Community Transit 10806

This is an open thread.

43 Replies to “News Roundup: Mysterious Disappearance”

    1. Here’s the latest on the First Hill Streetcar from the SDOT Director’s Report:
      • The manufacturer has completed dynamic acceptance testing on cars 1, 3 and 5 and plans to complete this for cars 2 and 4 by the end of next week. SDOT/Metro also completed traction power integrated tests last week.
      • Completion/acceptance of Car 6 is uncertain due to need for repair of water-damaged inverters
      • Various “open items” remain even on cars that have completed dynamic testing, ranging from installation of informational graphics and loading route information to the passenger information system, to correcting important features that are not functioning as required by Metro

    1. Idle threats. The Surface Transportation Board just appointed an individual with the power to *order* them to carry passenger trains.

      The railroads actually should get short extensions, but these are idle threats they’re making.

      1. Metra in Chicago has said they will close up shop on the 31st if an extension isn’t granted.

        The FRA said to Congress they have no choice except enforcing the mandate that congress itself set up.

        Therefore, I don’t see how the STB can force anyone to operate trains they are required by federal law not to run.

      2. If you are talking about this:
        the meaning is quite the opposite of what you think. The common carrier rules enforced by the STB mean that commodities have to be carried from any customer. By saying those rules can’t be applied in this circumstance, the railroads can not be forced to move materials or persons for whom the movement is illegal.

        As an act of congress has made illegal the movement of those goods and all persons over lines not so equipped as of December 31, the STB norm slap rules can’t be applied to those situations.

      3. If the commuter railroads shut down then Congressional staffers won’t be able to get to work and Wall Street execs will be pissed in Connecticut. That should get Congress’s attention to sign an extension almost as fast as they can sign a continuing resolution to keep the government running.. which they need to do in eight days.

      4. Since Amtrak has control of its own railroad destiny in the northeast, they plan to be completely ready within a few weeks from what I have heard, with much of the commuter railroad network in the northeast already equipped, operating over Amtrak, or planning to be there come December 31st.

        Thus, there probably won’t be too much of a commuter apocalypse in the northeast.

        Metra isn’t so lucky. They are a busy commuter railroad but significant parts of their operation are controlled by private companies. Those private companies control tens of thousands of miles of track, so conversion is happening far more slowly there.

      5. ….and really it can’t be an idle threat. It is a safety device mandated by an act of congress, just like the air brake and the partially automatic coupler. If those aren’t available, then the train movement is in violation of the Railway Safety Appliance Act of 1893 – which was a similar act of congress.

      6. So Sounder, Cascades, the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder will shut down in three months but oil trains and freight will chug happily along? Sounds like a Republicans’ dream: they haven’t been able to kill Amtrak any other way, but now they can do it without an explicit on-the-record vote.

      7. If they’re really concerned about safety, what’s safest is separate passenger tracks. That’s the biggest thing that’s hindering passenger rail now and causing headaches for both passenger trains and freight trains. Maybe the original Amtrak authorization or an update should have included a national eminient domain to force the railroads to allow dedicated passenger tracks in their ROW at a reasonable price if the fedgov or a region wants to build them. It’s not too late to do it now, although it would probably happen the day after Bailo’s dream of ending property tax caps does.

      8. I don’t think the oil trains will chug happily along. The law applies to all passenger trains and to trains carrying certain hazardous materials. After Lac Megantic, and then after a few more explosive derailments afterward, I don’t think anyone can claim oil is a non-hazardous commodity.

        It certainly applies to chlorine (among other things drinking water gets treated with that).

        The way the law is written, it might even apply to grain trains since under the right circumstances grain dust will explode.

  1. So is *that* why older buses (including Orion models prior to the Orion VII Next Generation) had the driver’s side windshield angled backwards? Is it just because of sight lines and blind spots?

    1. No. The angled driver’s windshield is to reduce glare from the interior lights. Having a majorly curved windshield does the same thing.

      The current, upright windshields have returned us to problems that have been fixed and dealt with in past equipment (glare). They are a step backwards in function created by the desire for a more “modern” looking bus.

      Note that the Gillig Phantoms are considered amongst the worst for blindspots caused by the left pillar. Metro is on it’s third set of left side mirrors on the 3200-series coaches (and second set for all the newer versions of the Gilligs). It was the design of the Gillig + the originally spec’d mirrors that first brought attention to this problem.

    2. At this time cars…and even bicycles…are getting pedestrian and car avoidance technology similar to what the Google Car uses.

      Wouldn’t it make sense to put these on buses to tell drivers when objects are close to blind spots?

      And also optical fibers to send images while making tricky maneuvers?

      The first real-time collision avoidance device for any bike

  2. Agreed re. the Times article. Saw the headline and was prepared to hate it, expecting the same old bile. But I was pleasantly surprised. It was written in a witty, irreverent style, and it’s basic message was that it’s time to think differently about parking in the city: pay for it when you need to, otherwise find less expensive alternatives (of which there are plenty).

  3. “Proximate Commuting” is really hard to do beyond the “plug and play” types of jobs where there are lots of openings. One firefighter is probably roughly as capable as another, but openings for firefighters are few and far between. Retail clerks shouldn’t commute far at all, yet many do.

    Add in the timing element (your need to work may not correspond with local employers hiring needs) and perhaps your SO’s career situation, and it can get complicated quickly.

    I like the concept though.

    1. Would it necessarily need to be a job opening, though? I could see people trading positions within a company, or even (if there’s no direct swap) a chain of people who each move along to a different location. It could be an indivisible goods market, like they use for kidney donation.

      1. Retail outlets for a business, though similar, are not always the same.

        For example, a person gets along with someone at one Claire’s really went, and hence she will travel far to work there.

        At a UPS outlet, the manager is about to retire, so someone who travels from Bothell to Kent stays on in hopes of getting the job.

        A couple has one person working in Edmonds, another in Renton. No matter where they live, they lose, because the commutes are bad all around.

      2. Based on these comments, it seems like Proximate Commuting’s goal was to treat people like expendable labor. It’s highly irreverent to people being humans that have a myriad of reasons for doing what they do (sometimes not the best reasons).

        Today, I’ve got a long (bus) commute because I like my job and I like where I live. But, I’m possibly working with my manager to split my time at other offices and make my commute shorter. It’s not as simple as “stick me in an office that’s closer,” there’s a lot of individual factors to take into consideration.

      3. Don’t most large companies already have a system to advertise openings internally for those who might want to transfer? It seems like the only thing missing is a central wishlist of who would like to transfer from this location to these other locations, and that would double as a swap list because you could see if anybody wants to make the opposite transfer. The issue of whether people want to stay where they are is orthogonal to this: they just won’t sign up. But it’s not really different from people who start at night shift to get their foot in the door, and then switch to day shift when there’s an opening or when somebody wants to trade (perhaps to go to school during the day).

    2. There are a lot of interchangeable workers in the system. Most of the jobs at fast food outlets or retail stores are essentially interchangeable from store to store. A large corporation like McDonalds or Walmart could do a lot to reduce commute times for their workers.

      Workers certainly do advocate for their own needs in these corporations. I know workers who have successfully jumped from opening to opening to get their commute shorter and shorter. But, having a policy to optimize commute times as a corporate policy could really help out. The government could provide an incentive to corporations who are able to reduce their workers’ commutes.

  4. I apologize for keeping you guys waiting on this formal announcement, but my aching back and other priorities had a vote. That said, there is now an unofficial Flickr group for Skagit Transit: .

    Please join and participate. Only one rule is that if I have to cull images that aren’t G-rated Skagit Transit images repeatedly, adios. Thanks to those like SounderBruce who are participating, much appreciate.

    Eventually Island Transit will also have one. Even if I have to admin it…

  5. Saw the new trolley buses running on route 70 this morning on Pine Street as well witnessed one of the trolleys by the Paramount Theater on Pine getting its poles placed on the wires so I believe this Chinese presidential visit to be one of the first instances of a major reroute testing the off-wire capability of the new trolleys.

  6. Here here to covering I-5 with buildings rather than a big park. Similarly I have noticed this summer a dead privately-owned sunken plaza attached to a 1970s office tower at about Pine & 7th replaced with a new single story street-level retail space built right up to the sidewalk which I think is absolutely fantastic to see and is filling “a missing tooth” in the urban fabric. I love public space but it needs to be well located to be useable, attractive, highly visible and active. Lets put public space where it can be successful (love the new in-street plazas which attract people) and put commerce where it can be successful (it is a city afterall) such as along the main retail street downtown, Pine.

    1. I would assume, though, that buildings on top of I-5 would require a much stronger (and hence more expensive) lid structure than a park to support the extra weight. Even a park could still have some sort of commerce, though, in the form of food trucks.

      1. One of the tough parts about any sort of I-5 lid in that area is the elevation profile. Even before I-5 was built the connections up that part of the hill were stairs. With the freeway there you have to get almost all the way to the elevation of Melrose by the west edge of the freeway.

        If you look at the Lakeview bridge, a lid would have to be almost as high as that over the actual freeway. The only way to get up there from Eastlake Ave. would be routes basically like that bridge, running parallel to the freeway for a couple blocks. Pedestrian bridges over Eastlake could start the climb to the lid a block earlier, but you’re already climbing eastbound on those blocks. By contrast, consider the Thomas Street overpass into Myrtle Edwards Park, which takes off from a descending slope on 3rd Ave W and is able to achieve vertical clearance of Thomas Street in half a block — the height of I-5 prevents this, because there’s no place where normal street level west of the freeway is above it anywhere nearby.

        A lid park might be nice for people on the west slope of Capitol Hill but it wouldn’t do much to connect Capitol Hill to SLU; any buildings possibly built over it would be similarly difficult to access from the low side, except maybe by elevators.

      2. Most of the past suggestions have been downtown only (somewhere between Denny Way and Columbia Street) where it’s less steep. It can just be flat with the lower side, with stairs at the upper side or terraced floors in the middle, both of which Freeway Park has. I’m not sure north of Denny is as feasable or necessary. Perhaps a simple sound and visual lid with skylight holes could work there, plus the missing pedestrian bridge around Harrison Street.

        I would prefer buildings, but this is our one chance to have a Central Park if we want it.

    1. It would be pretty traumatic to the First Hill line if delays drug out to 2017. We already have the vehicles here, and have at least some ability to repair them.

      The only way I could see it taking a full extra year like that is if we actually had to send whole cars back for reworking. Sending new parts in the mail from overseas doesn’t take a whole year.

      That said, I don’t expect to see the line running this year at this point. Its also entirely possible that ULink might open first. It depends on when testing starts.

      The federal requirement for new rail line testing is something like 6 months, right?

      1. Depends on what you mean by testing.

        MAX Orange Line was only fully tested for two weeks when it opened, but all the cars had been received and had been tested as well as fully operated with passengers on the other lines.

        First few trains ran through in May. Various other systems were fully tested.

        It’s a huge waste of money to run empty trains for six months.

  7. “Metro hired 212 part-time operators between January and August, while promoting 173 operators to full-time. Switzer says Metro anticipates hiring an additional 225 part-time operators and promoting 96 operators to full time through March 2016.”

    But how many operators are retiring at the same time? Also: Why was so much service put into place without available drivers to cover the assignments? Next week will show whether they were able to rearrange the schedules to better fit available drivers into the service hours supposedly going out onto the road. Fingers crossed.

  8. China Buys 300 Fuel Cell Buses

    VANCOUVER, CANADA and FOSHAN & YUNFU, CHINA – At a ceremony held today in the Company’s global headquarters, Ballard Power Systems (NASDAQ: BLDP; TSX: BLD) signed a new long-term license and supply agreement with an existing partner in China, Guangdong Synergy Hydrogen Power Technology Co., Ltd. (“Synergy”), to provide fuel cell Power Products and Technology Solutions in support of the planned deployment of approximately 300 fuel cell-powered buses in the cities of Foshan and Yunfu, China.

    Fuel Cell Car Gets Hit in Tank………….OH THE, nothing

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