess. Seattle voted for rail in 1989 so it was ready for something.

      4. Seattle is not “talking seriously” about another bus tunnel or another rail convertible tunnel. The only people talking about that are the metro alums who can’t accept the fact that the DSTT is going rail only. Bring up a bus or rail convertible “WSTT” with anyone with actual policy insight and all you get is an eye roll.

        No, there will be another DT transit tunnel, but buses won’t be running in it..

        I regards to Essen’s guided busway experiment, do we really need to add yet another transit tech to the local mix?

      5. @mic,

        The 28% growth you cite is still pretty significant, and don’t forget that last year Seattle had 9% of the states population, 17% of the states population increase and 32% of the states increase in housing units. So things definitely are heading Seattle’s way and we should be planning for the future by building increased transit, particularly high capacity rail transit.

      6. ST studied building a tunnel under 5th for Central Link back in 2002, but deemed it to be too expensive and risky. (Source)

      7. “I’m not sure about ‘significantly reducing cost’, when closing it for 2 years and re-opening Pine street is factored,”

        That doesn’t appear in ST tax assessments. You’re one of the ones who claims that Link is too expensive. Well, here’s a big cost-saving measure. If you look at Link’s other flaws like the lack of a Graham station and three more Capitol Hill stations, they all come down to cost, a fear that people wouldn’t have approved Link if it had a higher price tag. So instead of building exactly what we need, we cut corners. Fortunately Link wasn’t almost all surface like previous American light rails. The original proposals were surface from Mt Baker to SeaTac, along Eastlake, and by I-5 in Roosevelt. People said they didn’t want it that cheap, but they wouldn’t pony up to make it really first class, so it ended up somewhere in the middle.

      8. No, there will be another DT transit tunnel, but buses won’t be running in it…

        Yeah, why do something that would instantly cut 10 minutes off the last-downtown-mile penalty for every transit user coming from four different directions (NW, N, S, SW), when you can instead spend billions on a train that is no more grade-separated, no faster, has significantly less reach, and is wholly ineffective for the vast majority of trips?

        “actual policy insight” LOL

      9. Of all the decisions that Link has every made, failing to build another tunnel once ST1 passed is way down the list. Actually, it isn’t even on the list. I know this is really weird to some — since we aren’t doing it here — but generally speaking, most transit systems are built in order of need. Hell, most transportation systems are built in order of need. I-90 came before 520. But I digress.

        The original proposal was for light rail from the UW to SeaTac. The UW to downtown is by far the most important section in our entire system. Not only does it connect the two biggest destinations in the state, but it could have included several stations in the most populous areas (UW, Downtown, Capitol Hill/C.D.). Of course, we only got one station between the UW and Westlake (the same number as we had before with the buses — Capitol Hill just replaces Convention Center) but the idea was solid. Build the most important line first (UW to downtown) and add a little something for the suburbs (SeaTac).

        Likewise, we built the least important part of that line (if not one of the least important in the entire system) first. We build light rail out to the airport, even though everyone knew it was less important than the other sections. It was however, the safest thing to build. After previous estimates proved to be too low, folks were quite confident they could build that part close to the budgeted amount. Sure enough, they did, and politically, it was probably a wise move. But from a transportation standpoint, it has been terrible. We have a light rail line that has cost us a bunch of money, and for years it has only carried a relatively small number of people. Had they started the other direction (UW to downtown) it would have carried way more people by now.

        So, back to the tunnel, the existing tunnel (now transitioning to rail) has some limitations. So many that Jason Lu proposed a new tunnel for rail only, and the old tunnel for buses (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/05/23/new-downtown-tunnel-for-light-rail-current-one-for-buses-and-streetcars/). I don’t happen to agree that his proposal is worth it. I just don’t see it adding enough. Nor do I see a new tunnel being that much better. You might be able to get really low headways, but right now the headways can be as low as 90 seconds downtown, which is plenty low (enough to work quite well in this city, in my opinion). Then again, maybe the new tunnel would be a confident 90 seconds, instead of an unreliable 90 seconds (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/03/21/capacity-limitations-of-link/).

        It is also important to look at where the tunnel is. The tunnel right now serves the freeways primarily (if not exclusively). This means it is just fine for West Seattle, but terrible for Ballard and even the Aurora corridor (a “freeway” that isn’t included in the existing tunnel). Build a new light rail line between downtown and the UW (and beyond) and the old tunnel loses a good chunk of its customers. Likewise with East Link and Link to Tukwila . There are buses that could use the old tunnel, but they simply have a hard time getting to it. Link, as it is currently built out, is serving the suburbs — a tunnel designed to serve buses from the suburbs simply becomes redundant.

        A WSTT would be different, in that it would serve Seattle buses. It could serve north suburbs via Aurora, and it could certainly serve south end suburbs, but it would primarily be used for buses that are not very far away from the center of town. West Seattle is not that far away, and neither is Ballard or Queen Anne. From the south end it would be fairly similar (connecting to the freeway) but from the north end it would connect to city streets and Aurora. This makes it radically different than the existing tunnel. The main reason we didn’t build a new tunnel for rail is politics, with the desire (which then got screwed up) of building the most important pieces first. But building a new light rail tunnel — even from an abstract standpoint, would have been expensive, since the old tunnel would have had to have new portals for it to be as valuable to our system (now) as the WSTT.

        Two tunnels right next to each other is a waste. I’ll give you that. But the problem is mainly that the tunnels are too similar. Change the WSTT to head up the hill (to Boren and Madison, for example) and suddenly the new tunnel is dramatically different. Suddenly someone wants to be in that tunnel, not the other one.

      10. >> The only people talking about that are the metro alums who can’t accept the fact that the DSTT is going rail only.

        Bullshit. That is just bullshit and you know it. If you make an attack like that, you better be able to back it up, and I seen no evidence that you can. Do you really think Seattle Subway — an organization much maligned because they are overly enthusiastic about rail — is made up of Metro alums? Bullshit. Do you think the reporters for the Seattle Times feel the same way? Bullshit. Do you think the folks here (including me) all used to work for Metro? Again, bullshit.

        That is a ridiculous and downright snobbish claim. You can tell when someone has lost the argument when his comment contains an attacks on the people who oppose him. No sense addressing the substance of the argument, just stick with attacks on the people who make it. You comments are slimy and unsubstantiated.

      11. +1 to Ross.

        When are we going to see an outline of what Metro is going to do with all of the South King buses that currently layover at CPS if the WSCTC expansion happens?

        There is zero additional layover space for buses in the north end of downtown. In order to split RapidRide, Metro had to extend the C-Line to South Lake Union. While they are selling this as a gain for ridership and SLU mobility, it operationally was the only place they could stash a volume of coaches.

      12. I regards to Essen’s guided busway experiment, do we really need to add yet another transit tech to the local mix?

        The point is, trolley bus wire got taken out of the tunnel because supposedly there was no way to combine the trolley bus wire and light rail wire. The Essen tunnel apparently does both.

        I don’t at all propose duplicating the guided busway thing. I don’t see that solving any issues in Seattle. Figuring out if they have a better dispatching and signal system in their mixed use tunnel is of potential benefit.

      13. In order to split RapidRide, Metro had to extend the C-Line to South Lake Union. In order to bring South Lake Union service up to where its downtownish density should be and improve connections from West Seattle, Metro is splitting the C-Line. As a corollary it will also extend the D-Line to Pioneer Square, thus alleviating one of the biggest complaints about the D, since its predecessors went there.

      14. Mike Orr –

        Don’t strike through my sentence as if it is factually incorrect.

        It is correct. Under any scenario where Metro split the C/D (ostensibly for reliability of both routes), layover space does not exist for the C-Line in the north end of downtown. South Lake Union had the nearest street space available for C-Line layover.

        If they can sell it as a service improvement for SLU, fine. But that was not the driver here. It was 1) reliability and 2) layover space.

      15. And further to the C-Line layover issue, the key point in my initial comment in the note above was the lack of north end of downtown layover space.

        When CPS goes away, where will those buses layover?

        Excepting the 550, all of the routes laying over there are south end routes that were unaffected and will continue to be unaffected by LINK. There is not enough curb space, anywhere, to put those coaches.

      16. “If they can sell it as a service improvement for SLU, fine. But that was not the driver here. It was 1) reliability and 2) layover space.”

        I don’t see the difference. Layover space is always an issue for Metro. When it doesn’t have it right at a route’s terminus, it extends the route slightly and usually makes a better route. A new 13 terminal is being built that will have room for the 3 and 4, so they can get rid of their deadends and backtracking and give more service to the north side of the hill. Madison Park might get all the frequent Madison BRT runs simply because it has a better layover than 29th. SLU simultaneously needs more service and has more space than downtown, so why not extend it there? Laying over at Convention Place would have been a poor idea anyway. It was really just surplus space that Metro thought it could use for layovers because it’s there. That’s different from saying the county needs that amount of layover space at that location. The county is probably getting a lot of money for the sale of the land, and it probably consulted Metro to determine what the impact would be of losing that layover space. In any case, if it spreads more layovers out to SLU, First Hill, Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, and the International District, I don’t see the downside.

      17. @rossB @5:24,

        I don’t normally read your posts because I find them too long for the time I have available, so I almost missed your little snippet on th WSTT.

        This blog certainly is dominated by Metro alums and emps. In fact it is well known for that (at least in the last few years). That doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable, it just means you should take what is said on here with a grain of salt because of the strong pro-bus bias.

        And when I said nobody was seriously talking about another bus tunnel or rail convertible tunnel I meant nobody in the pertinent policy circles. Seattle Subway, STB, the Seattle Times, none of these are in the official policy circles.

        Why? Because the DSTT never lived up to its promise while in bus only mode. Metro was never able to figure out how to operate it at its promised capacity levels or with any sort of acceptable reliability levels.

        Don’t believe me? Witness the 11 lane myth referenced above. Metro was able to get to about half that, but with the variability inherent in operating buses stuck in traffic they could never get much better.

        So, ha, there probably will be a DSTT2 sometime in the future, but it won’t be for buses. It will be for rail.

      18. “Layover space is always an issue for Metro. When it doesn’t have it right at a route’s terminus, it extends the route slightly and usually makes a better route.”

        and

        “SLU simultaneously needs more service and has more space than downtown, so why not extend it there?”

        and

        “The county is probably getting a lot of money for the sale of the land, and it probably consulted Metro to determine what the impact would be of losing that layover space. ”

        1)Layover space has hit the boiling point for Metro. Over-reliance on articulated coaches has pushed the same quantity of coaches per hour out of many layover spaces, requiring additional space. The amount of curb-space dedicated to peak hour layovers at the north end of downtown has easily doubled in the last ten years. This has impacts on neighbors, land development (who can see your business when it is blocked from the street by a wall of buses all day long), and other uses including deliveries and commercial services.

        2) SLU questionably needs more service. We do, after all, have an underutilized streetcar, as well as a couple of very busy trunk routes that could use more frequency running through there. It would be nice to see existing service optimized, rather than just throwing huge amounts of new resources at an issue. The problem with this perspective is that everyone needs more service but funding, even after Prop 1, is still a scarce resource. Just tossing routes and around under a more more more! framework isn’t sustainable.

        Moves that will inherently cost Metro a lot more operating capital (like vacating CPS layover to stash the buses god knows where…) is not something we should be accepting without question.

        3)Word from inside Metro is that all is not well with the CPS redevelopment plan and the service impacts. It would be interesting to do a FOIA request to see how well prepared staff was for this, or if the politicians made a deal without the input.

      19. K H: You may know more about Metro than I do. I consider layover space an internal Metro issue, not something we need to worry about like stops and frequency. If Metro is being squeezed they’ll tell the county council.

        One feature of downtown is that routes from many areas go all the way through it. Belltown has lots more routes than SLU, and several of them are interlined with the south end, so its service level is more like the heart of downtown than an outer neighborhood. That allows you to get to many different areas from Belltown’s bus stops, even if not everywhere. I think SLU deserves the same. That suggests that at least one route from West Seattle is justified. It’s also why some people have suggested a Rainier-Boren-Fairview route, either replacing the 7 or supplementing it.

        The problem with the streetcar is you have to walk two blocks from 3rd Avenue and then wait for a streetcar; that’s not a seamless transfer. It also adds insult to injury that the streetcar doesn’t go very far, so you’re doing all that for a segment less than a mile. Since SLU is becoming part of downtown, it should participate in having routes from opposite sides of the city go through to it. That’s not wasting any hours; it’s just completing the downtown grid.

    3. >> buses pass each other in stations.

      Don’t they do that now? If not, I wonder when they stopped. Maybe when the ride free area went away. The ride free area had many problems (and was not good overall, in my opinion) but it allowed the buses to run quite well in the tunnel. I think it would have been a good idea to switch to a gated system once that went away. Each station is well equipped for that. So you pay the fare at the gate and just get on the bus. Buses would go back to cruising through the tunnel, but without the problem on the other end. You would need someone to allow transfers (for a surface bus to tunnel bus transfer) but that same person would prevent gate jumpers and provide a little security (which is a good thing). Overall, it would be a better system even if it would be more expensive (and I’m not convinced it would be).

      1. Rail operation killed the passing in the stations. Don’t know what the issue was, but I suspect that since you can have buses on one side and a train on the other, the center lane has to become a “de-militarized zone” to allow proper separation between modes.

      2. Portland’s transit mall has a separation between MAX and buses of several inches, but then that is a one way street.

        If the concern is oncoming buses trying to pass at the same time, it seems like there should be a way to do that with signals. You know, maybe those yellow light things called turn signals?

      3. Thanks KH, that makes sense.

        There are a lot of things that suck right now because everyone knows the situation is temporary. The buses and trains just don’t play together very well. Off board payment makes sense for everyone, for example, not just Link, but no one wants to institute a system only to replace in a few years.

  2. My 14 year old came home last week and announced that he is done riding the 8: “It’s stupid how you have wait forever and then 2 buses always come at the same time.” I tried to explain that congestion is causing the problem, but he wasn’t interested in excuses. The boycott has begun.

    1. My spouse has thrown down the gauntlet as well, but on transit in general. Her chief complaint is having to stand for 15+ minutes in order to transfer to take a very short trip out of the Central Area. Going from the 48 to something like the 43 or the 11 is an exercise in patience and I know because I’ve done it. In her summation, “they’re usually late, the transfers usually suck, and the only buses that run late go through the scariest transfer points.” When she read that the one-seater to Roosevelt is done, that was icing on the cake. Back to driving full-time for her.

      I still use Metro for my trips, including to and from work, but that’s because I’m huge, male, and a lot more stubborn about sticking with an ideal over practicality.

      1. Once you lose people like that, it is hard to get them back. I speak of personal experience. There are certain trips (to downtown or to the UW) in which I always take the bus. There are others (to the mountains) where I always drive. But there are a bunch in between where I used to take the bus, but gave up. For all I know, things are better now, and riding the bus is quite reasonable. I may try again, but I get tired of getting burned. It is exactly the problem you mention. The transfers take too long (because the buses run too infrequently) and the buses are just too unreliable. It sucks to take a bus from Fremont to the UW, then wait a half hour for the 73, even though the schedule says it should be a ten minute wait.

        I think I’ll wait for the shakedown of the routes once Link getting to the UW. I hope that will makes things a bit better (although many areas — arguably our most important areas like the ones you mentioned) will still be screwed.

      2. There are hundreds of people like that though, who tried Metro over the years and had a bad experience for various reasons. My friend has been ranting ever since the 106 was rerouted off Othello Street in 2009 and hasn’t taken transit since. We can’t base decisions on the assumption that we can never get those riders back. We have to just keep making the improvements we’re doing anyway, and eventually some of them will come back one by one. And with the way people move here, there’s a good chance that some of them have moved away since then and other people have replaced them, people who don’t have the same preconceived views about Metro.

  3. Isn’t there an old unused rail line that runs through Central Washington from Seattle to Yakima. I’d sure like to see some kind of cross-state rail service…Seattle-Yakima-TriCities-Spokane.

    Right now I think you can take Amtrak Empire Builder but have to double-back from Spokane, or do the same out of Portland.

    By the way, my sister recently visited here when she was scheduled to take an Alaskan Cruise out of BC. I advised her to take the Cascades from Seattle to Vancouver and she thoroughly enjoyed it.

    1. Unused? BNSF has the Stampede Pass line that is unused by passenger trains. It branches off the BNSF mainline at Auburn and usually carries empty grain cars back east. It would require a considerable amount of money to upgrade it to passenger standards due to lack of signals and curvy, hilly track geometry, but it does connect Seattle/Auburn with Ellensburg, Yakima and Pasco. It used to be route of Northern Pacific’s North Coast Limited (one of the premier trains between Seattle and Chicago).

      1. Every time I’ve been near the line that crosses Stampede Pass, there’s been an oil train on it. Haven’t seen a single train of covered hoppers.

    2. Yes, through Snoqualmie pass, and out to Vantage and beyond. Good luck asking the bicycles for that ‘Rails to Trails’ back too.
      I once hear the UP started digging a tunnel under 5th Ave from Union Station northward. They supposedly quit (??) somewhere around James and left it. Anyone know if that urban myth is true?

      1. mic,

        The line you are referring to is the iron horse trail, correct? That one does not go near Spokane unfortunately.

        I think John is talking about the Stampede pass line, but as GuyOnBeaconHill indicated, its not exactly abandoned.

      2. Mic,

        The line you refer to is the old Milwaukee Road line. It does not go to Vantage, it goes to Beverly.

      3. Where is the Milwaukee Road west of Snoqualmie? It looks like it goes into a massive gravel pit and is lost from there west.

      4. Glenn, are you referring to the ROW that is now the Snoqulmie Valley Trail? That heads north to Carnation and Duvall and onward toward Monroe.

        There’s also the ROW used by the NWRR museum. That goes past Snoqualmie Falls on intact trackage and I think it heads toward Preston and Issaquah. There is a trail on a railroad grade in Preston called the Lake Alice Trail.

      5. The Milwaukee Road grade started at Black River Junction, headed east through Renton more or less along Monster Road. It is a rail trail until you get to the start of the Watershed, but the grade is intact through the watershed. The trail picks up again at Cedar Falls and heads up over Snoqualmie Pass.

      6. Yeah whats the story, if any, with that sort of tunnel north out of Union Station in Seattle? The tracks crossed under Jackson Street and I recall even up until the construction just across the street to the north of Union Station there was what appeared to be concrete railing similar to those found over the King Street Station tracks? It always looked like there was what appears to a tunnel though obviously have heard nothing of it until this mention of it.

      7. That reminds me of a question I was going to ask earlier. Where did trains from Union Station used to go to?

      8. From Union Station, after WWII, there was one Portland round trip a day on the Union Pacific into SEA around 1:00 and back out to PDX around 5:30. There were also 2 round trips from Chicago on the CMStP&P (The Milwaukee Road), the Columbian Hiawatha and the Olympian Hiawatha. This is the route Nathan refers to above, via Renton, Hyak, Beverly, Othello and east through the Idaho Panhandle, central Montana and South Dakota and the Twin Cities. Amtrak’s Empire Builder uses the Milwaukee (now Canadian Pacific) route from St Paul to/from Chicago. The Columbian disappeared in the early 1950s and the Olympian was discontinued west of South Dakota in 1959. For a number of years the Olympian, at least, then reversed direction and rolled down to Tacoma after arriving Seattle from the east and vice versa. And, like the Great Northern the Milwaukee train were powered by electricity over the Cascades.
        The UP train ran through 30 April 1971, and on Amtrak Day all service was through King Street Station.

      9. The old Milwaukee road line is now closed and converted to the cedar river trail west of the cedar river watershed and the iron horse trail to the east.

      10. Glenn, that is the Snoqualmie Valley Trail that I mentioned in my reply. On the west of that large excavation, it starts up again on the other side of Tokul Road SE, crosses Tokul Creek and continues on to Duvall. The Milwaukee ran on that line, but that’s not the line others are referring to that came from Seattle. That is all on the other side of I-90. The Cedar River watershed is one of two places Seattle gets its water from. The other is the Tolt Reservoir which the SVT goes closer to.

      11. Thanks. That makes more sense.

        I had been told that the line along Lake Washington and through Bellevue was the old Milwaukee main line, and I thought that included the route to the east and thus was the Snoqualmie line as well. Obviously those were only the lines up to Bellingham.

    3. So, there was a time up until the early 1950s, that there were 9 trains a day to/from Spokane, 3 on the Great Northern (current Amtrak route), 2 on the Milwaukee, and 3 on the Northern Pacific (Seattle-Auburn-Ellendburg-Yakima-Pasco-Spokane) route. By 1959 were were down to 4 a day, which all lasted until 30 April 1971. The Empire Builder was the only survivor into the Amtrak era, save for a World’s Fair Special in 1974(?) for that little Fair in Spokane.

      1. To think that there was a time when one could see daylight under Airport Way, where those idiotic road signs are. If you look, you can see a spot near the south end of it where the columns seem to break their even spacing. This is where there was a connector track to the Northern Pacific (BNSF now) tracks. Those buildings immediately south of Union Station are where the rail concourses used to be. I think the story about the second tunnel for the UP to head north ends with the GN giving them haulage to get to Everett or something like that. I believe there are pockets of UP track up there. One story I heard was that while the Salmon Bay drawbridge was built by the GN, it was paid for by the Union Pacific in a backroom deal where the tunnel died and the UP got that haulage.

      2. I’m not sure about the Milwaukee going to Spokane. Their main line went a bit south of Spokane. There might have been a local connecting train on the UP line that runs to Spokane from Hermiston. It would have been difficult to get from Spokane further east as the UP line through Spokane then heads north to Canada.

        There was an interchange yard in what was once a town, but today is just a dot on a map, which is called Marengo:
        https://www.google.com/maps/place/Emden,+WA+99169/@47.0242234,-118.1884607,16z/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x549f1dee0fafcd31:0xd126304db7aa5686?hl=en

  4. The upcoming traffic-ocalypse that no one’s talking about: the buses are going to clog up the streets when they’re kicked out of the DSTT. Remember the ST study that showed there’s literally not enough curb space on 3rd and pike to serve all of the buses.

    We have no plan on what to do when that happens, afaik. We’re pretty hosed.

    1. Are the 71-74 still going to serve downtown after that point or will they truncate at UW station?

    2. By the time the buses are kicked from the Tunnel, most of the 70 series will no longer run downtown.

      Did the study you are referring to take that into account?

      Can you link to the study?

    3. Buses have been on the surface more than once when the tunnel was closed for renovations. Busmageddon didn’t happen. The buses will go from slow to somewhat slower. But with the DSTT having multiple 10-minute stoppages pretty much every weekday, it’s hard to see how the surface can get as bad as that. Also, there’s 2nd, 4th, and 5th Avenues if Metro needs more bus space.

      If Metro goes through with deleting the 71, 72, ad 73 as all of its U-Link alternatives have suggested, that’s 8 buses/hour fewer.

      1. Metro operated on the surface, at all hours, for two years while the tunnel was renovated, not too many years ago.

        While there may be marginally more buses passing through downtown now versus then, the following constraints (based on operational decisions by Metro) have led to more crowded zones, especially on 3rd:

        *No transit service on 1st Ave. There was quite a bit of service there in 2005-06.
        *2nd Ave Cycle Track. While protecting bicycles, the street has become an absolute parking lot during rush hour during to lane constriction. Throughput on 2nd Ave is now abysmal during rush hour.
        *Stewart Street to 5th Avenue: Closure of the section of Westlake Avenue for “SLU plaza” has reduced throughput of Stewart Street as all vehicles (including buses) now have to continue on Stewart to 5th … very little room to turn left as that is a short block to Olive Way. Please note that during tunnel renovation in the 2000s – Stewart Street from 7th to 3rd Avenues was the chokepoint of the entire system due to limited capacity and throughput. The plaza has further reduced capacity and through put.
        *Movement of local Metro routes from 2nd/4th Ave to 3rd Ave. This was to improve operations as after tunnel reopened, transit only 3rd Ave was under capacity. Move local routes there, full time, and take advantage of the transit only street. 2nd and 4th Aves see a lot less Metro service than they did a decade ago, though 2nd Ave is a parking lot now due to the cycle track so…

      2. All of about 30 minutes of the peak of the afternoon rush hour its congested but the rest of the time 2nd & 4th are completely free flowing with cars racing down at 40 mph. I’m always amazed how empty these streets are even at times you would expect a lot more traffic.

      3. “during rush hour?”

        Of course during rush hour. Off-peak there’s a lower volume of buses so it doesn’t matter.

    4. This is just FUD. The buses were all kicked out of the tunnel during rail conversion and it hardly made a difference.

      1. Depends on which time period you want to narrow down to.

        Pre-tunnel rebuild, or the two years after the tunnel reopened but before LINK started.

        Pre-tunnel rebuild: 177, 190, 194, 212, 225, 229, 256, 258, 266, 267, 301

        I don’t have some of my archived stuff accessible right now, and since there have been so many changes over the years, it’s hard for me to reconstruct a timeline from memory. Some moved out, others moved in (76, 77, 316), but for most of the routes that were there before and are still there to this day, there have been limited headway improvements in the last ten years.

      2. @Zach L,

        I don’t know which planet you’ve been on, or if you are intentionally trying to mislead, but it is categorically false that there are more buses in the tunnel today as compared to during the retro fit.

        In fact there are fewer buses today,and moving them to the surface would hardly be noticeable.

        Now there might be more people in the tunnel today, but that is because LR is becoming the workhorse that it was always expected to be, and that won’t change.

      3. Oh, you mean deleted routes. I thought you were talking about routes that were in the tunnel but are now on the surface. I think there are few if any of those.

      4. Mike Orr –

        Some routes that were in the tunnel (at one point) have been deleted, thus are no longer in the tunnel.

        Other routes have come out and continue to operate.

        Of the above list, the 177, 190, 212, and 301 have all come out of the tunnel and continued to operate. The 174 was in there for a couple of years too; its replacement, the 124, is not in the tunnel. Again, I’m just going from memory here. The 306 and 312 were also long time tunnel routes, though I cannot remember if they went back in the tunnel and came out when LINK opened, or if they never went back.

        To make it simpler, if you were to research the bus volumes in the tunnel in the two years after it was rebuilt but before LINK opened, you would find quite a few more routes operating than currently. As mentioned above that was a different assortment of routes than what was there pre-rebuild.

    5. Maybe it’s time for a few of them to move to 1st? There’s already trolley wire there.

      1. As I noted above, if all buses are tossed out of the tunnel, 1st, 2nd and 4th are going to have to return to historical levels of transit service. All three are much reduced with routes shifted to 3rd since the tunnel reopened and LINK began operating.

      2. Absolutely can not figure out why they are building dedicated lanes on 1st JUST for the streetcar and not making them shared with bus lines (smooth pavement and right side door island stops). By being streetcar-only they are not using these precious transit lanes as efficiently as possible (only 7.5 minutes streetcar headways), throw a few bus lines on them to keep them in use (and reduce the headways) because 1) buses will need the precious capacity through downtown and 2) having empty transit lanes while cars are clogging up the standard travel lanes isn’t going to go over well. If you have transit lanes (which we absolutely should)… use them as much as possible!!

      3. They will be shared with buses if I remember right.

        Of course the CCC is unfunded, so who knows when it might happen.

      4. I hope it changed. Last I heard from an open house at Pike Place Market the CCC was going to be center running with shared center/left side island platforms in the median and if I recall cobblestones as track pavers.

    6. Parking on the avenues and cross streets can be removed, automobile lanes can be removed from 2nd and 4th – as long as we stop with the “Priamcy of the Automobile” nonsense, it’ll work.

  5. Glenn, thanks for both references, Diesel Multiple Unit and DSTT. Northeast of Detroit, the New York Central ran a Buddcar between Detroit and Mackinaw City- all the way up the Michigan’s lower Peninsula.

    In my college years, the Budd car would come through Rochester once a day in each direction.
    ’50’s era passenger car. Baggage door. In those days, a train like that often carried farm supplies and products.I always associated. This one carried a lot of hunters.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budd_Rail_Diesel_Car. First picture. Wonderful car.

    Essen interesting. Does anybody know if the joint use subway is still running? Two big differences from ours. Buses run on platforms along each rail. And a lever with a roller on the end connects the steering mechanism with a flat vertical panel.

    We thought about similar guidance- but decided, correctly I think, that the complexity of the steering mechanism wasn’t worth the expense. We did some interesting testing. Every day for a week, I think, a fleet of about a dozen 2000-series MAN diesel artics convoyed down to the speedway near Auburn to run Tunnel and staging lanes simulated by orange cones.

    2000’s adjusted for another simulation: Our MAN artics had engines in the front section, driving the center axle. Trailers had “steerable” rear axles. Since we knew that Tunnel fleet would have rear axle powered, we disabled the trailer steering mechanism, so the bus would “corner” same as our Tunnel fleet.

    Dispatch signals consisted of a pickup truck with a traffic light on a post in the back of a pickup truck- for drag-racing, we were told. Tunnel was definitely born with the idea of controlled dispatch in mind. Too bad Metro amputated a valuable and hugely expensive mechanism about two weeks after operations started. Worked then, would work now- like it would have for the thirty years in between.

    Wish seriously we’d rent two of those trucks for however long joint use remains, one for each DSTT portal. We might really be able to do six minute train headways. Same, incidentally, with regular passing for buses- which now doesn’t need an extra set of wires.

    Hey, Mic: get coffee early and drive I-5 from Everett any weekday morning. Same with I-90 next day. Then compare passenger throughput with the DSTT at its worst. Got to admit that for once we really were planning three decades into the future.

    Reasons for bus to joint use to rail only progression? Number one, no choice about subway through Seattle CBD. Stat. Blocks too short and arterials too few for regional-scale surface ops. And we had it on good authority that if we didn’t dig fast, building boom would for certain put a skyscraper where it would permanently block anything underground except pipes and wires.

    And number two, suburban passengers rightly refused to pay for a subway their rides couldn’t use for thirty years. I think we underestimated regional construction time by at that long. But terrain and history-wise, since Seattle inherits less surface transit right of way than a hill town in Portugal, Portland might as well be Kansas for transit-building comparison.

    Vehicle choice for future CBD tunnels depends most on routing outside of Downtown. Personally, I think by the time we’re ready to dig, all our mainline surface routes will have wires and tracks. But over same time-frame, good chance this decade’s every tower will be part of an expanded Pioneer Square. Maybe next Tunnel could have a built in Underground tour.

    Mark

    1. The title says DMU but the video only said “Diesel train”. Aren’t practically all American trains nowadays diesel? Also, the train looks like a regular passenger train, like Sounder or the Superliners, not like light rail without a wire. The “multiple” is supposed to mean that each car has its own motor rather than a locomotive up front. If Britain was using DMUs for regular passenger trains in the 1950s, why are they new here?

      1. They aren’t new here.

        The railroads here just gave up on them because each engine had to be maintained, and that cost more than ignoring the maintenance on coaches.

        Also, the last generation, the SPV, was supposedly very difficult to work on.

  6. Without using platitudes like Housing is a Right, or Diversity enriches a Community, why is it necessary for a city like Seattle to encourage affordable housing to be built within its boundaries? I thought part of the reason for Sound Transit was to connect affordable towns to less affordable employment centers.

    1. I can’t afford to live on Hunts Point. So what should the solution be to that? Is the solution that housing that I can afford be built on Hunts Point? Or is the solution for me to find somewhere else to live?

      And with that, I believe I have just won this argument.

      1. When you argue with yourself, and decide you should find somewhere else to live, I don’t think you’ll get much argument with that answer from anyone else here.

    2. Seattle’s decision to encourage affordable housing is an expression of the City’s (or at least some politicians’) values: that (yes) diversity is enriching; that people who have lived here should be able to continue to live here; that there should be space for more people to live here should they choose to, ability to pay aside. These values are not universally shared in the City, but they are the ones the City’s leadership is making attempts to pursue now.

      It may be that Hunts Point doesn’t value these same things, or if they do, they value other things more.

      But the answer to the question you are actually asking “should people be able to live wherever and however they want” depends on how we weigh ability to pay, desire to live somewhere, and equity against a nebulous concept of greater good. I imagine it’s rarely the case that someone simply can’t afford to rent or purchase a dwelling in a given place; I bet it’s more likely a person can’t afford to live in a place that has a balance of things they are willing to live with (i.e. proximity to what they consider amenities and a dwelling with enough space/bedrooms/bathrooms/appliances/parking etc.)—in which case the person is making a decision about what an acceptable combination of amenities is.

    3. Generally speaking, it is faster to get to your destination if you are closer. Since the major employment (and recreational) centers in the state are in Seattle, it makes sense to have growth inside it. This allows people to get there faster. It will always be faster to get from Northgate to downtown than it is to get from Lynnwood to downtown.

      But it isn’t just speed, but other forms of transportation. The bigger a city gets, the more people will walk to their destination. Generally speaking, this is a good thing (for everyone) and something we should encourage. So far as I can tell, there aren’t many jobs at Hunts Point, for example. But there are plenty at South Lake Union, lower Queen Anne, Fremont, the UW and an increasing number in Ballard. The more we allow nearby neighborhoods to grow, the more likely it is that people in those neighborhoods will walk to work, let alone to other activities.

      Overall, more density places less stress on resources, and results in less pollution as well as less greenhouse gases. Adjusted for income, someone in New York City harms the planet a lot less than someone in Seattle. Thus increasing density in the cities is good for everyone — whether you live in them or not.

    4. Hunt’s Point is a tiny bedroom community that wouldn’t exist without the larger cities around it. Even Bellevue and Kirkland recognize they have a responsibility to improve housing access for all the kinds of jobs in their city. People are not asking for a house in one of the richest McMansion areas; they’re asking for a place to live in a city of over 600,000, which is in no way similar to asking for a house in a mansion neighborhood. Additionally they’re making the outrageous request that their place be near frequent transit, so that they can get to work and errands without having to drive.

    5. So what would happen if Seattle didn’t work toward growing the availability of affordable housing? The truly poor could still afford to live in Seattle through Section 8. Those who could afford Seattle would still rent and buy here. And those who couldn’t afford to rent in Seattle would move to places like Tukwila and Kent, and take the train or bus into work. Just like hundreds of thousands of people do every day. It’s why we’re building a regional light rail and express bus system.

      1. Yes, now you understand. The poor would be screwed. A handful would get section 8 housing. Most wouldn’t. Most would (as you say) be forced to live in far away areas, spending a lot more money to commute or simply live, and screwing up the environment because of misguided or downright stupid policies. I think you answered you own questions.

      2. Ross, so everyone who lives outside the Seattle city limits and commutes in by public transit is screwed? Are the heads of transit agencies who commute in on Sounder screwed? No, of course they aren’t. There is nothing wrong with live in Tukwila and commuting in on Link. It’s why Link was built.

      3. Yup, and why Link is ineffective rancid shit.

        A paltry number of people in the suburbs will be able to commute this way, and the train will otherwise have no effect on even those same people’s daily lives.

        Whoops. Your decentralized transit system works as poorly as your decentralized population planning.

      4. You are delusional if you think that our light rail line will magically serve every suburban location. You are delusional if you think that overly restrictive zoning doesn’t contribute to poor people being forced to live miles away from where they would like to live.

        Without a doubt there are people who want to live in the suburbs. There are also people who want to live in inner city Detroit, or East Saint Louis, or many other depressed communities. But when an entire city (a city whose borders are quite large and is the dominant economic and social engine for the area) becomes unfordable for the middle class (let alone the working class) it isn’t good. It leads to a lot more pollution, a lot more strife and a lot more hardship, no matter what Sound Transit or Metro or any other transit agency does.

  7. OK, Glenn got me thinking about gates and the downtown tunnel. It will never happen (now) but if it was to continue as a bus tunnel (only) wouldn’t it make sense for those stations to have gated fares? This would save a tremendous amount of time (obviously) for the buses and make them a lot more reliable.

    I’m having trouble seeing how the current system saves money. Someone has to check the fare for each and every person. Right now (for buses) that person is a bus driver. So the bus driver spends time while a bus idles, to make sure the fare is paid. How is that more efficient than having a gate, with one person letting a fast flow of people on? The stumbling for change is eliminated by self pay (pay at the kiosk, put the token in the machine). Several lines of people clicking ORCA cards is much cheaper (like self pay at the grocery store). Likewise with transfers. In fact many transfers are simply eliminated — if you transfer in the tunnel, you don’t have to do anything (like a typical subway system).

    I’m sure there is a break even point. I am sure there is point where collecting the fare at the bus stop is cheaper (a fare collector at a typical bus stop would be twiddling thumbs for much of the day). But I believe we are on the other end of that spectrum by a wide margin. These stations have a constant stream of people, day and night. The bus drivers are spending huge amounts of time (and thus our money) collecting or verifying fares, while the bus is idling (which costs us money as well).

    Are we wasting money (and a lot of time) because we never figured it was worth it or because we never figured out how to make the two zone fair system work with a gate?

    This is all relevant if we build another bus tunnel. A gated system can work quite well with open BRT (or a bus system in general). If you are in a major bus station, you pay to get into the station. Otherwise, you pay the driver. Of course, that doesn’t work as well with our existing payment system for Link, but I don’t see that as an insurmountable problem. To get into a bus station — even if it adjacent to a train station — you would need to pass through gates. Definitely weird — but not that hard to understand.

    Of course, proof of payment could also work quite easily, since the sections where paying off the bus are largely contiguous (e. g. West Seattle junction to lower Queen Anne). Spot checks could be done on those sections and those sections only (because if someone gets on after that, he or she pays the driver). That’s the way RapidRide does it (I guess) so we would probably do the same. It does seem cheaper, though, to have gates (after the initial expense).

    1. Why would it be a temporary solution?

      Link is going to be there for a long time, no matter when the buses come out.

      I think the big problem with trying to do this is you can’t have easily a preprinted bus ticket, since ST and Metro buses both operate in the tunnel. You’d need some sort of cooperative fare agreement so that people can board any bus or train. It would actually be the same with ORCA: the system won’t know what the passenger is boarding.

      It’s too bad that keeping track of what agency gets what ridership is so important for revenue sharing.

    2. I meant that the idea of buses in the existing transit tunnel is temporary. Obviously the trains will always be there. But I think you are right. There are two problems with gates on the existing system:

      1) Different fare structures for Link and Metro (as you mentioned). As I mentioned, the problem is worse because both systems have fares based on distance.

      2) Link uses proof of payment. Link could use gates the entire way, but that would be more costly. I can see how Link saves money with proof of payment. There aren’t that many trains per hour, so you don’t need that many fare inspectors to greatly reduce the odds of getting away without paying. It is a lot different with a constant stream of buses (as the old bus tunnel had).

      Neither problem would necessarily apply to a new tunnel. The buses would be one single system and one fare. I think gated fares complement a regular bus fare system (where you pay the bus driver) better than proof of payment, at least if some of the stations are hugely popular (as downtown stations would be). RapidRide could do that, but their stations are not quite here nor there. The most popular ones have a lot of riders, but not enough to justify gates. Nor are the downtown stops set up well for gates. The existing bus tunnel was set up for that, but since Link was already using the tunnel by the time the Free Ride Zone ended, gates were never used for the reasons mentioned above. For some reason I thought it was the other way around (obviously I was wrong).

      1. The existing bus transfers are essentially proof of payment, other than the ones Metro uses have no date stamp.

        Print a ticket from a machine? Then you’ve just printed the equivalent of a transfer you can show the driver as proof of payment.

        I assume the Metro downtown ticket printing experimental machine acts like this?

        Except of course since Metro doesn’t date stamp its transfers those are easier to cheat with.

        The current generation of TriMet transfers looks like the thing at the top of this post:
        https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/09/25/test-downtown-ticket-machines/
        It looks almost exactly the same no matter if I buy that from a bus driver or a ticket machine.

        Start date stamping Metro transfers, just like TriMet used to do before it got the bus printers, and the transfer cheat advantage goes away. Provide an extra half hour or reduced ticket price for buying at a machine, and you’ve given the passenger an advantage of the printed tickets over paying when entering.

      2. Good point about the transfers. My guess is that Metro doesn’t care that much about the cheaters. The cheaters don’t slow down the buses, and they represent a very small portion of the potential fare revenue.

  8. Does anybody know the historical reason for the two block couplet on the 36/60 on the north end of Beacon Hill (northbound on 12th, southbound on 14th)? It seems like it would make sense to have both directions on 14th and I don’t see an obviously technical reason for why they’re not.

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