148 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Metro Orange Line”

  1. While it relates to a different orange line, at least it is one closer to Seattle:

    For those who occasionally visit us down here, keep in mind MAX schedules change today to accommodate the two week test period on the Orange line. A bunch of the bus schedules will change on Sept 12 when the line actually begins service.

    1. I guess I’ll have to wait until Barbur Blvd MAX line opens in 2026 to hope for a major transit boost in SW. Until then I’ve resigned myself to 50 minute Sunday headways on the 35 when I’m staying at my father’s in Lake Oswego.

      1. The problem with anything along Barbur Blvd is that the city of Tigard officially opposes any high capacity transit of any type, by city charter.

        There was an effort to get the Portland Streetcar extended to Lake Oswego along the existing line, but the people in Dunthorpe don’t want the existing line there any more and so that turned into a very expensive proposition.

        Unfortunately, that part of the region is both heavily anti-transit in its political leanings as well as its development patterns.

    1. You put in a lot of work, Ross. Thanks very much. I wonder what the soils are like between Ballard and the U-District. Anybody know?

      I’m pretty sure that someone will raise the question about some surface running between Downtown Ballard and Phinney Hill. You could get away with it and save a lot of money.

      But by the time work will start, at current rate, population of Ballard will have grown to where cut and cover tunnel is mandatory.

      Separate line but related, and I think really welcome: if the South Lake Union line extends out Leary to Ballard, track could also branch over along the north end of Lake Union, past Gasworks Park to the U-District.

      Possible street-running to LINK station at Husky Stadium, but not a killer if it can’t.

      Any surface treatment will draw discussion of busway. Also workable, but both from today’s video and what I’ve seen overseas, in crowded pedestrian areas, people are more comfortable with streetcars.

      I think the reason is the sense that the vehicle can’t wander side-to-side at all. In places with long street rail experience- and we’re going to have to figure out how to shorten the training period- along grooved rail, when the driver taps the bell, people step aside or slacken walking pace without looking up.

      Orange Line reminded me a lot of the busway in Eugene. Same buses, I think, except that Eugene has doors on both sides for center platforms along with side ones.

      Couple important differences, though. On some stretches, Eugene buses run on concrete pads with grass growing between the pads. The Orange Line seems to run on asphalt- which means constant repaving to maintain ride quality.

      And at the pavement edge along every platform, there’s a smooth yellow stretch of hard plastic or fiberglass for the inside tires to slide along, with no threat to sidewalls or steering alignment.

      DSTT would be more comfortable to drive if we had these. And would also prevent recurring problem of driver nosing too far into the platform edge, “high-centering” the wheelchair plate mechanism.

      Good Talgo trip, too. Recommend a visit. Weekend trip could include Portland’s new Orange Line too.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Sorry it’s so lonely without comments. I stopped reading Page 2 for a few days because nothing was being posted, and now it’s after ST’s decision. I have been advocating Ballard-UW ever since DP convinced me an underground line could serve both Fremont and Ballard and still have good travel time, and all my comments to ST have put that line first.

      The WSTT is a good idea, and has some promising advantages if it can serve as “open BRT” (to Greendood, Aurora, West Seattle, and others). But my esteem doesn’t reach the level of rejecting the light rail options: I can see either one as acceptable, so I resist rejecting any until ST has done so. (And ST has pre-empted the WSTT more than rejected it; it hasn’t allowed it for consideration, but things could change next year when they start looking in more detail and reconciling it to the total budget.) The two main problems with the WSTT is (1) it would preclude center platforms, which means you have to go up and around to change directions, and (2) joint operations may slow everything down as they’re doing in the DSTT. ST had Metro have been so frustrated with joint operations that it’s unlikely they’d be willing to do it again.

      1. Thanks, Mike. The WSTT would be fairly open. The idea is to have busways or bus lanes for the areas that need it, and run with traffic in the areas that don’t. As far as your two points:

        1) Would it? Couldn’t the bus drivers do a weave and drive to the left of a center platform. You could also simply add center platforms, but not use them. If money becomes available for buses with doors on both sides, then use them. But if that is the worst part of the system (people have to walk over as they do today in most of our stations) I could live with it.

        2) Joint operations are terrible right now, but I think there are several things to consider. First, the tunnel was never designed for joint operations. It was designed to be converted from one to the other. Second, no one has spent much effort trying to get joint operations to work well. There are a number of things that could be done — right now — to make it work better, but no one has attempted them, because the situation is temporary.

        Besides, even with all the flaws of our current joint operation, I think the bus tunnel is a rousing success. It ran for a very long time as nothing but a bus tunnel, and paid for itself many times over as a result. The fact that it can now be converted to a train tunnel is just a bonus. If we had to do it over again, I’m not sure if we would do much different. If all we could afford is a bus tunnel and not much more, would we want trains running there the whole time instead? A train from Westlake to SoDo would have been great, but nowhere near as useful as the bus tunnel when it was just a bus tunnel. When it running back then, of course, it had off board payment in the tunnel.

        I also think that if you build a new bus tunnel, we could go twenty years without needing to convert it to a train tunnel. As I made clear in the article, the value added by converting to a train is not huge. A couple minutes here and there and that is it. Except for those trying to get from Ballard to Queen Anne, a new rail line wouldn’t add much value if you built the other stuff (the Ballard to UW subway, the WSTT and other busway improvements). At that point the Metro 8 subway is a lot more important than another north-south light rail line. Even a subway line connecting Lake City to Bitter lake might be more important (although it isn’t clear if it would be — a lot depends on how fast the buses go along that corridor). That being said, I do think eventually a north-south line from downtown to lower Queen Anne, upper Queen Anne, lower Fremont and upper Fremont would be great. That would be a very expensive line, but would be one of the few to reduce travel times substantially for some people (principally those in Fremont). But I think that would probably be the last thing we build, simply because it is so expensive, and doesn’t serve a huge number of people (unlike the projects I mentioned).

      2. Mike, one right of way or another, Seattle or anywhere else, no transit system will simply “work”. Even and especially one fully automated, through definitely current and future joint use operations.

        These systems have to be made to work. By a human work-force exceptionally well led, trained, motivated, and firmly included in planning and operating discussions and decisions.

        With their hands on the controls of signalling and communication necessary to keep machines of different kinds but all operated by human drivers, smoothly in motion.

        Since DSTT opened 25 years ago in two weeks, Metro Transit had the equipment and the personnel
        What it also had the was conviction that coordination efforts were a worse problem than forgetting about them ’til the Tunnel went all-rail.

        There’s no reason why buses can’t simply cross over to the left to keep right-hand doors to center platform- like they do at the Bellevue Transit Center.

        Any loss of passing would not be perceptible since buses are hardly ever allowed to pass now, regardless of how easy or important.

        If Tunnel stations were long enough, there could be pull-out-of-sevice areas at the end of each station to side-track buses pending removal.

        Maybe could buy back the tractors bought for exactly that purpose, and like so expensively much else, never used.

        Chance that new buses could be framed for pushing or towing, like railcars. But would bet that with present hybrids, most in-service DSTT breakdowns could be avoided by some more intensive driver training.

        As with every single other problem in general Tunnel operations. Doctrine ought to start with first sentence of trainers’ introductory speech:

        “Fold up your runcards before first portal. Down here, you work by signals and dispatch. As more of a team than anything in sports.

        And whatever color you bus or train is, pretend real hard you work for the same agency. ‘Different Agencies” out loud once and you’re gone for gross misconduct.”

        But: much as I’d like to see joint ops work somewhere, as I know it can work, I don’t think we’ll do it again.

        Because we had to get digging because somebody was about to get building permit that would’ve blocked us forever, we had to start service long before we could build more than one rail line.

        And all the suburbs had to help pay for it- even though they wouldn’t see a train for….what’s latest estimate for suburb one?

        From my read on the new tunnel, it’s due to carry pretty much city traffic, taking off huge non-city pressure. This doesn’t mean fewer passengers, or slower service.

        But by the time we’re ready to dig, my call is that enough of our arterials will be put to street rail that capacity itself will rule our separate buses.

        Who have to space themselves out, meaning long space of trackage not carrying anybody.

        Wouldn’t fight joint use, though, same reason refused to quit driving the 7 and the Tunnel. In something like transit, old core skills need to be kept alive.

        Mark Dublin

      3. “Couldn’t the bus drivers do a weave and drive to the left of a center platform.”

        That’s what Bellevue Transit Center has, but in a tunnel Metro seems to think it needs a breakdown lane. It would have to be in the center to allow both transit lanes to get to it, otherwise you’d need two breakdown lanes which would be four total.

      4. Ross, it’s good to keep pushing your idea. Even if ST doesn’t adopt it completely, it might move the “center” of the debate and get ST to do something at least partly better.

      5. There are ways to build center platforms for a joint-use tunnel.

        1) Run everything contraflow, as in along the left side.

        Better yet,

        2) Build both side and center platforms, to allow the Spanish solution for trains, while keeping the buses right-sided.

      6. @Brent — that makes a lot of sense. I was basically trying to get at that. Build both platforms, and you can do what you want later. Like a lot of solutions, it can be done incrementally. Half the buses can be left boarding, and half of them board on both sides. We really don’t have to worry about buying a whole new fleet of buses with doors on both sides — just wait for the old buses to wear out and then slowly switch to one can support the dual platform. I have never heard of the “Spanish Solution”, I’ll try and remember that term.

    3. It’s unfortunate that hundreds of protesters are willing to show up in kayaks to protest Shell in the arctic, but when it comes time to do something that would provide a real alternative to more oil use, The Spinefest Destiny wins over your (and everyone else’s) reason.

      1. I made that comment about Hydrogen every time I read the kayak articles.

        Support a clean energy if you don’t want dirty.

      2. I haven’t given up, which is I wrote the blog post. But I want to see what people think, and see if there is something I didn’t consider before I write my representatives. I think eventually the cost effectiveness of what I suggested should become clear to the representatives as it has to many of the people here (I’m not the only one to suggest this combination).

      3. The big problem with writing your representatives is that an awful lot of them won’t take the time to read such a detailed analysis. At least, that has been my experience with stuff here. It isn’t something that lends itself to brevity either.

        Are their any transit friendly media outlets? Say, a transportation columnist or someone at the Seaatle Weekly or some other publication that has more mass appeal than this blog?

        When the Westside MAX line was being planned, they had pretty regular articles about what was being planned. Stuff like the Federal Way Fiasco were presented, and given proper ridicule. I think having an actual media presence helped a lot compared to these days (the Oregonian is owned by some group based in New York that really doesn’t seem to have much actual interest in Oregon any more).

      4. @Glenn — I agree, that is a problem. I guess the first problem though, is getting anyone to read the post :)

        At this point, I’m less worried about the politics of it all, and more worried about whether my analysis is flawed. To the best of my knowledge, no one has done such a detailed comparison of trip to trip improvements. I believe I’ve considered all the options, and the set of projects is simply better. I wasn’t the one that came up with the idea — but at this point, I seem to be the only one who has laid out a “proof”, if you will. There are a lot of experts here and many of them will take the time to read a detailed post. If they agree with my findings, then I’ll worry about the politics later. So far, Mike has raised a couple good points, but that is it. As valid as those concerns are, I don’t think they override the main argument (and I think Mike would agree).

        If there are no logical or engineering flaws with my analysis, then I’ll focus on the next (political) step. But at this point, I don’t feel confident in doing that, because I don’t feel like that many people have actually read it.

      5. Spinefest Destiny.

        We have a winner!

        I am working on a bit of a post for an Seattle-Everett RER. I am going to look at a train profile next to see if my goals are actually achievable and use some conservation since I found a software called NotchMan Mini.

      6. RossB: I was unable to see any flaws, but there are certainly those that suffer through the 44 more often than I do.

      7. Frequent vocal commenter here d.p. was the first that I can remember using the phrase Spineifest Destiny or similar. I certainly wasn’t the first to use it.

        Imagine 100 years ago: “Who cares if Seattle streets aren’t paved yet. We must finish building a massive superhighway for all 150 registered automobiles in the state to get to Bellingham faster!”

        Or 150 years ago: “Who cares if the railroad lines don’t go to the industries yet, or haven’t reached the coal mines or the port docks. We have a great high speed freight track between a wooden shed in Auburn and an outhouse near Fife.”

        I can sort of understand why they have a dedication to The Spine. When the Westside MAX was under planning, the original plan was to only go west of Beaverton to 185th. Someone drew a line going west to Hillsboro instead, and the initial ridership figures for that improved dramatically due to two way traffic on the line, as opposed to what would happen if they terminated the line in the middle of nowhere (the 185th Avenue of 20 years ago had one farm house and a few sprawl style suburban streets where nothing had been built yet).

        However, Hillsboro is only 18 miles from downtown Portland and its downtown is an old style main street type arrangement that was originally built around two different interurban railway companies, and much of both of those remained as freight trackage around town. The downtown area is sort of an activity center for the east side, with quite a number of restaurants and the like. It isn’t quite as active as Ballard but still a fair amount of activity. Also, Hillsboro doesn’t have a freeway. Highway 26 is the closest, and it is several miles north of downtown.

        Everett is much further from Seattle, has a freeway, has the resulting freeway related sprawl, and the downtown area doesn’t seem to have been able to retain quite as many of the small town businesses that Hillsboro did, and Everett didn’t manage to retain the interurban line as a freight route through the middle of downtown. Link would have to compete with a freeway, while westside MAX between Hillsboro and Beaverton competes with no parallel road. The closest is highway 8, which is congested and filled with traffic lights.

      8. The reason for the spine dedication is Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett are the three traditionally largest cities, and they’re the main city in each county, so when you serve them you’ve served everything, or so the reasoning goes.

    4. While I support Ballard to UW over Ballard to downtown, the Expedia and Amazon stops were chosen by SDOT to get big business support. I think that’s the ballgame. My only question is how cheap we get on the bridge over the ship canal in order to pay for West Seattle light rail

      1. As I said in my post, with WSTT, getting to those stops is pretty much exactly the same. From downtown or the south end or West Seattle is the same (grade separation the whole way).

        The one exception is people trying to get from Ballard to those areas. They would be delayed (compared to a light rail solution) because light rail would have a new bridge over the ship canal. So basically, we are talking about delays that are worse when the bridge is up (which is outside of rush hour) and even then, a few minutes at worst. Meanwhile, lots of other people come out ahead with the set of plans I propose. As much as I care about the Ballard to Interbay to Queen Anne crowd, I think the number of people on the other corridors greatly outweigh them (both in number and size of improvement).

    5. Your analysis is one of the three most sensible approaches I’ve seen. (1) Ballard to West Seattle Link. (2) Ballard-downtown Link and West Seattle BRT in the same tunnel, (3) Ballard-downtown BRT and West Seattle BRT in the same tunnel (with the tunnel extending in a Y from Weller Street to Mercer Street, bypassing most of the congestion in one fell swoop). Don’t worry about technical flaws: people will mention them if there are any. We have the DSTT for comparison, and we know it works, so there’s no fatal flaw. Your tunnel will work better than the DSTT because it will be designed in a post-Link era, because we know what kind of trains it will be, and we can actually test a Link train in it before opening.

      Although now that somebody’s suggestion got me started thinking about a Bothell to Burien line through Ballard, I have to say that’s intriguing, and it would argue for the Ballard to West Seattle alternative. It reminds me of the St Petersburg Metro, which has a north-south line and a northwest-southeast line, that cross outside downtown. At downtown an east-west line goes through both of them, so it forms a triangle. Normally I don’t like false rings (three lines designed to form a closed shape, as in DC), they seem like an inferior alternative to a true ring line (as in Moscow and London). But they’re apparently useful for a variety of trips. If we had these two lines (the Red/Blue Line and Bothell-Burien Link), and the Denny Way line, then that would be a triangle. The Bothell-Burien like would “go somewhere” as Lazarus likes to say; actually several somewheres, including trips transferring to the Red/Blue Line. That makes Ballard-UW seem a little disconnected and more requiring its own maintenance yard, although of course the Denny Way line is similar. I still agree that Ballard-UW would be less expensive and have more ridership than Ballard-downtown, but I do like this vision of a north-south line and a northeast-southwest line; I can see it as really useful.

      1. A couple things. First, the post was all about Seattle. So while the focus in general may be on the spine, it is really irrelevant to the subject. I’m making the claim (so far unchallenged) that the best use of Seattle money is to build the things I suggested building.

        As far as a future Bothell-Burien line is concerned, I don’t see that many trips being improved that much, despite it costing a huge amount of money. As I said in my post, the projects I mentioned are clearly a better value than a Ballard to West Seattle subway. You are suggesting that once the latter is extended to Bothell and Burien that it somehow passes it in functionality? I don’t buy it. First off, not that many people live in Bothell or Burien (http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?useExisting=1&layers=302d4e6025ef41fa8d3525b7fc31963a). Plenty live in Lake City, but you could simply make a spur line from Northgate or NE 130th to Bothell (or simply to Lake Forest Park). Or maybe a line from Bitter Lake to Lake Forest Park. But I’m not even sure that is necessary. With more bus lanes, you could speed up that route so much that a train would only be marginally faster.

        Keep in mind that all these things cost money. A Ballard to West Seattle subway is more expensive than what I proposed. Extending it costs a bunch of money as well. For that much money, I get to add a project to the mix: A Metro 8 Subway. Can you really claim that the combination I mentioned (UW to Ballard Subway, Metro 8 Subway, WSTT and West Seattle BRT) is really as good as a Bothell to Burien Subway? I’m sorry but the number of trips and the amount by which those trips are made much faster with my set of projects are simply much bigger. I think you could probably build all those projects and add the smaller projects (like Lake City Way BRT) for a lot less money.

        A lot of has to do with simply removing the biggest pain points. Ballard to UW is a huge one right now, and thus you get huge time savings with a subway. The same is true for a bus that goes from Queen Anne to Sodo. The same is true for the Metro 8 bus. But that is not true for a bus going along 15th or 8th or Aurora from Holman road. It is reasonably fast. If you built the projects I mentioned (including a Metro 8 subway) and added some good bus improvements, I don’t think you would have very many pain points in the city. Just about every trip from one part of town to the other would be reasonably fast (faster than driving during rush hour and competitive with driving in the middle of the day). I just don’t see that with a Bothell to Burien subway, where plenty of trips (e. g. Phinney Ridge or Fremont to the UW) would be just as bad as they are now.

    1. I think the original planned start of service was spring 2014. I (maybe not so) jokingly say that U-Link will beat FHSC in service start date.

    2. A reliable source told me that they’re planning on a six-week lead between opening date announcement and opening date. So until it gets announced, don’t expect the opening date to be any sooner than n + 6 weeks, where n is the current date.

  2. Very interesting video. I think bike and transit can mix quite well, but I think bike racks are a very limited solution. They just don’t scale very well. I’m guessing those buses can carry over a hundred people, but only three bikes. On the other hand, it seems like you can keep adding bike lockers. This means that riders have to buy more than one bike, but that doesn’t seem so bad. Of course, not every station has a lot of space. I wonder how efficiently you can store bikes. I would guess that a bike cage with small areas to lock them could handle a lot.

    Then there are the foldables. If you can carry a bike on your lap, that seems like the way to go. This wouldn’t necessarily be welcome at rush hour, but not much different than carrying a suitcase on the bus.

    1. Could be main advantage of streetcars over buses. In Stuttgart, LRV’s push flatcars full of bike racks. Have suggested doing same for LINK trains- though would mean one fewer car per train.

      But maybe every fifth or tenth train could have one, with schedule space marked with bike symbols. Or kayak ones. About essentially pro-transit demonstrators blocking transit service, it’s more than time for organized labor and environmental groups to start coordinating their efforts.

      Worker-student alliances used to have some clout. And nowadays, with both groups covering up on the ropes, together they could get some fighting spirit back.


      1. The main image is actaully a link to a video. Sometimes it doesn’t show up as such.

      2. What a fantastic idea. That’s so bad-ass.

        Even a cheaper low tech solution makes a lot of sense. For really big buildings it is relatively cheap to add a lot of parking underground (which is why it is so common). At the same time, city officials hate parking garages in urban areas next to the subway station. So instead, the area is used for bike parking. I could see this being applied in various locations. Add a 12 story building with a few floors of bike parking in Capitol Hill. Do the same thing at the UW (next to the stadium). That would be great.

  3. When will King County Metro post their proposed September Service Chances? I’m wondering if they’ve finalized route 8 service enhancements, hoping for improved Sunday Service, maybe every 20 minutes? The ridership definitely warrants it, especially with Link Cap Hill opening March 2016.

    1. Don’t expect their service change details until within two weeks of the actual change. I have complained about the infuriating lack of notice about these changes, they don’t listen.

      1. Historically, new schedule information was released “The Thursday Before The Saturday Before The Saturday That Is The Shake-Up.”

        Following that pattern has been adequate notice for a generation.

        In the modern information society, does that pattern no longer cut it? It still works for me.

      2. Realistically, with unlimited space on the web, schedules should be online as soon as drivers are finished bidding. This is especially the case when routes are having frequency reduced or paths modified, since people have to make plans for employment, especially in this era of flexible scheduling.

    2. The September schedules for King County Metro are already in the OneBusAway website. Click a stop, view the schedule, and then choose a date from the calendar.

  4. The more I read about mass transit in L. A., the more I find it fascinating. I’m guessing it is the most interesting transit system in the United States. There is a huge variety of systems, and a lot of new things have happened recently. There have light rail, heavy rail, and various types of bus systems. The Orange Line (as shown in the video) has off board payment and runs in its own busway. The Silver Line does not have off board payment, and runs partially on HOT lanes. “Metro Rapid” is a bigger network of buses which have low floor boarding and signal priority but operate mostly on regular streets. Then there are the regular buses. Quite a variety.

    1. I meant to say “most interesting transit system in the United States today” (many of the bigger systems haven’t changed much recently — unlike L. A.). There are a lot of interesting political and legal fights as well.

      1. Yeah. The Orange Line needs to be light rail, is going to be light rail eventually because it’s completely overwhelming the capacity of the buses… but the whole hairy story of how the former Pacific Electric tracks had a busway put on them due to weird meddling by specific County Commissioners is quite a story.

    2. I’m in LA several times a year and I regularly use the public transit system (mostly the light rail lines). If I need a rental car, I fly into BUR or ONT; but if my business is in downtown I fly into LAX and take the FlyAway bus to Union Station and load up my TAP card. LA Metro has evolved into a very useful system.

    3. It’s the most fascinating experiment, with a huge increase in transit service at several levels, and improving the grid too. It makes me think that maybe I could live in LA. I’ve heard the part of LA with “good” transit is the size of Seattle, so that’s certainly promising. But in the outer areas it’s still spotty and infrequent or bad on weekends.

      And when I took the light rail from Long Beach, I couldn’t believe LA has this dinky thing while the Bay Area with a third the population has BART. That shows how much LA has neglected transit. But the recent innovations have been a major catch-up step, probably bigger than anywhere in the US since the 1940s. If only we could do that. Like Seattle Subway’s “ST3+4+5 Now” but also an integrated regional+local network.

      1. Mike – a bit of a nitpick, but the Bay Area CSA (which BART travels through) has over 8.5 million people, so is closer to half the size of the LA metro. The Bay Area is the fifth largest CSA in the country.

      2. BART isn’t light rail though.

        What BART does in Los Angeles is done by Metrolink or Amtrak Surfliner.

      3. L. A. is huge from a geographic standpoint. Because it has no obvious or historic center, and because it sprawls for many miles, folks from all around just call it “L. A.”. This is different than most cities. If you live in Oakland or Berkeley you say you live in Oakland or Berkeley or maybe East Bay or even the Bay Area, but you never say you live in San Fransisco. Those in New Jersey don’t say they live in New York, they live in New Jersey. But folks who live in Newport Beach still say they live in L. A.. This makes things appear worse than they really are for the city. Things may be spotty for those in the outer areas, but they are really a long ways from the heart of the city. From Clifton New Jersey to Manhattan it is about 12 miles. From Newport Beach to downtown L. A. it is 35 miles. I don’t think anyone in Clifton assumes that they should be part of a great transit system serving the rest of New York, but folks in Newport Beach want good transit to the rest of L. A., which puts tremendous pressure on the transportation system.

        For example, LAX is about 12 miles away from downtown, or roughly the distance as Clifton is to Manhattan. Like many airports, it is “way out there”, and really shouldn’t be a priority.

      4. “What BART does in Los Angeles is done by Metrolink or Amtrak Surfliner.”

        They aren’t frequent and drop off on weekends. But I’m mostly talking about areas like where the Blue Line runs through. It’s hard to believe it has enough capacity or speed for LA, especially if people switch to transit at a larger level in the future. In fact, the lack of it discourages the switch from happening.

      5. The really noteworthy thing to me is that LA funds transit capital differently than Seattle. California has a 2/3 yes vote requirement on funding. That means that all funding measures have to have a widespread multi-modal component, and that transit operations and funding issues are discussed at different board meetings. In this video, the “transportation enhancements” discussion is something that this approach to funding accommodates well.

        While MTA in LA does both fund and operate, there is a widespread understanding of the lines of division between these two concepts. MTA’s funding arm funds Santa Monica, Santa Clarity and Foothill Transit, for example.

        Perhaps a more important lesson here is that coordination is entrenched in the LA political culture because of the funding. It’s much more powerful to require an operator to demonstrate how its proposals fit within the larger multi-modal coordination to get funding than to have an operator design and build projects, then coordinate almost as a necessary afterthought.

      6. LA’s light rail can run plenty fast enough. And as for capacity, well, first they run more trains per hour, and if that’s not enough, that’s what platform lengthening is for.

        The crazy streetcar-running loop in Long Beach will have to be replaced with a proper station sooner or later.

    4. “I fly into LAX and take the FlyAway bus to Union Station”

      So they’ve just given up on the Green Line from the airport? How often does the FlyAway run and how much does it cost?

      1. It’s $8 one-way and takes about 30-45 minutes depending on traffic. It runs 24/7 with 30 minute service most of the day and drops to hourly through the night.

      2. The Green Line still doesn’t go to the airport. LA has now committed to the Crenshaw Line, which will get closer to the entrance to the airport, but it *still* won’t go to the airport. The Flyaway has ended up being very useful.

        The Flyaway is an express from the airport to Union Station, running with 24-hour service and very frequently for an express (as Oran notes)… and it runs in HOV lanes most of the way, and bus lanes some of the way, with a tiny fraction of the distance spent in mixed traffic. It’s a bit scary travelling on the 100-foot-in-the-air HOV-only overpasses from the HOV lane on one freeway to the HOV line on another freeway. The time in mixed traffic (from the end of the freeway HOV lane to the airport busway entrance, and from the end of the freeway HOV lane to the Union Station bus loop entrance) eats up something like a third of the runtime, though — it’s really impressive how much delay cars can cost.

    5. A few choice points in the video where when they acknowledged that LA is “spread out” and employment centers “decentralize”. Something which everyone has been well aware of except for transit planners, until this video.

      Then they said that people also wanted round the clock service. Yep, if you give up your car, you’d probably want something that runs after 8 or 9pm with frequency.

      Then they referred to the BRT as a “rail emulator”. Why not the real thing? Or is that the next phase…or is BRT good enough?

      1. “Rail Emulator” might just be another one of these terms selected just to annoy people and not commit oneself to exactly what something is or ins’t.

        More likely, employee who coined the term had just come out of either a revival meeting or the second Blues Brothers movie.

        “What you ridin’?
        The LA Emulator!
        Tell me what you ridin’?
        The LA Emulator!
        Tell me what you ridin?”?
        The LA Emulator ’cause the wheels got rubber ‘stead of steel!”

        Nobody can doubt that our own transit system would benefit from some ordinary foresight, let alone prophetic. It’s not just that some people’s work schedule makes it critical to know about changes in advance.

        Even more so for transit operators who also have to arrange their daily life schedules as well.

        But like passage says: “Where there is no Vision, the people perish!” Agencies, maybe or maybe not, though they do seem to smell that way.


      2. Unfortunately that is L.A.’s problem. Frequent service at night is only offered on rail lines and the Orange Line. Many routes that operate at 15 minute headways during the midday drop to hourly around 9 pm. Even the ostensibly rail-like Silver Line has 40 minute headways after 8 pm, discouraging the suburban park and rider who wants to go to the arts at the Music Center or see a game at Staples Center.

      3. I think the term is basically a marketing one. If you say “off board payment, level boarding and grade separation, providing the essential ingredients of BRT” everyone will just say “Huh?”. But by calling it a “rail emulator” you are basically saying “light rail emulator”, which in many places is a shortcut for all of that. There is no reason that “light rail” can’t be stuck in traffic, have platforms at a different height than the cars, or require payment at the front — it is just that they don’t (usually). So by the leveraging the term “rail”, they can explain it much more quickly.

      4. Actually, in the US, it’s now illegal for light rail to have platforms at a different height from the cars. Old systems are grandfathered in but only until the next time they replace their cars or redo their platforms…

  5. Good article on front page of today’s Seattle Times – Low pay, long pricey commute often go hand in hand.

    One interesting stat that was in the article. Average 3 bedroom apartment rent in the downtown Seattle area = $3960. Average 3 bedroom apartment rent in Auburn = $1190.

    1. At work, I’ve been looking at change of address information and there is a definite trend showing people moving away from central Seattle zip codes towards Auburn, Bothell, Woodinville and Kent. Zip codes like 98012/98021 (Bothell/Woodinville) and 98003 (Auburn) are receiving many new residents that used to live in Seattle zip codes. Even within Seattle there is a trend of people moving out of 98104 and 98107 to further out zip codes (98117, 98177).

      1. Studies do show that the suburbs and exurbs are gaining population at a higher rate than Seattle.

        So the typical person or family who leaves Seattle … is the main reason they leave to seek more room, to be closer to work, cheaper rents, better schools, lower crime?

      2. The information I’m looking at only tracks people who are moving from a King County address to another King/Pierce/Snohomish address. People who are moving from out-of-county to a Seattle address aren’t shown. But in the info I see, the trend is clear: when people who have previously lived in central Seattle* move, they are moving further out.

        * “central Seattle” = roughly 98107, 98104, 98105, 98144 (Ballard, U Dist, CD, Cap Hill, Beacon Hill)

      3. Sam, those charts address the period of 2000-2010. It is right around 2010 that the longstanding trend of suburban growth outpacing urban flipped. From the 2010 census to the 2014 census estimate, Seattle grew by nearly 10%. The rest of King County and Snohomish county around 6%, and Pierce County 4.6%, Kitsap 1.2%.

        Now, it’s true that the suburbs and exurbs together are adding more total people than Seattle–they’re much bigger and starting from a larger base. But that’s not what you said. You said they were gaining population at a higher rate. Am I mistaken in treating 10% as a higher rate than 6%, Sam?

      4. Actually, the trend clearly favors Seattle, by a big margin. If you look at this report: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/06/26/growth-is-centralizing-in-seattle-and-the-eastside/
        It might appear that many of the suburbs are growing only a bit slower than Seattle, and since there are more suburbs, they are growing faster in absolute numbers. But you would be wrong. I’ve done the math, and absolute growth (the number of people moving into the area) is faster in Seattle than in the suburbs. If you look at the chart (http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com//srv/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Regional_Growth_Chart_2.jpg) this isn’t obvious. Seattle is moving fastest, and the areas that are close to Seattle are the smallest cites. If you plug in the starting point, Seattle has *most* of the growth. For example, Sammamish may be growing at close the same rate as Seattle, but it has a lot fewer people. The same is true for a lot of exurban locations as well (North Bend, for example). So Seattle might add 12,000 people (2% of 600,000) while Sammamish adds 1,000 (2% of 50,000). If you look at that chart, you’ll notice that the big suburbs (like Kent, Federal Way and Renton) really aren’t growing that fast. Add it up and you can see that Seattle is where the growth is — in absolute number.

        I should write a post about this, but I’m lazy. Anyway, it would not surprise me to see some growth in the suburbs because Seattle is so expensive. A lot depends on what the city does with regards to zoning. But with employment shifting more and more to the city, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the current trends continue (most of the growth occurring in the city).

      5. “So the typical person or family who leaves Seattle … is the main reason they leave to seek more room, to be closer to work, cheaper rents, better schools, lower crime?”

        Cheaper rent. Period. *Much* cheaper rent.

        At this point, crime is equalizing from city to suburbs, and most work is still in the city, and schools are often better in the city than in the suburbs.

        Some people want more room… and those are the people who actually *should* live in the suburbs or the countryside. But most people are just “drive until you qualify”. :-(

    2. Lazarus, how much has zone-tinkering gotten Manhattan’s rental prices more in line with Newark’s?

      1. Manhattan has very restrictive zoning, along with very high demand. Manhattan zoning was the main case study for the Atlantic article written by Matthew Yglesias. He also wrote a book about the same subject called “The Rent Is Too Damn High: What To Do About It, And Why It Matters More Than You Think” (http://www.amazon.com/The-Rent-Too-Damn-High-ebook/dp/B0078XGJXO).

        No one should expect Manhattan rents to ever be the same as Newark’s. But if the zoning is liberalized, then you could expect the difference to not be as big as it is now.

      2. Lower Manhattan rental prices might not be the same as Newark’s, but they are about the same as Hoboken and many parts of Brooklyn by the East River.

      3. Most of New Jersey has restrictive zoning too.

        The problem with zoning in Manhattan is actually not so much with the ‘tourist areas’ of Midtown and Downtown, which are built about as tall as is practical. But uptown Manhattan has used zoning to prevent new, taller buildings which would be built almost immediately without the zoning — and the same is true of a bunch of the other less famous areas of Manhattan.

    3. “Average 3 bedroom apartment rent in the downtown Seattle area = $3960. Average 3 bedroom apartment rent in Auburn = $1190.”

      A 3-bedroom market barely exists in Seattle because there are so few of them. That skews the numbers to absurd levels that nobody would think of renting except a few millionaires. So it’s not like a family is shopping and choosing between apartments in Seattle, Renton, Tukwila, or Auburn because 3 BR apartments don’t exist in Seattle at a normal price point ($1100-1500). King County house prices at at a similar state, where there are so extremely few on the market that it pushes up prices significantly, but it’s worse for Seattle 3 BR apartments because there were so few of them to begin with.

    4. So let’s start with why people are living in Auburn and working in Seattle. The myth is that they’re all pin-striked bankers and lawyers wtih six-figure salaries nevertheless demanding subsidized Sounder and free P&Rs. The reality is people living everywhere and working everywhere, and many of them don’t have a choice. We’ve seen that they can’t afford apartments in Seattle. So what’s the selection of jobs available in a 10-mile radius of some location in Auburn or Renton? There’s a smallish number, mostly in the industrial sectors. If your skills don’t match those or there’s no openings, you have to look eleswhere. The most jobs and widest variety of jobs are in central Seattle and Bellevue, stretched to include the U-District, West Seattle,and Redmond. So that’s where people commute to. That would be fine if there were large amounts of affordable housing next to Sounder stations, STEX stops, the 101 and F etc, but there aren’t. So you have to take an infrequent bus to a trunk stop, and that adds 30-60 minutes to a round trip. And if it’s at night, forget it because the closest night owl is on Pacific Highway, 6+ miles away.

      Actually, I bet these people could find somewhat closer options on Renton MLK, Southcenter Blvd, Benson Road, etc. But those would be apartments, and it doesn’t seem to say whether this Fairwood location is an apartment or a house. I don’t think Fairwood has many apartments. And that only works for a couple dozen people looking for a closer-in place with more bus service; it doesn’t scale to the tens of thousands of people who need it.

    5. From Sam: “Just because my data is outdated and incorrect, doesn’t make it any less valid.

      Just wow… NIMBY honesty at work!

      1. No one has accused Sam of lacking a sense of humor. That statement cracked me up (I’ll try and remember it sometime when I’m on the losing end of an argument).

      2. It’s impossible to tell whether Sam is a NIMBY or he just likes taking the opposite side from whatever the prevailing opinion is. That’s the difference between an opinionated person and a troll. Some of the things he says are just unbelievable (like that everyone on social programs are a cheat and it’s an easy life–can he really believe that?), and some contradict others. So there’s no consistent opinion, and that raises the question of whether we have any idea what he really believes.

  6. Stupid question I should probably no the answer to:

    Let’s say STIII goes up next year and is voted down. Obviously that means no more link expansions beyond what STII can afford. But what of STEX? How many more years of funding does STII provide for it? Indefinite at current levels, or is there an end date? (Ditto Sounder.)

    1. It’s permanent. If no more capital projects are approved, the ST 1 & 2 taxes will be rolled back to operations/maintenance levels, which is about 1/10th of what they are now, as the bonds are gradually paid off. That’s voluntary on ST’s part: it could keep the tax levels up to buy more small things without a vote but it has promised not to.

  7. I was about a week ago that three tourists trying to enter the Link tunnel at 3rd and Pine Monday night were surrounded by a mob and beaten and robbed, cut with a bottle, and burnt with a cigarette. Others, when they saw the robbery and beating from across the street, even rushed over to help with the beating and robbery.

    But we have to cut the police from slack for not having a presence in that area, because 3rd and Pine isn’t typically known for having criminal activity.

  8. Excellent video about the Orange Line. Air-conditioned buses! What a concept! Los Angeles is way, way ahead of the pack. Just look how quickly (relatively speaking) it took to build the Gold Line extension to East L.A. and the Expo Line to Culver City, and for the crowds to fill those speedily-running trains.

    Does anyone know what the brown gooey substance is that people use to write their names, or whatever message they write, at bus stops around the city? I’ve also seen it on sidewalks in the U District. It looks like dog excrement. It is disgusting, whatever it is, and I’m thankful not to have stepped in it (not yet, anyway).

    1. Michelangelo, every comparison between transit-building speed in Seattle and other places, especially flat ones like Los Angeles, has to take into account narrow corridors, short downtown blocks, steep terrain, and hardly any inherited streetcar or freight spur right of way.

      Little-known, though very important: we build the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel stations an all, in three years. With the first year entirely given to relocating utilities.

      We also seem to be making real progress tunneling north through the University District.

      All this after about forty years of planning and argument- but big civil engineering projects often go like that. My own “take” on transit-building timing is that for a few decades, there are enough people to get in each other’s way, starting aggravated discontent.

      However, serious digging and bridging start happening a lot faster when, simultaneously, enough people move in to pay the taxes to build a heavily grade-separated system.

      Greatly assisted by the fact that absolutely nothing can move, precisely because everybody needs a car and there’s no public transit. Fact that I-5 combines a linear parking lot + wrecking yard every single rush hour of the week should finally “do the trick.”

      Sam, you’re right about the attack. Ugly incident, makes CBD – and our most important transit station, look intolerably bad. Though one question: how close was nearest police officer, and how long did response take?

      From what I’ve seen, there’s usually serious policing of that particular area.

      Hard “chicken and egg” problem: based on other neighborhoods, streets will get safer when more people move in there permanently to live and work.

      Columbia City has a much nicer cafe than when I last drove a 4000-series trolleybus through there on the Route 7. With similar surroundings.

      But unfortunately, though possibly answering to a Higher justice, the people with the kind of life problems, every one stemming from endemic 40-year loss of industrial work, aren’t rehabilitated.

      Just relocated. Into same suburbs being repopulated from the other direction- former loggers an sawmill workers now re-employed making meth.

      ‘Nother thing to be scared of, Sam: old French habit of sending the poor to the suburbs gives ISIS a lot of recruits. Though in general, everything about gentrification rings more elegant in other languages than ours.

      Meantime, truly great thing about our country is that, transit or poverty, when things get bad enough we the people can always fix it. Without orders.


      1. Inherited corridors is correct in this case.

        The last of the Pacific Electric trains ran around 1963, and some of the lines remained as freight operations well after that.

        Seattle ended all operations by 1941, with only one short branch or two surviving past 1970 for freight use.

      2. Glenn –

        Nothing from the Seattle streetcar system survived past 1941, even as a freight corridor.

        Any in city freight (for instance, the line that is now the Burke Gilman Trail) was always a heavy rail corridor.

      3. I was under the impression that some of the industrial track in SoDo had been a part of the Puget Sound Electric Railway interurban lines, but was sold off to the larger companies when they divested their holdings.

    2. Air conditioning uses a significant amount of fuel. Just open the windows. This isn’t LA.

  9. A couple of thoughts being I now cover transit for the Whidbey Daily… and possibly a future transit blog and as such am beginning to be engaged in continuing education.

    First, everybody aware as per https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pg2kE5m4exk that Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking About Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives by Jarrett Walker is up? I sure hope folks listen to the 75 minute talk – some important points there like the importance of frequency, transit tourism is good – but not if folks fixate on a the transit technology they experienced, and so on.

    Second, I’m attempting to make a public list on Amazon.com of transit books. I have to warn you they’re expensive as most are textbooks. Some are also on Scribd for free or the Scribd monthly subscription fee. But I think those of us who talk & write about transit need to acquire our own base of knowledge. We have one transit agency still in trouble, two transit agencies seeking a tax increase and of course we have transit planning items coming up on a regular basis.

    There you go.

    1. Good idea about the reference shelf. Human Transit would be on top. My other recommendations, mostly on land use, are:

      * Walkable City, by Jeff Speck. About how the pedestrian experience is paramount, everybody walks at least some distance, and if you get walkability right everything else will more easily follow.

      * Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities, by Witold Rybczynski. Traces the history of urban planning. Puts Jane Jacob and Robert Moses into context. Explains the difference between the Garden City (small suburbs), City Beautiful (aesthetics), Radiant City (towers in the park), and Broadacre City (ruralfied cities, which became the model for exurbs).

      * The Option of Urbanism, by Christopher Leinberger. Traces the growth of American suburbs and lays out the growth of the urban alternative. Good comparisons, such as “Back to the Future” (town center 1950s vs 1980s). This book is what made me realize that “Leave It to Beaver/Bewitched” suburbanism was not how most people lived in the 50s/60s but what they dreamed of. It was only in the 70s that that the majority lived in low-density suburbs, and Generation X was the first generation to grow up in it. He also discusses the rise of the investor real-estate market, and how it can tolerate only 19 building types at any one time.

      Leinberger’s book also says that 33% of Americans prefer walkable urbanism, 33% prefer driveable suburbanism, and 33% could go either way; but our housing stock is 80% driveable suburbanism. That’s where the conflict is: the 13% who are living in low density against their will, and the 33% who’d be willing to live in medium/high density but don’t have that option available (either at all or at an affordable price). (This was in 2000 so the percentages are slightly better now, but there’s still a long way to go.)

      * City: Urbanism and its End, by Douglas W Ray (I’m not sure if this is the right book). Shows how a large part of the growth of suburbs and the neglect of inner-city areas was caused by racist federal policies that favored greenfield development for whites. It focuses particularly on the rise and fall and evolution of New Haven, Connecticut.

      * Sprawl: a Compact History, by Robert Bruegmann. A pro-sprawl perspective. Worth reading by urbanists.

      * Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, by Benjamin Ross. Traces the history of zoning and private covenants. It was also racist and classist, and based on conspicuous consumption. He says other things too but that’s the unique content.

      * The High Cost of Free Parking, by Donald Shoup. City codes require more parking than is ever used, by taking an exurban Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving and applying it to urban areas like Northgate and Crossroads, as if they need that many parking spaces or can’t make a special arrangement for the highest-demand days of the year. And the free aspect of parking distorts retail prices and people’s support for transit. Each car requires 2.5 parking spaces: home (dedicated), work (dedicated), and supermarket (shared). That much parking and roads takes up half a city’s land. When near-1:1 parking minimums are applied to downtown Los Angeles and the rest of the city, it spreads out the destinations and makes them harder to walk to than in New York or Chicago.

    2. You may want to make two or more lists, one on transit itself and one on land use. Otherwise there will be so many books mixed together it’ll be hard for people to find the topics they’re looking for.

  10. So I’ve been signed up for Metro email alerts for a long time. Recently (within the last month or two), I’ve started getting about 1 to 3 emails a week stating that one of the Ballard Expresses (15, 17 or 18) has been cancelled, usually one that leaves Jackson St around 5 PM.

    Now the question I have: have there all of a sudden been a bunch of Ballard bound expresses had a rash of problems in the past month or is this a new alert feature that Metro has been using?

    1. Such notices have started to appear for Northeast Seattle also, for the 64, 76, or 26x. Usually first or last run of the day.

    1. +1

      We need an open thread every three days or so. Otherwise you want to say or ask something and the last open thread is so old you’re afraid it won’t get read, and you don’t know how many days until the next one, and by the time the next one comes around you’ve forgotten what you were going to say.

    2. We’re bringing them back this week, with Martin taking them over from me now that I’m doing more reporting.

  11. When ST3 fails, will we see a seattle only initiative for Seattle Subways WSTT ? Seems like the best outcome at this point….

    1. If ST3 fails, I expect there will be a different ST3 a couple years after that. If there isn’t or it also fails, I expect the calls to Olympia to allow Seattle to fund its own alternative will be deafening, and that may convince the legislature to act. Right now Seattle has a ceiling on its property taxes that it’s close to, and sales taxes are regressive and may also have a ceiling. Also, Seattle’s smaller tax base would be less attractive to bondholders and require higher interest rates, at least according to an ST rep who spoke at an STB meetup, so that would prevent Seattle from funding a full-sized light rail line or more on its own.

      1. I think the main limitation is the legal one — how much we are allowed to tax ourselves by state law. I don’t buy the bond limitation. If I’m not mistaken, Seattle has a higher bond rating than Pierce or Snohomish County. So including them in the mix probably hurts us when it comes to issuing bonds.

  12. It’s a clever and insightful idea to not name BRT systems after major highways like LA has done. The Orange Line sells much better than naming this the SP San Fernando Branch BRT or the 101 BRT (the freeway that runs near this corridor on the south). Naming a transit line after another mode, particularly a freeway,is not very strategic.

    It makes me wonder if we should restructure and rebrand our 520 stations into the “Orange Line”. Even now we are naming a bus station system proposals after roadways (I-405, 522). Should we be calling these proposals the Burgundy Line and the Silver Line instead?

    Maybe the ST3 BRT concepts need colors for corridors rather than mere highway names to get better political traction, as well as reframe the proposal as a transit corridor and not a retrofitted highway corridor that happens to have transit on it!

    1. The 520 stations are throwaway; only Montlake is within walking distance of any destinations and perpendicular bus routes. Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point are just ridiculous: they’re about the lowest-density areas on the Eastside and 100% single-family houses, and the people who live there don’t use them much. Meanwhile there are no stations at higher-volume areas like Bellevue Way, 108th, 405, or Overlake Village. If you called that a color BRT line you’d be laughed out of North America. The reason those three stations are there is basically that the first phase of 520 ended at Bellevue Way or 405 (I forget which), and the later phases did not have stations (and that area was more of a greenfield then).

      1. You could call it SR-520 Rapid and have a dedicated freeway bus on it for marketing purposes. Then have other buses on it as an overlay. This is what San Diego does for the I-15 corridor. http://www.rapidmts.com/maps Line 235 is the base, all day service, while other buses make fewer stops (280/290) and 237 is a branch to UC San Diego that operates most of the day.

      2. As a Student at UC San Diego I can say the 237 is an embarrassment that doesn’t run midday, particularly late or weekends.


        The 235 is better but its lack of smooth integration with the freeway makes me miss Sound Transit built flyer stations and the 30 minute frequency is awful.

        The best Rapid route is the 215 which is neutered because of local business opposition to bus lanes, but at least has a frequency of 15 minutes or better all the time, has some dedicated lane sections and even runs later than some of the light rail lines.

        I’ve heard good things about the Rapid Expresses but have a grudge against them based on them being one of the two groups of buses I can’t use with my UCSD UPass. Also they are dedicated peak only routes. That don’t really factor into frequent transit service.

    2. By the way, now that Overlake Transit Center is going to be renamed the Redmond Technology Center Station, can we start calling Overlake Village Overlake again without confusion?

  13. Hello. It’s been a while since I posted art. Here I have an idea for the future of Link light rail.

    As some of you may know, currently Link has that ubiquitous two-minute arrival announcement (“The next train northbound is arriving in 2 minutes”). However, as Link expands toward Snohomish County and the Eastside, this system becomes obsolete, especially in the southbound direction where the red line (Lynwood to Federal Way) and blue line (Lynwood to Redmond) overlap north of IDS. Thus it is necessary to provide true real-time arrival information.

    Here is my solution. As you can see, it is modeled off the system RapidRide uses. However, it uses RGB (Red, Green & Blue) LED’s so that the text can be color-coded to match the color of the line a train corresponds to (red for Federal Way, blue for the Eastside). At stations served by only one line, and also the northbound platforms at all stations from IDS northward, conventional amber LED’s are used instead.

    Reading the signs is pretty straightforward–the numbers in the first column, marked “train,” correspond to the numbers displayed at the bottom of the windshield of the first car in every Link train, while the “destination” column gives the terminal station for that particular train, and the “time” column gives the ETA of the train. Unlike RapidRide’s RTA signs, which are organized in numerical order by route number, these Link RTA signs are in chronological order by arrival time.

    Incidentally you will notice that the last line on this image is shown in white. This represents a morning rush-hour train from Lynwood that terminates downtown (in this case, at IDS) and does not continue past IDS to either Federal Way or Redmond. Since the train terminates before the red and blue lines diverge, there is no need to give the text for the arrival of this train a specific color.

    1. It’s an interesting idea. The trick will be getting BNSF and UPRR to agree to it at a price that isn’t extortion.

      Are there rail-served businesses in the Kent valley that have lead tracks from the BNSF ROW? Would those need to be switched over to the UP ROW?

      1. A fair price for the existing infrastructure and real estate of BNSF right-of-way, in addition to the litany of improvements made to better freight operations in the area, is what we should be negotiating for. While it is easy to be cynical when it comes to property rights and major change, the plan does represent a system that benefits everyone in the short and long term, and I think it would be a compelling future for BNSF to consider.

        As for businesses served by the rail line, yes, there are a few. Those businesses, however, can be outright bought. The cost of that compared to, say, new infrastructure to connect them to the freight corridor, or the enormous opportunity cost of not making public the BNSF line, is not worth worrying over.

      2. Switching freight to a triple-tracked ex-UP line wouldn’t be sufficient to get a complete passenger-only corridor.

        But in practice, it’s quite feasible to continue to serve existing local businesses on the “passenger line” — this is done even on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Usually one train a day, at night, will do the trick. Maybe two or three. Tacoma Rail is expert at that sort of local service.

        The problem is the through trains, the intermodals, the ones going to the port, etc.

        There is another problem here. The UP and BNSF lines merge again just north of the Tukwila station. There’s room for enough tracks (5 or more) from there to King St. Station. But the passenger trains would have to cross from King St. Station (west side) across the freight tracks to the east side to get to the rest of the ‘passenger corridor’. There’s no good place to put a flyover. And trains headed north out of King St. Station (Sounder North, Cascades to Vancouver) would *have* to be mixed with freight, unless we built another tunnel under Seattle.

      3. I see you’ve designed a flyover.

        First problem: BNSF is quite picky about its clearances, because they like to run high-and-wide loads. They probably won’t tolerate any clearance less than the existing ruling clearance, and might insiste on larger clearances if the ruling clearance is based on one bridge or something.

        So I’d guess you’d have to match the clearance of Great Northern Tunnel at 28 feet high. 25 feet will probably be considered too low.

      4. OK, I made some long comments. Most of my problems are with the Black River Junction – King Street section, where I don’t think you’ve provided a viable plan, and it looks unduly complicated *too*.

    2. Well looks like you got the south end of this tied up quite well.

      Curious as to the software utilized for this cause I would like to do something like this.

    3. Nathaniel I do think along the current corridor you could run up to 4 tracks but going from 2 to 3 does effectively double capacity. Freight’s next constraint is the tunnel at Ruston. It makes me wonder if having a 2nd tunnel would be enough to help nudge BNSF off.

      The King St. constraints would be a bit of an issue but having a dedicated passenger corridor would be of assistance and probably a better option than LRT to Tacoma in Spinefest Destiny.


  14. Can Link trains be retrofitted with driverless technology? Is it just a matter of putting an autodrive mechanism at the ends? Or would we have to replace the trains?

    1. Shouldn’t be an issue, but probably not cheap. The line side part of the control equipment may be more difficult (train position sensors, etc). Also, I think one of the agencies involved demands platform doors for automated systems, as seen on airport people movers.

      1. You’d think if we could get driverless technology right for cars on the open road and without communication support from infrastructure, we could do driverless technology for a train with in a far more controlled environment with just a handful of grade crossings.

        Isn’t this the primary reason we have operators in trains in the Valley? To avoid these types of collisions? How is driverless tech going to perform worse than this?

      2. The real problem is unions. If Sound Transit ever tried to go driverless with their trains (which are actually operated by King County Metro), they would quickly find themselves without drivers to operate their buses or mechanics to maintain them.

    2. LA’s Green Line is currently in operation as an automated line with operator on board, and I believe the trains were converted to have the automatic equipment on board.

    3. The closest analog is Muni’s Market Street subway and Twin Peaks tunnel. The trains are operated automatically in the subway with the driver closing the doors. When they exit the subway at West Portal, the trains revert to manual street running mode.

      In LA, the Green Line was designed to be the nation’s first driverless light rail line from the start so it was entirely grade-separated but for reasons other than technology, drivers were put in.

      1. For the LA Green Line, Systra claims that “the system is capable of being upgraded to driverless” but before they do so I would certainly like to know what more needs to be done. It sounds like they already have automatic train control in place. What further upgrades would they need?


      2. They would need upgrades to the union contracts.

        That’s the usual reason for not going driverless. :sigh:

  15. I fear the lone grey wolf (d.p.) in the woods was mortally wounded after the ST3 love fest (or was it a pie feast) last week.
    I miss that eerie howling from ridge tops in the night.

      1. I’m sorry to hear that. He offered a refreshingly real-world perspective, which will be missed. I wish he would’ve been content to attack the ideas (which often deserved every word of his criticism) and not the however-misguided people proposing them.

      2. It would be wise to hunt down the source data when confronted with extreme opinions.

        Ironclad opinions requires ironclad data.

      3. Are ALL comments now moderated or just some?
        Based on content, or who we are?
        This is a pretty significant departure from the past, so an explanation of the new policy would be in order, as you didn’t respond to my earlier question on moderation.
        It’s happened to me 3 times now, so did I miss the memo?

      4. mic,

        You got caught in the comment filter due to my error. There is no moderation queue for non-banned commenters.

    1. Thanks. And yuck, what a terrible candidate list, for the most part. Hope it can be improved.

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