51 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Erin’s View”

  1. Too funny, I get on at the City Peoples stop everyday and I have seen Erin on occasion. I know her pain of trying to be car-less and relying on metro’s weekend service, it sucks. It’s not as if they need 10 min or less weekday commuter time service, but I think after 9:00am, on weekends, higher frequency would catch most peoples needs. With Link coming online more people will consider using the bus to get to the Link stations, especially on game days when Sandpoint becomes like Alcatraz, with nobody getting off the island. The Roosevelt station has huge potential for the area so speed it up Sound Transit!

  2. It’s nuts that the city is closing Westalke Station when the Chinese president is staying in town. To close the most well used station we have will severely hamper our transit network.

    And it sets a bad precedent.

    1. This whole “Security Plan” is a debacle of monumental proportions. Hopefully at least parts of it will be reconsidered Monday morning to keep the city sane.

    2. The Times is reporting that Westlake will be open. Are you seeing somewhere where they’ve changed that?


      The extent of the road closures is ridiculous and far beyond what I’ve ever seen them close for a visit by a US president.

      I am also disappointed with Metro – the guy is arriving in two days and all they have on their website is a generic alert about “Transit Delays Expected” and I didn’t see anything on the Sound Transit site. This isn’t a surprise visit – there should be more information for transit riders 48 hours before the event starts.

      1. http://t.co/j4x2Y7ABlG

        ” The South Lake Union Streetcar will continue to operate, but the stop at the Westlake Hub at McGraw Square will remain closed. The downtown transit tunnel is expected to remain open and operating.”

      2. I like transit and try to be forgiving about operations. But Metro and Sound Transit are utterly incompetent about communicating with the public for any sort of change to normal service. During football games, when the DSTT was closed for weekend maintenance, UW diversions when fixing the Burke-Gilman trail, and now this. It’s not at all surprising to me that they haven’t announced detours and other important information.

      3. In news reports last week Metro said that they were working on reroutes for the routes affected and that they would be announced on Monday. Not exactly a great amount of advance notice but it may due to the fact they and the city were not notified by the Secret Service until last week on the extend of the street closures involved. It was not known until just recently that the Chinese president was coming so that may be the reason for the delay in announcing the exact street closures and the affected transit routes.

        By the way President Obama is also coming to town on October 9th for a fundraiser for Senator Murray also at the Westin so be prepared for similar security arrangement on that day. No information on how long the President will be in town.

      4. They should send him back home. The “Security” seems a bit excessive for any visiting head of state. I don’t recall this happening for the US president. Good thing I don’t have go to Seattle this week. I don’t get the bag checks for pedestrians, that is way over the top. Most buses can be relatively easily rerouted. Will the 70 be motorized for his visit, and the bill sent to the Secret Service, or Chinese Embassy?

    3. As long as Xi Jinping’s in town, how about cutting a deal for a Chinese HSR train running from Tacoma to Spokane. LA-Vegas is moving forward:

      A consortium led by China Railway Group and XpressWest Enterprises LLC are teaming up to build a high speed railway that connects Los Angles to Las Vegas, according to a report Friday in Bloomberg News.


      1. And in this dream of yours, which city is San Francisco and which LA? Which of Ellensburg and Moses Lake is Bakersfield and which Fresno. And where, pray tell is San Jose?

        It is a strange “transit supporter” who wants to put service where nobody who ever would ride it lives or works.

      2. Thousands of people travel from LA to Las Vegas to gamble, attend conferences, and for holiday weekends, and thousands more go to Palm Springs along the way. LA is the biggest metropolitan area in the western half of the US, so even if just a moderate percentage of people go to Vegas and Palm Springs, that’s still a lot of people. Plus LA has a lot of international visitors who go to those places. Tacoma is not LA, and Spokane is not Las Vegas. And Ellensburg certainly isn’t Palm Springs. Pierce County has around a million people, Spokane is not that much different from Tacoma, and Ellensburg doesn’t have palms or springs. If you’re looking for an exurban rail connector, better models would be the Pacific Surfliner, California HSR (LA-SF-Sacramento), and our own I-5 corridor. Not the Apple-and-Wheat Express.

    4. It is not the city that is making the security requirements for the visit of the Chinese president but the Secret Service as his visit is considered at the same level as when our president comes to town. So when the Secret Service says that they want these streets closed that is the way it will be.

      Some of you may not remember but some years ago the APEC conference was held in Seattle and President Clinton was one of the participants and his presence along with the other leaders brought similar security arrangements. Fifth Avenue was closed to all traffic through downtown for days as were many side streets. In addition when Clinton was traveling downtown traffic was stopped some 30 minutes before. I was in downtown when Clinton went from the Olympic Hotel to the Rainier Club and all streets crossing Fifth Avenue were closed and no traffic was allowed to cross until after Clinton had arrived at the club. That included all buses. I also remember seeing Secret Service agents on top of buildings with rifles at the ready.

      The Secret Service sets the security arrangements and local law enforcement must follow their directions regardless of what it does to traffic and the businesses located in the secure area.

      1. I remember being stuck on 405 while the President of Vietnam came through heading from Redmond down to Boeing Field, I believe. No warning just all the cars came to a stop and several lanes cleared.

        spent an hour on the roadside playing frisbee with some dudes in a van

  3. Interesting articles on Japanese vs American zoning:


    – Zone types are defined by national law, not local law
    – Zones define the most intensive use allowed, not the exclusive use, e.g. residential zones only allow residential but commercial zones also allow residential.
    – There are restrictions on building size, but not single family vs multifamily
    – Height limits usually follow mathematically from how far back a building is set and the width of the street it’s on

    Not sure how much of this I’d like to see adopted here. My current feeling is that what Seattle needs is to have more urban neighborhoods drop height restrictions in favor of width restrictions, as whole block developments don’t create appealing streets.

  4. Did Proposition 1 specifically set aside funds for promotion/outreach? I’m thrilled about the expansion, but have been seeing the billboards, hearing the radio ads (a lot…), and seeing the banners on this site and elsewhere. It seems like a decent chunk of change. I’m wondering if said money could have been spent in better ways, namely bus service or more targeted outreach.

  5. The Seattle Times today had an editorial recommending converting Paine Field to commercial service, to take pressure off of Seatac:


    Their surprising (albeit conditional) support for ST3 notwithstanding, I wonder if there are optimizations we can make in Seatac’s operations. In particular, could some of the regional service that goes through Seatac be transferred to rail, maybe even high-speed rail? For instance, Alaska flies 28 daily flights to Portland (3% of SEA’s total flight volume), and once you figure in driving to the airport and getting through security, Cascades could be time-competitive, and definitely would be time-competitive with track improvements. Just eye-balling Alaska’s route map and counting up flights to cities along existing Amtrak routes, I get 67 daily flights (out of 946 total daily flights out of Seatac), most along Cascades but some along Empire Builder. Delta also has some short-hop flights out of Seatac, and likely will have more in the near future.

    It seems like this discussion should be similar to the discussion over the most efficient use of the DSTT. While buses made sense for a while, they will soon be completely replaced by higher-speed, higher-capacity trains. We should hold Seatac to the same standard – it should be a resource for long-distance, high-speed, high-capacity flights, not puddlejumping. Obviously improving our region’s transit network isn’t cheap, but expanding Seatac to its full capacity will cost billions of dollars too, not to mention the billions more needed to expand Paine and build totally new transit infrastructure around it.

    1. HSR is only a viable replacement if it has stops at the airports. Much of the traffic between SEA and PDX is connecting traffic, and those people can’t take the extra time to get from the nearest train station to the airport. It does seem possible for Cascades to have a stop at Seatac, but achieving the same connection to PDX would be very difficult.

      1. PDX is in a god-awful place, but do people from Washington airports really connect through there? In the 10 years I’ve been here, I’ve never even considered getting a connecting flight through PDX.

        Given how space-constrained PDX is, I wonder if putting a Cascades stop at SEA would make our problems even worse…

      2. Most of the connections I know about are international flights that start in PDX and end up somewhere in Asia, Europe, or the Middle East.

      3. It looks to me like only 4% of PDX’s passenger volume is international (~1700 daily passengers). SEA’s is quite a bit higher at 10% (11870 daily). Even assuming all of the Alaska’s daily SEA-PDX flights were Dash-8s, that still gives a total passenger capacity of 2180 (28*78). IIRC they have a few 737s that fly those routes too, which have a seating capacity of at least 140, so the capacity on those routes is probably more like 2500.

      4. I would disagree in that regard.

        If many people going from downtown to downtown are flying then sure but it really depends on where do they originate from? I would guess 50% of traffic is O&D 50% connecting but with AS now adding many more flights to PDX, they are likely trying to rely less on connections and more on one seat rides. They upped frequency to increase aircraft utilization and compete against DL. That is the reason SeaTac is currently constrained is because of competition. Planning for DL to stay long-term I would say is not wise and planning on their expansion would be foolish. They can pull out at anytime and if they are not making money at SeaTac, they will pull down.

      5. Every now and then it’s possible to save some money on an East Coast flight by first flying to Portland. Not usually. The Horizon/Alaska air shuttle is kinda fun with stunning scenery on a clear day. Plus it’s barely enough time to finish your complementary beer or wine.

      6. Re: Delta, I really don’t see them (or any major airliner) giving up SeaTac. Though Alaska is now putting up a real fight with direct service to JFK.

      7. “Delta, I really don’t see them (or any major airliner) giving up SeaTac.”

        United had a huge operation at SeaTac. Death by a thousand cuts, they chipped away at it little by little. They do not even have year round service to all their hubs any longer (IAD gets cancelled in the winter). United, for all intents and purposes, gave up SeaTac.

        Delta may or may not make this work. They are trying to create an Asia hub for all markets west of the Mississippi. There is some evidence that this is less convenient and popular for some passengers than the former connections through their Narita hub. The SEA-HKG flight will be heavily reduced this winter, and on days it does not operate, replaced with NRT-HKG. While SEA-HKG is to return daily next spring, I suspect that Delta wants to run the two models side by side to determine consumer behavior.

        If they can’t make this quantity of Asia flights successful through their feed, they may pull back a bit.

      8. I understand what you’re saying. We shall see how it plays out.

        United is a garbage airline though and has been for years. The Greyhound of the skies.

      9. As for the prospects of air travel growth… air travel is one of the few things we burn lots of fossil fuels for where there’s no alternative on the horizon, not even one that will require tons of capital expenditure to adopt. A future where we don’t significantly cut fossil fuel emissions is not a future — scenarios with continued high levels of emissions are not even worth considering. In all the scenarios worth considering emissions, and US emissions in particular, are going way down.

        Why, against this background, should we project air travel growth?

      10. First SEA is space constrained, PDX not so much. Alaska driving more connecting traffic over PDX would help with SEA capacity.

        Second even without Delta SEA is growing with continued growth at Alaska, growth on domestic routes, and new international flights all the time. I’m sure even if Delta were to pull back just to their money making flights the airport more than needs the new international terminal and additional gates.

    2. I have often thought about this. I counted more like 56 trips total in each direction SEX>PDX, PDX>SEA operated by Alaska and United. However logistically making it work would be interesting. At Tukwila, you’d probably have to add more tracks/platform space, plus a baggage transfer and station facility. There’s room for this on the east side where long acres used to be, but it would be a major expansion/rebuild of that facility. There is a new structure popping up next to the tracks south of the station along the Strander Blvd extension which may have to be modified a well. Portland would be even more interesting, because a train to PDX would either have two options. The closest mainline is the UP just south of the airport, and there is a connection south of the bridges which would bypass downtown. Of course a full station facility would have to be built trackside to accommodate transferring passengers near the airport. the other option is to route through Portland Union Station, Across the Steel bridge and use the existing path through Albina Yard, a single track tunnel under North Portland to get back onto the UP mainline and the serve the aforementioned station near the airport. Both options are doable, and probably would work out in some combination, but the UP has never been very friendly to passenger trains so it may be a bit of effort to make that happen. Finally there’s the trains themselves, I would think to make it pan out you would have to add capacity to existing trains, bump them up to the 400 person range, and add another 4-6 round trips to be able to absorb all the connecting traffic. Some of the added trains could be express service, Starting at Tukwila, possibly making stops in Tacoma, Olympia, before terminating at PDX, bypassing the main downtown stations. Some of the existing trips that end in Portland could be “extended” to PDX, and some of the trains in slots where there currently is nothing could make all stops, PDX airport, PDX union Station, Vancouver, Kelso, Centralia, Olympia, Tacoma, Tukwila, and Seattle. On top of this there is trying to make everything work together, since Amtrak only talks to Amtrak, and the Airlines and travel websites only talk to themselves, and making sure all the baggage gets transferred and shuttles from the airports to the stations, and so on so forth. Long story short, its a neat idea, and its doable, just will take a lot of money, and cooperation from everyone involved. I think in the short term at least a shuttle from SEA-TUK is in order for the Amtrak Cascades and Sounder. That would be a big help.

      1. I would imagine much of the connecting traffic is going from Portland to Seattle. There are many more destinations offered from Seattle. Traffic to Asia and likely Europe goes through Seattle as well as Alaska. Another issue would be that Alaska will fly a lot of short hops as long as it is profitable. Some space constrained airports on the east coast have tons of short hop flights. Another issue is that many of the short hop flights provide connections for people. Flight to Spokane and Walla Walla exist because of the connections through Seattle.

      2. I think with much greater Cascades frequency a Tukwila Amtrak shuttle makes sense. The free BWI Amtrak shuttle connects to a commuter and Amtrak station about 1.5 miles away and is a real attractive feature. But the NEC frequency makes that successful.

      3. On top of this there is trying to make everything work together, since Amtrak only talks to Amtrak, and the Airlines and travel websites only talk to themselves, and making sure all the baggage gets transferred and shuttles from the airports to the stations, and so on so forth.

        That should be doable, actually. Last time I flew United, they were advertising through-ticketed Amtrak connections all up and down the Northeast Corridor from Newark. The need for a Tukwila-SeaTac (or Kent-SeaTac) shuttle would be irritating, though.

  6. OK. This week I wanna bring up a point in regard to the new orders of articulated buses being bought with the Prop 1 money.

    Metro will buy a new fleet of diesel-electric hybrid artics to replace the remaining 2300-series New Flyer D60HF artics from 1998-2001. Now I’ve got nothing against hybrid-electric transmissions or Metro’s initiative to have “one of the greenest bus fleets in the nation” (although there’s that chance a rival agency will try to “out-green” them), but I want to make my point: This next batch of hybrid artics should be the first order NOT to be equipped from the get-go with hush mode for DSTT operation, nor the associated yellow strobe light centered on the rear end.

    Why, you ask? This is why:
    1. As most of you know, bus service in the DSTT will end by 2017 at the earliest (when the Washington State Convention Center starts its expansion on the real estate now occupied by Convention Place Station), thus rendering hush mode useless within a year or so after the new batch’s delivery,
    2. Most of the 2300’s the new batch is replacing are based at Ryerson, which never operated a single tunnel route (yes, I know some of them are at South & North, but even then the new batch of hybrids would be used exclusively on non-tunnel routes anyway), and
    3. I don’t know the cost difference of hush-equipping a single coach versus not equipping the coach from the start, but if you multiply that by the 100+ units being ordered, you can see what the cost savings is for the whole lot initially.

    Just my two cents on the matter. Don’t know if anyone from Metro management is reading this, but it seems like sound advice.

      1. Are you sure about that, Brian? Other posters have claimed that the battery packs are bigger to make it through the tunnel northbound (uphill).

        Certainly, “hushing” just requires an option to kill the prime mover and depend on the batteries. I’m confident that the control system of every hybrid has that option, if only for testing the all-electric drive train.

      2. Hush mode is basically done in software. A bit of wiring for the activation switch, the added strobe lights is needed. Also a 700 Mhz Radio is added for use in the tunnel, and otherwise everything is already comes with the coach is my understanding.

  7. “It’s really hard to live without a car in northeast Seattle.” I do this in Federal Way. My route 181 curfew on Sunday is about 9:15 pm, but on Saturday it’s about 11:22, and Weekdays it’s about 11:45. The 75 on Sunday runs comparably to the 181 on Weekdays. Over here, frequency is not the limiting factor at all, but span of service. I actually live in a good spot compared to most residential suburban neighborhoods.

  8. As someone who just spent $7,000 on window upgrades due to noise from our existing airport, I unfortunately have to side with the NIMBY’s on this one. The FAA can say what it wants, but the noise impacts on the nearly communities would be anything but insignificant (assuming, of course, that it has enough flights so as to relieve a non-negligible amount of pressure off SeaTac). It should also be noted that noise impacts from planes taking off and landing can occur far from the airport itself, depending on how the flight paths are chosen. In the case of Paine Field, even communities as far south as Shoreline and parts of Seattle would be affected.

    It is also completely nuts to argue for spending billions of dollars on light to serve a general aviation airport, just in case it one day gets commercial service. And, even if the airport did have commercial service, people in Seattle wouldn’t use it because SeaTac airport would have competing nonstops to the same destinations for cheaper fares. And most people in the surrounding neighborhoods would find driving directly to the airport to take less than than driving to the train, even if the train were a teleporter.

    1. I read an article about this recently, where airports actually compete with each other for service from carriers. And if you don’t compete good enough, you don’t get the service. I think there’s an airport in Bakersfield, or near there that spent a lot of money to build a terminal, to try and attract service, yet several years later none has come. I am in favor of an open market, however a lot of smaller communities are getting cut in favor of more profitable service, which leaves a good niche market for Amtrak, its just too bad they cannot seem to make any kind of connections happen.

    2. While I think there might be enough demand to justify service to Paine Field it is never going to have anything near the traffic Seatac does. Given the small number of flights Paine is likely to attract this becomes a rounding error in Seatac’s statistics. In other words it doesn’t really provide much in the way of relief for Seatac.

      Note that capacity issues at Seatac are due to the number of gates and ramp space. Airside the current runway layout (3 in good weather, 2 in bad) gives Seatac a lot more capacity than many busier airports.

    3. Living near LCW, You get all the air traffic ( if landing is to the South ) turning right over head and occasionally the freighters coming into Paine start their long descent overhead. Coupled with the low flying seaplanes going to Kenmore, its quite the noise factory.

      BTW You can get mitigation from FAA if measured sound levels from overhead aircraft exceed their thresholds. Not sure if it is also tied to distance from the airport, but might be worth investigating.

      If you really want have some aircraft noise “fun” head up to Admiral’s Cove on Whidbey on a Wednesday afternoon, you have aircraft a couple of hundred feet above your house doing “touch and gos” at the OLF…

  9. In my expert opinion, the East Link maintenance yard is in too valuable a location not to build something over it.

    1. That’s possibly true, Sam. But “valuable” is a discounted cash flow concept to a real estate developer. Given that ST is going to want a pretty high ceiling over the tracks, at least in the maintenance building, the supports are not going to be cheap. Then there are ventilation questions, even when the vehicles are electrically powered.

      New York is doing it over the Eighth Avenue Coach Yard because “Manhattan” where prices are quoted by the square foot, not the acre. Bellevue is a wee-bit shy of Manhattanism just yet.

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