Peter Lorimer (Flickr)
Peter Lorimer (Flickr)

At its September Board Meeting, Sound Transit approved the largest single budget item in its history, $733M to procure the remaining 122 light rail vehicles (LRVs) needed for the full ST2 buildout to Lynnwood, Overlake, and Des Moines. When delivered, these LRVs will triple Sound Transit’s fleet from the current 62 LRVs to a total of 184.

Originally planned to occur in phases, with a vehicle budget within each Link extension project, Sound Transit switched gears and decided to execute vehicle procurement as a single contract, transferring $236M from the Northgate Link budget in order to do so. Sound Transit “determined that procurement of all 122 LRVs under a single project would provide efficiencies in coordinating, monitoring, tracking and reporting of the project progress.”

The design and function of the new vehicles relative to the current fleet is an open question, though Bruce Gray hinted at some of the RFP requirements, such as four bicycle hooks per car instead of two. However, Sound Transit has already said that the two fleets will operate separately due to what is seen as insurmountable technical incompatibility between them. There will not be the ability to couple older and newer cars together.

While this is somewhat unfortunate from a fleet flexibility perspective, it does provide an opportunity to substantively improve over the first-generation design, providing ST with a much wider choice of manufacturer and specs. So how would you improve upon Link’s current fleet?  A few of my ideas after the jump.

1. A quieter HVAC system. For those who have traveled on other light rail systems, or who have had the good fortune to ride a Link train with a broken HVAC system, you know that Link is unnecessarily loud, with 80-90db of white noise at all times. A quieter ride would be a great improvement.

2. More comfortable seating. Link’s rock-hard seats are a minor problem now, with the maximum trip length at 37 minutes, but their comfort will matter ever more as the system expands, especially if Link is (rightfully) intended to replace long-haul commuter routes, particularly from Snohomish County. Yet…

3.  Less seating overall. The 2×2 arrangement on Link’s 1st generation fleet leaves the aisle excessively narrow and inhibits the efficient flow of passengers when under heavy load. Following Muni’s example and reducing seats would be a positive step.

Mike Koozmin (S.F. Examiner)
Mike Koozmin (S.F. Examiner)

4. Walk-through cars (open gangways). Closed vehicles waste space on couplers, reducing both seating and standing capacity. Though 75% of non-U.S. subway systems have moved to open gangways, they remain relatively rare in newer U.S. systems, and are rarer still on light rail systems.  It would be great to see Sound Transit spec open gangway vehicles for Link.

Map by The Transport Politic
Map by The Transport Politic

185 Replies to “How Can Link Vehicles Be Improved?”

  1. Higher straightaway travel speeds. Currently trains run slower than adjacent highway traffic. I’d like to see upwards of 70-80 mph. I realize that track design maybe involved but it doesn’t hurt to ask…

    1. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but it is largely pointless. If I’m driving a half mile, it really doesn’t matter if I’m driving an old Pinto or a brand new Maserati. I’ll get there around the same time. If I’m driving across the country then it is very different. Anyway, for a light rail system, top speed is practically meaningless. For our commuter rail line it is different. I could easily see improvements there that could shave a few minutes off of a commute.

      1. So the thing is that stop spacing, especially on East Link is much greater than 1/2 mile. Looking at the travel times here: there are a lot of station pairs that have a lot of time between them. Trains that could go 85 could probably cut 5-7 minutes off the overall time between OTC and Westlake. Given that East list already is about ~10 minutes slower than the 542 + transfer, reducing the total time by 5-7 minutes would go a long way to shift people out of busses into the train.

      2. @Stephenson — OK, here is my attempt at the math: East Link is 22 miles. So, not counting acceleration or deceleration, the difference between 58 miles per hour and 85 miles per hour is 7 minutes, 14 seconds. So, if the train didn’t make any stops, it would save 7 minutes.

        But it makes stops. It spends time speeding up or slowing down. By my calculations, based on acceleration of 1 meter per second per second and deceleration of the same, it spends about a half mile speeding up or slowing down. So we can subtract a half mile for each gap between stops. 11 stops or 10 gaps means we should subtract five miles from that 22. Now the difference is 5 minutes, 35 seconds. Now it gets hard. Some of that time is spent speeding up to 85 from 55. The distance it travels while accelerating from 55 to 85 is significant. Roughly half a mile as well. So that means we have a lower bound savings (if we subtract those five miles) of about 4 minutes. So, yes, five minutes sounds about right.

        Is it worth spending that much money saving five minutes? In my opinion, no. Keep in mind, this is end to end. This is worse case scenario. This is not Bellevue to Seattle or Redmond to Bellevue. There are better things we can spend our money on. But I’ll admit, the savings are bigger than what I expected (our stop spacing is so big ….).

      3. It may actually cost more to ask for a slower car design than a faster one.

        If you ask for a faster one, Alstom or Siemens could give you a stock Ottawa or Texas car, or Kinki-Sharyo could give you a stock Texas car.

        It all depends on what happens to be in production at the moment, and right now Alstom is building 65 mph cars for Ottawa. Just tack on an additional 122 cars to that production and you should get a decent price for them, as opposed to going through an entirely separate RFP process.

        Shuffling seats around and asking for better bike hooks and all that should be easily accommodated. Asking for a different set of traction motors and gearing to give it a slower maximum speed than what is currently being produced is a different matter.

      4. Oh, and if it is worth that higher speed or not:

        That really depends on how well that higher maximum speed is used.

        However, even another 30 seconds added to a trip can make a huge difference if it means waiting an extra hour for an infrequently running feeder bus. If Link were a primary mode into and of itself that would be one thing (say, New York Subway or Chicago L, where there is lots of stuff within walking distance of many of the stations). Link is going to have to be feed by a number of different feeder and local bus routes. This means that even slight increases in speed can make a huge difference as the faster Link goes the better the overall connections become.

      5. There’s a contradiction between saying 2 minutes or 7 minutes doesn’t matter for a train, but it matters very much for a bus because they add up over a day and allow the bus to run more frequently for the same cost.

      6. As I recall the process, ST establishes a maximum design speed when the engineering design process begins. East Link is already designed to operate at that speed (probably 55mph, same as the rest of Link). Buying faster cars might gain a few additional mph on straightaway runs, but that’s about all. Time to put this topic to rest.

    2. If ST is to invest more in faster vehicles, that money might also buy right-of-way that straightens out the trip. It is worth running the math to see which does a better job in decreasing travel times and reducing operating costs.

      1. My guess is that if they did the math they would find that spending money on speed improvements isn’t worth it. I would bet against it (and give you good odds). It just doesn’t make sense to spend ten million dollars to save twenty bucks a day (and a few seconds). Overvaluing speed is common. Jarrett Walker calls it a common “motorist error”. It is easy to do, because we tend to think like motorists. But for a light rail line that operates largely grade separated and has lots of stops, it is practically meaningless. Very little of the time is spent at top speed, and the difference between that speed and that possible with better technology (or straightening the tracks) is minimal.

      2. Exactly why I think Link is no replacement for a longer suburban freeway express (especially for South King/Pierce in particular because of the Rainier Valley deviation).

      3. @Alex — Yeah, exactly, like express bus service or commuter rail (like every other city with good transit). Link is one giant experiment — trying to build a light rail system in way that has proven to be unsuccessful, while hoping for a better result.

      4. The ride from Tukwila to Rainier is about as smooth as the old wooden rollercoaster I used to ride as a child at Rockaway Beach Playland.

        Is it track, or rolling stock? At any rate, it feels like the whole thing is about to totter off the trestle.

  2. How about replacing forward/backward seating with side-facing seating?

    And adding some straps for people to hang on to?

    But nothing will fix the sins of going for a low-boarding LRV system instead of an actual rapid-transit level-boarding design.

    1. 100% low floor cars can fix the “sins of going for a low-boarding LRV system” whatever those may happen to be. Low floor at sidewalk level gives you a lot of flexibility. This is flexibility that you don’t have with high level platforms.

      Furthermore, there are no advantages to high level platforms over low level platforms any more. 100% low floor cars have been around for a while now, and every design is an improvement on the last. 100% low floor allows for lots of side doors if you want them, and that is really the only problem with a partial low floor.

      Therefore, in this day and age, I really don’t see a reason to go with a high floor system. With a low floor system, you can run the same car on the streetcar as you would on Link (of course, the current design for either isn’t quite set up that way but with a few changes this could work). With high floor cars you will never have the flexibility of being able to have a single car design serve both street level and interurban needs.

  3. Open gangways, good idea. Also good to think about general comfort, considering eventual length of our system. In my experience, good seat contour is as important as soft cushions.

    Best seats are of light appearance, but designed so metalwork curves with the human body. Shape of back and legs very important. Worst thing about seats on the older Talgo trains is that bottom cushion is either flat or sloping downward.

    Sensation of constantly sliding off the seat makes Portland trip more comfortable in the bistro car. So cushion should come up under knees. Also, to me, it’s equally important both to be able to brace one foot if desired, but also to extend at least one leg full length.


    Might be good to study why Portland MAX cars can fit aisle-facing seats in the center section, and ours can’t. But main really serious flaw in all the low-floor Portland cars is facing the raised-section seats toward the driver’s cab.

    This means a very short line of sight out windows for seated passengers at both ends of the train, blocked solid by the wall of the cab. Our pattern, facing those upper-level seats away from the cab, gives both forward and backward facing passengers a long, clear, more relaxing view.
    Same as Amtrak cars, and too common on many modern trains, window line is far too high- though on all newer model buses, passengers ahead of the rear door might as well be four year olds in a bathtub. On older trains- and Bombardier cars MAX started with, window line fits comfortably under passenger’s elbow.

    Suspect this problem is due to low floors. In addition to so many passengers texting 24-7-365 that windows might be a waste of ad space that presently requires wraps. In Nordic countries, passengers don’t seem to mind seats sittting on platforms, meaning narrower aisles.

    Wonder how low windows can be lowered without compromising side-collision protection?

    Speaking of which, I doubt I’m the only passenger who would appreciate being able to look out the front of the car. However, with drivers’ seats centered, probably not enough space. But- and I’m very serious about this- what about a video camera on the front of the car and a screen across the front panel?

    Considering views like the elevated section from Boeing Access to Sea-Tac- and Mt. Rainier views all the way south- fare increase to pay for these views might pass. View from the I-90 bridge likewise. Meantime, appreciate drivers who leave cab door shade raised.

    San Jose LRV’s have drivers’ window the size of a camera aperture, creating a jail atmosphere that feels like VTA is sending an impolite message about behavior.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Might be good to study why Portland MAX cars can fit aisle-facing seats in the center section, and ours can’t. But main really serious flaw in all the low-floor Portland cars is facing the raised-section seats toward the driver’s cab.

      I think the 400 an 500 series MAX cars have the seats facing away from the cab. Some of them do anyway. TriMet has a slightly different seating arrangement on all of the cars, each one done feedback from riders to see what worked and what didn’t work.

      Also an odd fact: MAX cars aren’t even the same width. The 100, 200 and 300 series are all 8.5 feet wide. Siemens and TriMet figured out they could gain a bit more space inside if they played around with the design a bit and still make the car design fit existing platforms and line side structures. So, the 400 and 500 series cars are 8.7 feet. It isn’t much, but two inches of width gained is two inches of space you don’t have to fight getting past Zach’s bicycle.

      1. The latest MAX trains for the Orange Line have seats that face away from the cab. This direction of view is a security measure like “eyes on the street” in urban planning. Streetcars could have their seating similarly rearranged. The latest MAX trains are always coupled in pairs with ‘view seating’ where the two cabs and equipment was mostly wasted space.

        The MAX system maintains an integrity with aspects of land-use and development; high speed is counter-productive. Important goals are achieved with future development patterns that reduce the need for cross-county commuting. More stops influence more station area development whereby economic elements may complement housing to reduce the distance of (and need for) long-distance commuting. IMO, Sound Transit plans for Link will induce demand for commuting that Link cannot meet, inadvertantly or not, serving automobile-related business interests whose latest attempt to kill transit is self-driving cars.

    2. I just got back from a week in Manhattan, riding the subway every day. The only people we saw moving from car-to-car via the open gangways were the beggars, stopping every 10 feet to give their little speech with their box in their hands.

      1. The NYC subway cars do not have open gangways as Zach meant. While technically you can walk between cars in NYC. It’s discouraged and even dangerous because you’re exposed to the outside. See Toronto’s latest trains for what open gangways are. There are no doors between cars. The train is one big long room. So beggars can’t move from car to car to fool each car’s passengers because the entire train would see and hear it. And passengers can easily move between cars or even stand in the joints much like they do on an articulated bus, which increases capacity and improves flow. Can’t do that in NYC.

      2. Open gangway are better for personal safety too. You’re less likely to be stuck on a car with just one person.

      3. Rio de Janeiro’s newer cars are open gangway as well, which is nice as you have a view of the entire train and, as jeik mentions, potential safety issues are mitigated as you can move to anywhere else on the train if you feel uncomfortable–and anyone on the train can see and hear if something untoward is going on.

        Where it is amusing in Rio is that they have “women-only” cars at peak time–with the old cars this is straightforward as they are always in the same location on the train, the cars have a pink stripe and the entrance locations are delineated on the platforms. With the open gangway cars, there’s just a pink line on the floor and walls that you’re not supposed to pass if you’re male–no barriers. I’m not sure how this works in practice if there is a crush load in the standard cars and space in the women-only areas!

  4. I don’t really understand why the two fleets can’t be made compatible – that would seem like a no brainier requirement.

    That said, I would go for double length LRV’s. ST isn’t going to be running any 1-car trains ever, and you could always add a single to a double if they needed the equivalent of a 3-car train. Doubles would be cheaper (2 cabs instead of 4, etc) and higher capacity.

    The way Link is being designed it really is more of Light Metro. It’s time for ST to start acting like it and go for longer LRV’s. Heck, why not have some quads in the mix for special event service.

    Note: I focus on LRV length as opposed to open gangways because I’m not sure how the open gangway concept would work with Link type vehicles where every unit is a double ended, stand-alone independent unit. Open gangways seem to be more limited to systems where the intermediate cars really are just cars and don’t have control capabilities. But I could be wrong about this.

    In any case, it seems like longer LRV’s could get you almost to where open gangways would get you anyway. And with a limit of 4-car trains, it might be simpler just to go with longer LRV’s

    1. Open gangways are practically the same as longer LRVs. Toronto’s Rocket open gangway subway cars are permanently coupled into a 6-car set with cab cars at the ends.

    2. Whether the two fleets can be intermixed or not is a matter of ST’s specs. If the agency calls for compatibility, the vendors will provide it. For reasons not yet clear, they have apparently omitted this item from the new vehicle specs.

      1. Mechanical compatibility is easy. It’s typically electrical compatibility which is hard.

      2. @RDPence Trimet can mix and match the Type 1, 2 and 3 vehicles. The Type 1 cars are high-floor and are always matched with a type 2 or 3 to provide accessibility. The newer Type 4 and Type 5 are kept in pairs of their own types.

  5. What I meant is that driver’s cab door looks correctional. Drivers’ own window is definitely larger. Leaving a lot better view for targeting the couplers that look like demon battering rams from Gothic comics. If VTA legal department can’t get these shielded, like ours, why can’t insurance rates do it?


  6. Biggest potential upgrade: Head cars and body cars. Right now all the cars are designed as head cars, this will be uneccesary by the time Eastlink opens.

    Not wasting space on everything that goes into excessive head cars would be a significant bump in capacity, paricularly since the primary configuration will the head/body/body/head.

    1. Thanks. I couldn’t remember the terminology.

      Link will never be operated below a 2-car train due to demand, and it can’t be operated above a 4-car train due to station length, so I’m not sure if going to the head car/body car concept buys you much beyond just ordering fixed double length LRV’s.

      But I guess that is a call for the experts down at ST to make. But no matter, longer trains of some sort is exactly where they should be going.

      1. They could at least have cars with drivers compartments on one end. Using current vehicles, a four-car train has eight driver compartments, when it really only needs two. That seems like a lot of space that could be put to better use, not to mention that a driver’s compartment probably costs more than a couple of passenger seats.

      2. KH, true – I was just making up terms to get the point across – a quick google search failed me. Know the correct ones?

        As Eric said there is a huge amount of wasted space in the current confuguration. Extending that to 4 car configs allows flexibility but wastes a huge amount of space.

      3. Keith –

        Typically I hear what you are referring to as “head cars” as “cab cars.”

        I knew what you were referring to … I was just puzzled by the terminology.

        I agree with what you are saying, though. Years ago, I felt the same way in regards to Tri-Met’s vehicle orders. Note that with the last two series of LRVs, they have begin purchasing cars with a cab in only one end.

      4. I think technically a “head end car” is the first car behind the locomotive on a passenger train (the long distance mainline type). I have heard the term used before, but now that I think about it I am not sure of its use in this context.

        Got the point across though.

        Main point is longer, higher capacity LRV’s would be great.

        Just removing the cab from one end doesn’t buy you much. It might help in Portland, but Portland is very length constrained due to their downtown street block size. They can’t go to as long an LRV as ST can, so removing one cab might help them a little, but if ST went to a longer LRV we would get a much bigger benefit.

    2. Even the double length cars Gordon has proposed would be a major improvement, and its something that’s already been done with kinkisharyou cars just like the ones we have.

      You essentially double the length by adding extra middle sections, eliminating the need for so many driver sections.

      The benefit of lengthing existing cars is it also saves a lot of money.

  7. As a out-of-towner who has taken the train to Seatac, noticed the lack of space for luggage. Will the design of the new cars take this into account. Here in Vancouver, the Canada Line cars had taken
    this in consideration.

    1. The bike compartments double as luggage space, and many of the seats have plenty of room for a carry-on size suitcase underneath. Many people don’t think to put their suitcase under their seat though.

    2. If you are from Vancouver you will notice that hardly anything in our system is as good as what you have. It will cost more to build and operate, have many more miles of track, carry fewer people and in general provide a lot less in the way of good transit outcomes for the region. In short, we completely ignored what Vancouver has done, as well as most every other successful implementation of a mass transit system.

      The luggage racks is the least of our concerns.

      1. @RossB,

        You are right. Our one LR line is a complete failure and will never amount to anything more than a regional embarrassment. Nevermind that it carries 40,000 rides per day and will likely double that with U-link coming online. It is a failure pure and simple, and we should recognize that as a region and have the courage, foresight and strength of will to shut it down. NOT!!

        But I think history will prove you wrong, and already is if you bother to look at the numbers.

      2. Ross, no question that Vancouver BC has an excellent transit system, from trolleybuses to Sky Train. Their history also gave them right of way that we have to build for ourselves.

        In addition to being wide and flat, Metropolitan Vancouver inherited many miles of existing railroad right of way, much of it wide enough for both Sky Train pillars and railroad operations alike.

        And also, there’s a railroad tunnel from the steam-engine days curving directly under the Vancouver CBD and all its property values.

        Steam power meant ceiling had to be high enough to “vent” locomotives. So Sky Train tubes could be stacked like an over-under shotgun, one barrel per direction.

        There wouldn’t have been enough money in Canada to dig it for Sky Train alone in mid 1980’s. Seattle’s vertical beauty hardly left us any usable existing right of way at all, underground or above it.

        Dictating why we had to start our regional railroad with a subway where bus ops would morph into rail. Our regional system needed that subway because Downtown was too narrow and blocks too short for surface running.

        And we needed to work up to rail via dual-mode buses because places outside Seattle refused to pay for a subway ride they’d need a bus to get to for 20 years. Or more.

        Given our cheapskate inheritance in right of way, a fantastic complete regional system could have been PowerPointed, FlowCharted, Taskforced, and Rethought a dozen times before we got near our present progress on the ground. And under it. And soon, across a floating bridge.

        The name of the present the blue and white symbol was deliberately chosen to declare the exact opposite of its present unfortunate misinterpretation. Really means:

        “A handicap race in horse racing is a race in which horses carry different weights, allocated by the handicapper.

        A better horse will carry a heavier weight, to give him or her a disadvantage when racing against slower horses.”

        So Metro and Sound Transit were assigned to carry every factor above just to keep the contest fair. We’ll save seats for you, and Vancouver’s system, at the temporary finish line in 25 years or so max.

        Mark Dublin

      3. Oh, bullshit Lazurus. More nonsense. Really, [ad hom]. Of course you have been proven wrong again and again. Somehow NE 130th station doesn’t matter. Somehow the lack of a First Hill station doesn’t matter. The lack of good bus connections in general don’t matter, because what matters is service to only a handful of reasonably dense areas, and nothing more.

        But of course that isn’t the case now, is it? Metro has struggled doing a restructure in large part because Sound Transit never even consulted with them in designing the stations. Consider a couple points:

        1) Metro will be running buses from the north end to First Hill. Brand new routes to serve an under served area. Hours and hours of service for an area that should have been served by Link. It doesn’t matter, huh? Tell that to the guy stuck in a crowded bus because Metro can’t afford more buses, or the gal stuck waiting for a bus because Metro can’t afford the extra frequency. Or someone who rides this bus and wonders why it takes so long and why they spent billions on a light rail line but didn’t bother with a station to First Hill.

        2) The Capitol Hill restructure was ridiculously unpopular. So unpopular that many of the changes were scrapped. The 43 will still exist, for example, despite the fact that it covers the exact same territory that Link covers. People in that area will have a light rail line literally right under their feet and it won’t do them much good. This is because the stations don’t serve First Hill, and they don’t serve 23rd. So Link somehow managed to skip the most densely populated area of Seattle (the Central Area) and only add one station. Oops.

        Oh, but we are supposed to be impressed with 40,000. Wow, 40 grand. OK, first of all, right now we would have had around 60,000 riders a day if we had chosen a line from the UW to downtown first, instead of focusing on an airport run. That is an estimate which of course includes a First Hill station, since it would of course focus on the most populous areas. The 60,000 estimate was from several years ago as well (before our latest boom). So it would probably be close to 80,000 right now, even without Tukwila.

        But sure, 40,000 sounds like a lot of people. Except that Vancouver carries 390,000. Yes, that is right, Vancouver rail line carries around ten time the number of riders that we do.

        But that isn’t even the most important number. Remember how I said that you [ad hom]. What matters is overall transit mobility. What matters is how well transit serves the trips taken within an area. Think of all the trips taken in a city, then figure out how long each trip takes with transit. Then judge the improvement by how many trips are improved and by how much. To be clear, some of those trips are taken by car right now (a lot of them) but it really doesn’t matter. The point is to focus on a trip and then figure out how long it takes to get from one place to the other by transit. Then see how much better it is and count the number of similar trips.

        One crude way to measure this is overall transit ridership. If a system improves, it will lead to new riders. This isn’t the only measure, because you don’t want to sacrifice existing ridership (some of whom are “captive riders”) just to chase down a few people who currently drive. It should be obvious by now that our system is doing exactly that or at least leans that way. The heavy ridership areas of the Central Area are being given nothing, while we try and get suburban riders out of their car. In short, if we don’t have high transit ridership, then we aren’t doing a very good job.

        So one way to measure the success of a transit investment is to look at overall transit ridership, especially as a percentage of the population (per capita transit ridership). Vancouver is third in North America per capita. Third! More importantly as a comparison, they have triple the number of riders (per capita) as we do. Three times!

        Yet they don’t have light rail to North Vancouver (an area similar to West Seattle, except with way more more densely populated neighborhoods and way more businesses). They don’t run trains to Abbotsford. Hell, it barely gets to Langley, a city twice as big as Tacoma, four times as big as Everett, and much closer. They have a relatively short amount of rail lines, but they have lots of stops and they complement the bus service. That’s it. It isn’t magic. But you can tell that a huge number of transit trips are made better as a result. The buses are frequent and the trains are frequent. They are both very fast. They focus on densely populated, popular destinations.

        We don’t have that, and we aren’t even close to having that. To have that, we would need at least three things:

        1) Ballard to UW light rail.
        2) Metro 8 Subway
        3) A second tunnel with service to Ballard and West Seattle. The tunnel could would be fine as a bus tunnel, but could eventually be light rail.
        4) Freeway and freeway ramp improvements (all of which are very cheap, like changing HOV 3 to HOV 2)
        5) A bus restructure based on those improvements.

        That is about it. Everything else is just bonus. Light rail to Lake City or turning that Ballard/West Seattle bus tunnel into a train tunnel is just bonus. It is like the last Vancouver vote (that failed). They still have tremendously high transit ridership without it, and we would too, if we built that (and only that).

        But building other things in the mean time is a terrible idea. It meas that it is quite possible that we won’t build those (higher performing, better value) projects. It means that, as is the case today, ridership is fairly low, despite the sizable investment and high operating costs (a point you readily admit when you suggest that we will double ridership while adding a much smaller section of track). It also means that until we build those things, we are stuck with a poorly performing system despite spending huge amounts of money.

        If we eventually do build out our system to the point of having those things, but have built lots of other less important things in the mean time, then it isn’t a trivial problem. It means that we have spent an enormous amount of time with a poorly performing system and an enormous amount of money for a city this size. That has ramifications far behind transit. We may not have money for other important things, like police protection or health and human services (as should be obvious, both are underfunded right now). Or we saddle working class people in this town with a huge tax bill (made worse by our horribly regressive tax structure).

        If we build our system like Vancouver has done, then we will be fine. The excesses that have occurred are fairly minor at this point. The biggest mistakes (e. g. leaving out First Hill) can be corrected (by building the Metro 8 subway). Things aren’t as good as they should be, but they eventually could be made a lot better. But if we continue to build a system that ignores successful systems (like Vancouver) and mimics unsuccessful ones, then we will spend huge amounts of money on very little.

      4. “Somehow NE 130th station doesn’t matter. Somehow the lack of a First Hill station doesn’t matter.”

        Somehow a tunnel between downtown and Northgate doesn’t matter, or 4-minute frequency in that segment (when did buses ever do that?), or a one-seat ride from Rainier Valley to SeaTac or Northgate, or immunity from the traffic jams and accidents that have been happening almost every day. Less than perfect is not the same thing as a failure. A failure is if Link breaks down completely and doesn’t move, or if nobody rides it. People at 15th Ave E or First Hill or 520 will have a slightly harder time getting to a station than perhaps it should, but when they get there they’ll be able to make trips with the destinations/frequency/reliability they’ve never dreamed of before. This is the benefit of Link, and the fact it does have stations at Broadway, the U-District, Northgate, Roosevelt, Bellevue, SeaTac, etc. That gives it at least a “C” grade if not a “B”. Half of it is grade-separated, and that will increase to at least 80% when ST2 is finished; that’s a far cry from most light rails that are 80% surface. It’s too bad we can’t have an “A” or “A+” system, but “B” is better than nothing.

      5. @MIke — Come on Mike, I never said that. I never said that North Link didn’t matter. Far from it. Really, go through any of my comments and you won’t see that.

        On the other hand, Lazarus is famous for opposing the NE 130th station, and saying it isn’t worth the small amount of money. This is just one example:

        Has he changed his tune? Has he changed his mind and come to the realization that stations matter and that bus integration are an important part of successful light rail line? If so, I haven’t seen it. No, its more “Raw, Raw, 40,000 — U-Link will be fantastic”.

        Of course it will be huge. How could it not be? Seriously, we could have built the crappy freeway to UW line that was originally proposed and it would still have thousands and thousands of riders. That isn’t the point. We have made some huge mistakes, and a lot of them are horrible. The mistakes were made while we spent enormous sums on a light rail line. Just about all those light rail lines that you point to as being worse were built with a lot less money. It is possible that we can patch up the mistakes. The 520 bridge is still being built, so it is possible that we can somehow get buses off 520 and to Husky Stadium without being stuck in traffic. A Metro 8 subway can be built (someday) which would help immensely with the situation in the Central Area (providing service to both 23rd and First Hill). A two seat ride from the UW to First Hill is less than ideal, but certainly acceptable (especially since it would be pretty fast).

        But that requires a change in direction. Right now I don’t see that. What I see is an agency that is considering horribly performing projects, while ignoring obviously better and cheaper ones. In what world do you build light rail to West Seattle or complete the spine before you invest in the Metro 8 subway? That suggests an agency that has no idea how to build a mass transit system or has some other peculiar problem. Hell, they probably won’t even build UW to Ballard light rail before West Seattle light rail. That is nuts and you know it.

        These aren’t minor things. This is not like the UW station being at Husky Stadium instead of the HUB (which is as much the fault of UW or maybe nobody’s fault as it is ST). But that change in station is minor. The students will walk a bit farther to class. No, the big mistakes I’m talking about huge. They can literally provide us with “C” level service at “A” level costs.

        Just to be clear, I’m not talking about individual lines. I’m not talking about particular pieces. I’m talking about the whole thing. At what point can you say that what we have built is a great system? If we don’t build the things on that list above, I don’t think we can. Just think of the trips. We are like most cities — people don’t live in isolated spots easily served by rail. Nor is everyone going downtown. We are spread out everywhere, and we want to go everywhere. What makes sense to build is a system that leverages the existing roads (with buses) and also serves the most popular and populous locations with grade separated rail. The two need to be integrated together. In short, build what Vancouver has. Less rail, but better rail.

        I don’t want to rehash the mistakes of the past. I honestly will give Sound Transit a big pass on those. The past is past. If Sound Transit is in the back room apologizing to Metro for the lack of stations, then great. If they are sorry, and would do things differently now (now that we have a booming economy) then I have faith in them. But, like Lazarus, I see no evidence of that. I see an agency that seems ready to make the same mistakes all over again. They seem focused on building more and more rail, regardless of how much it costs, or how valuable the new stations are. This is scary to me, and suggests that we are in deep trouble. I hope I’m wrong, but pretending there isn’t a problem doesn’t help. All that does is suggest to those folks that happen to read this blog that they can build anything. That Seattle is so desperate for transit that they will spend money on anything. That isn’t good. Not for anyone.

      6. @Mark — A few things to keep in mind when it comes to what you just said:

        1) Sound Transit inherited a downtown tunnel much better located than the one Skytrain inherited in the ’80s.
        2) Vancouver made the best of its imperfect tunnel, enabling great connections both downtown and everywhere else. ST, not so much.
        3) The Canada Line’s downtown segment was tunneled from scratch.

        But that really isn’t the point. If Vancouver has a much better system because they were lucky and we couldn’t afford to build what needs to be built then I would be OK with that. But that isn’t the case. We built a line to the airport way before it was needed. We skipped a First Hill station and a station at 23rd (and one for 520). We are headed to Federal Way and went way past 145th (the logical ending of North Link). Those all add up. The parts that weren’t needed (airport, Federal Way, Lynnwood) would have easily paid for the parts that are essential (extra stops in the Central Area). In short, we paid for a lot of frosting and forgot to buy a potato. Now we are hungry.

        Oh, and now we are looking at more frosting. I want some potatoes.

      7. “I never said that North Link didn’t matter.”

        The tone of your messages suggested that; otherwise I would not have posted a defense. If we’re going to evaluate Link we need to keep in mind both the good aspects and the bad aspects, because the net experience is both of them together. The problems you cite (130th, First Hill) are flaws, but they don’t negate the whole thing. It reminds me of somebody who’s no longer here who went on about 130th and First Hill and Graham and 15th and Summit as if these were the only important things; as if Link was totally worthless without them. Even when he sometimes acknowledged that Link to Bellevue was a good thing, and Link to Lynnwood made some sense because of the dozens of buses it would truncate, oftentimes he still went on as if without First Hill Link was nothing. To david yip you completely trashed Link, and while all your facts are true, it gives a visitor who may know little about Pugetopolis’ transit the impression that there’s nothing good at all. I would be more interested to hear how david yip’s experience was, whether Link and the total transit network got him to where he wanted to be, and whether anything else hindered him besides the lack of luggage racks. Because, if I assume the train came in a few minutes and made its run without any unscheduled stopping, that’s still something. Again, maybe a B instead of an A.

      8. @RossB,

        It’s not that the 130th St Station doesn’t matter, it is purely that it doesn’t make sense. Spending $50M on a station that adds zero net riders to the system and has near zero prospects for TOD doesn’t make sense. It’s not personal, it’s just the data.

        The rest of your post I didn’t read – I’m plenty old enough already.

      9. And, Lazarus, as we have repeatedly explained to you without refutation, that “data” was generated using the assumption that King County Metro and ST Express buses do not exist.

        I agree that if buses didn’t exist, a 130th St Station would be stupid. But in the real world, it’s a very smart idea.

      10. Thanks Lazarus, for your latest post. I was afraid that I might have misstated your opinion. People do change over time, and change their opinions based on new information or insight they have gained. I would feel bad if that was the case and I attributed an old opinion to you. It sounds like you still feel the same way, which is reassuring (in a perverse way). You still don’t understand the basics of transit mobility. Cool.

        @Mike — I don’t mean to imply that our system is crap. What I mean is that it is nowhere near what Vancouver has. For the areas that it covers or is about to cover, it is nowhere near what Vancouver has. Even for areas that are fairly dense and even for areas that will have light rail very close. Consider Roosevelt High School to Garfield High School. Right now you take the 48. In a few months, you take the 45 and then the 48. In a few years you take link a couple stops, then take the 48 (or something similar). My point is not that it is better now, but that it won’t be great even when Link gets to Roosevelt! At rush hour you gain the most by taking the train and making a transfer. But that is also when the 48 will be completely bogged down on Montlake. Getting from one school to the other will be very difficult, even though we put rail down in that very area.

        These are not obscure places. These are the two biggest high schools in the city. These are way more densely populated than the average area in Seattle. There is actually a light rail station by one of them, yet it does no good for this obvious connection.

        I honestly didn’t spend any time cherry picking this choice. I’m sure I could come up with similar ones. For example, Franklin High School to Garfield. Again, two big high schools, one has a train station, but it does no good. I’m just randomly picking high schools that also happen to have a fair amount of density by them! Imagine if I pick hospitals. Or nightlife locations. Or major non-downtown office clusters. In all cases the same pattern emerges. You have one or two that are linked to light rail, but to get from one to the other is difficult and no better five years from now than it was ten years ago. That is simply not the case with Vancouver.

        But again, I don’t want to rehash the mistakes of the past. My main point is that I see no sign that we are evolving towards what Vancouver has. I see no sign that we have learned from the past. I have no doubt that Lazarus represents the feelings of many on the ST board when he focuses on ridership of the light rail line alone. That is so profoundly ignorant and so profoundly non-Vancouver that it boggles the mind. I write this stuff in painstaking detail (I know it is long and cumbersome, but it still there). It isn’t just about light rail ridership, it is about transit ridership. The trains have to work well with the buses or you will have spent billions and it simply won’t work that well.

        Vancouver gets that but it isn’t clear that Sound Transit gets that (yet). If they do in a few months I will be the first one to sing their praises.

      11. Although RossB has pointed this out, I would also add my comment that Vancouver did not start with a “luckier” starting point when building Skytrain. The Dunsmuir Tunnel that was converted to Skytrain was not in the best location and it was not large enough. It had to be expanded upward to accommodate two lines over and under. The bus tunnel in Seattle was far superior. And the previous Interurban rail corridor was no great advantage either. It was politically easier than the parallel Kingsway route, but Kingsway would have had better ridership. And the Vancouver metro area is hardly wide and flat. Some parts are flat, but other parts have serious hills: the ridge all along the Burrard Peninsula, the Surrey plateau, Burnaby Mountain, and the North Shore (which is all mountain sides). Seattle has Lake Washington and the ship canal, and Vancouver had the harbour and the Fraser River. Seattle’s downtown is on a constricted isthmus, but Vancouver’s downtown is at the northwest corner of the region. Both cities have geographical challenges.

        One think that Vancouver was lucky with was the selection of a light metro system instead of light rail. A light metro allowed higher speeds and higher frequencies, but I suspect that the “cool factor” of driverless operation was as important to the politicians selecting it as the transit outcomes. Vancouver was just lucky to get that all important frequency.

        I think RossB also credits Skytrain for covering more core routes areas than it does. Certainly where it does cover core routes it does so well because of the high frequency. You just hop on without thinking about it. But there are glaring coverage gaps in the core. Finishing the Millennium Line under Broadway is the most obvious. That would get 200,000+ weekday boardings from day one. A line under Hastings through downtown would hugely speed up transit service in that corridor and would probably be looking at 100,000 weekday boardings. And extending the Expo Line under the Harbour to the North Shore would be at 25,000 boardings per day to start.

        The one thing where I would credit skill in Vancouver is bus integration. All the lines from the very beginning were built to integrate with the bus system, and all the lines engendered large bus restructures. Before the Canada Line opened the 400 series Richmond buses all trundled up and down Granville to downtown. Now they have disappeared. Actually the bus restructures start before the line even opens by running shadow limited stop buses along the new rapid transit route. The Evergreen Line is not yet open, but the 97 B-Line is already following its route. It was the same with the Millennium Line and the Canada Line. Bus integration might be one reason why the new lines are always faster than the buses they replace. Slow speeds is one of the reasons that I am critical of Link. If it is slower than the express buses, what is the point?

        Back on topic, Translink has just received some new Mark III Skytrain cars. Big changes? More open areas for bikes and strollers, larger windows, and open gangways through the four-car trainsets.

      12. Of course it will be huge. How could it not be?

        Only because Metro is forcing people to transfer prematurely.

  8. I agree with the others. Few if any Link’s are going to run as a single car so let’s get some longer vehicles and not waste space & money with the excess cabs. I’d also like more comfortable seats and less seats facing backwards…. Maybe make them rotatable?

    I’d like to see the cars be driverless or at least designed so they can be upgraded to that in the future.

    Lets improve the onboard systems to output better location data for the many OneBusAway-like apps to consume. Let’s also bring some of this tech onboard so you can plan your transfer points (e.g. Arrival times of trains by station).

    Skip free WiFi… Total waste of money. RapidRide should do away with that too.

    1. Even when it works, Ben, which on Sounder it usually doesn’t. Also, not having it is a human workers’ rights thing.

      The alien overlords of the planet SAN HO-ZAY use it to rob their wretched human underlings of their right to look out the huge black windows of those giant maggot-looking buses that both snatch them from their homes and get in the way of the MUNI service they pay for!

      In league with the former Zorkon queen (see Calvin and Hobbes) of HEW-LETT PAK-KARD in PALO ALTO, closest alien planet to VTA terminal in Mountains of Menace View. Please vote for Donald Trump instead.


  9. I also like the idea of middle cars instead of all trains being head cars. Open gangways and comfier seats for sure. Also upgrade the maps inside to electronic ones like on the newer New York subway trains that show where you are, what is next, any closures etc and what the last stop is.

  10. Well the first thing we can do is extend a portion existing fleet of Kinkisharyo LRVs like they are doing with NJ Transit … making their 3-segment LRVs into 5-segment LRVs. This is effectively doubling their capacity at a quarter of the cost of purchasing new vehicles.

    Here are two videos of the prototype:

    As for compatibility … there is no reason why new Kinkisharyo cars couldn’t be mechanically and electrically compatible with their older ones. However, if a different vendor such as Siemens, CAF, Alstom, Vossloh, or Bombardier were chosen then sure. we’d have trains comprised of only one vehicle type — like what happens in most places around the world today.

    1. Different manufacturer is not / should not be an excuse.

      WMATA runs heavy rail trains from multiple manufacturers in consists.

      The MBTA runs mixed light rail cars (Kinki and Breda).

      TriMet does as well (Bombardier and Siemens).

      It would be nice if our “reporter” would do a little digging and actually find out *why* ST is spec’ing non-compatible cars. Is it an actual technological limitation on the offerings from the vendors or has ST made a decision to pursue a technology that precludes mixed operation.

      1. Coupling compatibility just doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. There will be lots of old cars and even more new cars. Trains will have no more than four cars. When it comes time to put a train together, just get some cars that match. You might need to keep a couple more out of service when doing maintenance if you don’t have just the right combination on hand, but this seems like a worthy trade-off if not insisting on compatibility has the potential to bring the cost down.

      2. Physical coupling for dead towing should not be an issue. its most likely the electrical connections in-between the two types of cars. In Portland, when the Type II cars came online, the type 1s had to be rewired to work in MU with them. The Type IV and V cars will physically couple to a I, II, or III but are not capable of MU operation as the electrical and control systems are just that much different.

    2. I should have clarified that the newer and older cars will be designed to couple together, but only for non-revenue service. It’s the communications systems etc that are seen to be fundamentally incompatible with the older fleet. So you might see a new car come to rescue a disabled older car, but you’ll never see them run mixed consists in service.

      1. Perfect planning. Each phase will have it’s own fleet of cars, probably ST3 also. They could color code the cars for each line they run on (red, blue, green) so when they come out of the yard it’s easy to tell if a wrong car got coupled up.
        Jeezzz ST, Links only been running 6 years and now this revelation.

    3. I wonder if the non-compatible fleet thing is just a way of opening up the bidding to other manufacturers than just K. That theoretically would generate some pricing leverage for ST.

      That said, if I was K I would propose compatible vehicles as a bid advantage. K might even be able to propose a retrofit program to take some of our existing singles and convert them to doubles. Then Take the removed cab units and add them to the new units. Do it all local for “local content” compliance and I think K would have a really strong proposal.

      Now can our existing maintenance base handle doubles?

  11. Whatever we build, we should have more center facing seats with more standing room. Too many bus-style seats decreases vehicle capacity and makes it more difficult to handle actual crush loads.

    If we expect central link to get a lot more crowded, these kinds of changes will be essential to increase capacity in each vehicle so fewer folks are left on the platform in cases where our current buses just pass people by.

    In addition to more standing room, arrangements like this leave more room for luggage near the seat of each passenger when needed (wider aisles!)

  12. This is going to be where people feel the conflict created by trying to make a hybrid commuter/urban rail system – it is trying to serve both urban and long distance trips using urban rail station spacing. That’s going to make it really uncomfortable for riders on long trips who have to stand because you-all want to design the cars with sparse seating to serve urban crush loads. You’ll notice that seating is dramatically different on commuter rail cars than urban transit, and that’s why.

    1. Inbound in the AM, those with the longest commutes will grab the seats. Outbound in the PM, those with the longest commutes will eventually have seats. The trick is to figure out how long any individual rider will be forced to stand during peak of peak.

      1. Northbound, by the time the trains leave 145th, there should be plenty of seats available. The question is when the cutoff is, though. There will certainly be a lot of people heading to the UW, so it will be crowded until then. I’ve been on the 41 several times this week and it has been packed every day, even during the edges of rush hour (3:45 PM). It is still growing and has the potential to grow much faster (if they ever do anything with the mall) so I think there will be plenty of people riding that far. 130th and 145th will both be major transfer stations (for Lake City and the 522 corridor respectively). That is a harder call, but if growth continues in Lake City and good bus service is provided, it wouldn’t surprise me if lots of people are standing until you get past 145th.

        But trains are huge compared to buses, so it also wouldn’t surprise me if most of the seats open up at the U-District. I would make a guess if I knew how many seats are on a typical bus (like the 41) versus a train configured for standing.

        It should be easier to figure out how many people are standing for the south bound run (outside the city) but I don’t have that data either. Rainier Valley probably has the largest potential for growth in the city, but it hasn’t happened that much yet (except for Columbia City).

      2. “That’s going to make it really uncomfortable for riders on long trips who have to stand”

        That was my first feeling, that 2×1 seating is popular on MUNI and Vancouver buses which are all short-distance. BART has just the opposite: 2×2 seats in comfortable soft plush. Side seats are on the NYC subway, which is mostly short-distance trips but it does reach two-hour runs like Link will. But Brent has a good point: long-distance riders will be able to sit on at least part of the trip, as happens when the 71/72/73 dump out at Campus Parkway, the E at 46th, the 554 at Eastgate, etc. And with Link’s separate right of way you’re guaranteed 8 minutes to UW or 15 minutes to Northgate when seats open up, as opposed to buses that take 30 minutes through the same section and sometimes traffic or accidents stretch that to 45 or 60 minutes. So at the very worst, our unfortunate person getting on at Westlake will have a seat within eighteen minutes at 145th.

      3. Regardless of the maximum eighteen minutes, there would be a huge public outcry if ST proposes 2×1 seats, so I doubt it’d have much of a chance. But it’s worth trying.

    2. No one will want to ride these trains to Seattle everyday from Everett or Tacoma. What’s the best guess for trip time to Tacoma, two hours?

      1. Yep, 2 hours, or a bit longer if serving Paine Field. Napkin math: Lynnwood-Federal Way is supposed to be ~73 minutes. A pure I-5 alignment would add 15 miles Lynnwood-Everett and 11 miles Federal Way-Tacoma. Covering those 26 miles at the same speed as the elevated section between SeaTac and Federal Way (35 mph average with stops) equals 44 minutes. 73+44 = 117 minutes end to end.

      2. And how much time will the S-curves through Federal Way add to the trip south?

        Why not just zig-zag all over south King and make a detour out to Black Diamond, since no one will be riding this thing from end-to-end anyway?

      3. Hardly any added time. At Highline the distance between I-5 and 99 is less than 1/4 mile, and the likeliest station will split the difference between them. The problem isn’t the alignment’s directness – it’s far more direct than the Rainier Valley deviation, for instance, – it’s that it for its entirety it’ll skirt the edges of where people and businesses are.

      4. Westlake-Lynnwood is 28 minutes. Westlake-Everett is an hour. Westlake-Tacoma is just over an hour. But few people travel from Tacoma to Everett, most get off somewhere in the middle. The advantage of a train with several stations is that people can simultaneously get off and on at many points along the line, whereas with an express bus they all have to get off downtowm whether or not that’s their destination. Also, people in Lynnwood are excited about a 1-hour one-seat ride to SeaTac. That may seem silly (“You’re happy about a one-hour trip?”), but it’s better than their alternatives north of Seattle.

      5. >> The advantage of a train with several stations is that people can simultaneously get off and on at many points along the line, whereas with an express bus they all have to get off downtowm whether or not that’s their destination.

        Yes, exactly. Good point, Mike. I don’t think people always understand this. Express buses are often faster, but a light rail line will make many stops.

        Which is why it is ridiculous that this light rail line is going any farther than Shoreline, let alone Lynnwood. There are very few people taking stops between there. This is why successful systems have a subway with lots of stops in the city, and commuter rail (or express buses) from the suburbs. Those getting from Everett to Lynnwood will do just as well with an express bus (and much better in the middle of the day and great all day if WSDOT gets off their asses and paints an HOV 3 over HOV 2). There will only be a handful headed to Ash Way. Those people can take two buses (one to Lynnwood and one back) or a local. It is crazy to spend billions on a light rail line for what is obviously a commuter line usage pattern.

      6. and great all day if WSDOT gets off their asses and paints an HOV 3 over HOV 2

        Don’t forget, of course, that the most congested section (Northgate to Downtown) has zero HOV at all.

      7. I agree that Link is not strictly necessary beyond Lynnwood or Des Moines, and there may be better alternatives. But at this point Lynnwood to Des Moines is a done deal, and the stations are fixed or almost fixed. So it really does come down to what kind of trains to buy. Everett and Tacoma are still speculative at this point. Snohomish and Pierce really want them, but things could change somewhat when the system plan details get clearer and ST has to decide on a final price tag. Things might come to a head when ST clarifies whether it will delete the peak buses to Federal Way and Tacoma. At that time people will say, “Gulp, do I really want longer travel time?” Those who oppose the Tacoma extension might want to focus on this issue with their politicians and the public.

      8. >> Don’t forget, of course, that the most congested section (Northgate to Downtown) has zero HOV at all.

        I agree,* which is why Northgate Link was essential. NE 130th was probably essential as well, because Northgate is terrible as a bus location. But NE 130th was not much better. NE 145th is the logical terminus, even thought it would have required spending money on a big, Mountlake Terrace station. Speaking of which, if such a station was really expensive at 145th, than Mountlake Terrace would have been fine as a terminus. Lynnwood was overkill. But, as Mike said, what’s done is done.

        What would be really stupid is going farther.

        * Your statement is not entirely true, but close enough. The HOV lanes are with the express lanes, which means they are limited to rush hour direction, which is obviously terribly limiting.

      9. To quote WSDOT:

        “There are also HOV lanes located in the Reversible Express Lanes on I-5 between Northgate and downtown Seattle.”

        Has that changed?

      10. When the lanes are northbound in the evening, the left lane is HOV from the Lake City Way exit to the end of the express lanes.

        When the lanes are southbound, this lane is closed altogether for a good chunk. There are three general purpose lanes up until past the Mercer exit.

    3. Yes, just one of the many problems with our current hybrid system. Not only do commuter trains have more seats, they typically run a lot less often. They feed into frequent running urban systems. A train from Naperville, for example, can get you to anywhere in Chicago because once you are in Chicago, the trains run very frequently (and connect to frequently running buses).

      If, as Brent and barman suggest, we will be sending light rail trains out to the suburbs with very few customers, we will incur high operational costs with very little farebox recovery. Or the suburban trains will run infrequently, while the urban part of the line runs frequently (also a operational cost inefficiency). Or the whole thing is run less frequently, which leads to a much worse transit outcome. Everyone loses.

      I think this last statement is not well understood. Suburban commuter transit works best when it can leverage frequent, fast urban transit. There is a reason that I-5 is clogged every day, yet very few people drive downtown. The people on I-5 are not headed downtown (if they were, they would be taking a bus). They are trying to get somewhere else in the city, but the public transportation system can’t get them there. Spending huge amounts of money improving the first part of the trip (e. g. Everett to Lynnwood) will result in a marginal improvement. What is needed is improving the second part (e. g. UW to Ballard).

      1. There’s no plausible ST4 anyway, period, unless we agree on differential taxation between subareas.

      2. If UW-Ballard isn’t in ST4, what would ST4 even be? I assume by then subarea equity will be gone, so we can finally achieve ST’s vision of light rail to Ellensburg.

      3. It’s inconceivable that Ballard-UW wouldn’t be in ST4. They may not have a large enough activist base to overtake Ballard-downtown, but it’s 100% certain it won’t fall behind Northgate-Bothell or the Georgetown bypass or Aurora. (As for Denny Way and the CD, ST has yet to acknowledge it as a corridor, so it’s further behind at this point. It did appear as part of an alternative for the 2014 long-range plan update but didn’t make it into the final.) But we have no idea when ST4 might go through; first we have to find out if ST3 does and when it succeeds.

      4. So, Lazurus, you are saying that we will have a terrible transit system for the foreseeable future. One focused on mileage, rather than positive transit outcomes. OK, got it.

        @MIke — All the more reason why we should support this now: At best we get Ballard to UW with ST4. This means that Metro 8 subway is pushed back even further (ST5 I guess). Damn, that is insane. We should build the things on that list for ST3, then Metro 8, then start talking about everything else (including west side Ballard light rail, West Seattle light rail or Lake City light rail).

        I generally am a “support everything” type of voter. I’ve lived here most of my fifty some odd years and I can only remember once voting against a capital project or levy. That was for a new jail (the influence of the prison industrial complex isn’t as strong here as it is California, but I want no part of it). So, basically, I give organizations the benefit of the doubt and support capital projects (I would have been an overwhelming supporter of the latest Vancouver project, despite their inability to run things very well). But it sure doesn’t look good for ST3. They have done so many things wrong and continue to be headed down the wrong path that I can’t help but come to the reluctant conclusion that the thing to do is vote no. Building things in the right order matters. Building things that make sense matters. I have no patience or respect for the argument that we should vote against a project because we think the people running it are fools. But if the projects themselves are not a very good value, then it is a bit different. It makes it easier to reject both the proposals as well as the thinking that went along with it.

        But, like you said, we have to wait until Sound Transit comes up with a list. It is not too late to come up with a decent set of projects (even if won’t include Metro 8 subway).

      5. The initial list should be out by December. The WSTT and Denny Way subway won’t be on it as far as we can tell, and trying to get them on is tilting at windmills. (That doesn’t mean we should stop recommending them though.) I’m annoyed that ST’s official feedback mechanism had no way to express support for the WSTT and Denny Way subway. But unofficially the ST staff and board read STB so they know we support these projects and we’re angry about the feedback form. But ST’s focus is on what the county and city governments want, so the only way to get these projects is to get some politicians and polling numbers to support them.

      6. There’s a detailed timeline somewhere in my papers. I don’t remember it to the exact month, but I think the project choices were going to be finalized in November or December. Maybe it was January. The June brochure says, “Jan – May 2016: Preliminary Plan: a draft plan [i.e., an integration of the projects] will be presented to the public”, so they need to know what the projects are in order to integrate them. There’s at least two rounds of system plans, an early set of alternatives and a late draft. So January to May will be very busy and interesting. The brochure also says “July 2016: Sound Transit Board reviews public feedback to adopt plan”; that’s the deadline to fix the plan so that the ballot measure can be written.

      7. I’ll echo what others have said. There is no ST4. We either get Ballard/UW into ST3 (not impossible, fwiw) by scaling the whole package to match the Paine field alignment, subarea wise, or we allow Snohomish to raid other subareas in service of the spine.

        Either way ST3 is the last plausible chance in our lifetimes to use the ST funding mechanism.

        Local sources could potentially do UW/Ballard but it would be tough to pass without other projects in other parts of the city.

  13. >> $733M to procure the remaining 122 light rail vehicles

    I think this is something to think about. I’ve considered several of the drawbacks to completing the spine, but I hadn’t considered this one. Of course it will cost a huge amount of money to lay the track, and the operational costs will increase dramatically (operation costs are largely proportional to mileage). Since it is very unlikely that the ridership will increase in proportion to the additional operation costs, fare box recovery percentage will decrease. This makes sense and was probably widely known.

    But what I hadn’t considered is that we would need to buy a lot more trains. If you double the miles of service, and keep frequency the same, you need twice as many trains. These trains aren’t cheap. We may be on the verge of producing the most cost inefficient mass transit system in North America.

    That would make for a very interesting situation. One of the highest performing, most cost efficient systems in North America (Vancouver) would be very close to one of the worst (Seattle). It would make for one hell of a comparison. I could imagine it being the first chapter on a new transit book. Two cities, similar in size and geography, neither with a history of mass transit (subway or otherwise). One built a light rail system designed for bus integration and fast urban travel, complete with frequent trains and short stop spacing. The other designed a system to directly serve sparsely populated suburbs. The first extremely successful, the second, not so much.

    Sorry for the scary thoughts on a gloomy Saturday. It is Halloween, though.

    1. Boo – Hiss – Back under the Bridge Ross.
      Unfortunately, you are also correct when assessing the system designed to please everyone and no one.
      The four whiz kids on transit had little to offer in the way of hope for mobility in the future and even the mention of going fareless is met with revulsion by some after Austin Tx tried it for a year and gave up in the late ’90’s. Lots of cars have passed through the wrecking yard shredders since then, but never mind facts like a Seattle sized city in Europe having a 13 fold increase in ridership after going to a pre-paid transit service.
      Of course both our examples occur on foreign soil, so do not apply here.

    2. Never mind that Link doesn’t take 20 minutes to crawl across downtown like MAX does, or that half of those trains will be full of people enjoying 4-minute service from the U-District to downtown and 8-minute service from downtown to Bellevue. We’d need a lot of trains in any case. $733 million is not an extraordinary cost for a regional transit network, and it’s the aggregation of three different extensions, not a single line.

      1. I think your missing my point, Mike. No one was arguing that we should ignore the bus tunnel. Of course we put the trains in there (it was designed for that thirty years ago).

        But my point is that from a mileage standpoint*, we are about to blow by Vancouver BC. Both systems are similar in that they are largely grade separated (unlike Portland, as you mentioned). But other than that, they are very different. Vancouver designed their system to serve the most densely populated and popular areas. They also spent a lot to time making sure they worked will with the buses (including suburban buses). I don’t think they spent lot more than we will have spent after ST2 is complete.

        But my main point is that I had no idea that vehicle costs were so high and what that means for our system now and in the future. I knew construction costs were really expensive (still the biggest cost) and I knew that operational costs are high, but the added vehicle costs is just one more reason why we are building an inefficient, low value system. Our operational costs will be high because we will have lots of trains operating at the same time, and they will be doing so because they have to cover miles and miles of track. The same is true for vehicle costs. But unlike the segments that are finally being built now (the part you correctly point out as needing high capacity) much of it will carry very few people. Nowhere near what Vancouver carries. Basically, we are going to spend a lot of time sending mostly empty trains to Federal Way. We also spent a lot of money buying trains so that we can send them to Federal Way. The situation will get worse if we go all the way to Tacoma or Everett.

        This is why the comparison between Vancouver is so interesting. They didn’t spend a lot more money, yet they managed to build a system that is much cheaper to operate, carries way more people, and ends up improving transit much more (which is why they have so many more transit riders). That is largely because they focused on quality of rail instead of quantity. In other words they followed standard practices when it comes to building a good system (essentially mimicking the very successful Toronto transit system) while we are performing a very interesting experiment with much worse outcomes.

        * According to Wikipedia, SkyTrain has about 43 miles of rail. After ST2 is done, I’m not sure exactly how many miles we will have. But I think it will be:

        Current line — 15.6 miles
        University Link — 3.15 miles
        Northgate Link — Over 3.4 miles
        Lynnwood Link — 8.5 miles
        South Link — About 7.6 miles
        East Link — 22 miles

        So, over 60 miles or about 50% more than Vancouver. If we complete the spine, that number will get much bigger. We may top 100, making it one of the worst light rail systems in ridership per mile in North America. It will also likely be one of the worst per dollar spent.

        Oh well, at least we have good football teams (both American and association, otherwise known as soccer).

      2. “the added vehicle costs is just one more reason why we are building an inefficient, low value system”

        It’s within the ST2 budget. If you want to get mad about anything, get mad about the total price because that’s what your tax is based on. The total price was known in 2008.

        “We also spent a lot of money buying trains so that we can send them to Federal Way”

        These trains aren’t going to Federal Way; they’re going to 240th. ST2 approved construction only to 272nd, if it un-defers that segment. 240th to 272nd is 1 1/2 miles. 200th to 272nd (if you prefer that measure) is 3 1/2 miles. That’s not a big distance to get worked up about.

        “Vancouver designed their system to serve the most densely populated and popular areas. They also spent a lot to time making sure they worked will with the buses (including suburban buses).”

        Well yes of course. I wish we had a system like Vancouver’s. But as I said a couple days ago, it comes down to the entire premise behind ST. Vancouver started by asking, “What kind of system would serve the most transit riders and best facilitate urban villages which is our priority.” ST started out by asking, “What’s the common denominator between what North King, South King, East King, Snohomish, and Pierce want?” and “What do their largest cities want?” The result is what we’re getting. But given that this is the political structure we live in, we have to make the best of what the cities and subareas will approve.

      3. “We also spent a lot of money buying trains so that we can send them to Federal Way”

        OK, fair enough. Except that they probably will eventually go to Federal Way, even it never gets to the transit center (South 272nd is in Federal Way). But for now we can say we also spent a lot of money buying trains so that we can send them to Angle Lake.

      4. Well yes of course. I wish we had a system like Vancouver’s. But as I said a couple days ago, it comes down to the entire premise behind ST. Vancouver started by asking, “What kind of system would serve the most transit riders and best facilitate urban villages which is our priority.” ST started out by asking, “What’s the common denominator between what North King, South King, East King, Snohomish, and Pierce want?” and “What do their largest cities want?” The result is what we’re getting. But given that this is the political structure we live in, we have to make the best of what the cities and subareas will approve.

        Good point. But my point is that they probably don’t know what they are getting. I don’t blame them. It sounds obvious — many of the concepts sound obvious. The problem is that they aren’t. As a case example, Lazarus has been on here for months if not years and he still doesn’t think that enabling a better transit network (consisting of both buses and trains) is worth it. I don’t want to pick on him, I just mean that if he can be wrong so often, I can understand why someone who spends most of their time worrying about arguably more important stuff (like the police) can get it wrong as well. It is easy to focus on just “getting there”. It is easy to view light rail like a community center, that will of course make your community better. Every little town and city wants one. Folks will get to it, even if it isn’t that convenient. You want to put them in areas where people can walk to them, but it also makes sense to spread them around.

        But transit isn’t like that. It is more complex. It involves both buses and trains. Unless you build out the train network to New York. type levels (which is highly unlikely for Seattle, as much as Seattle Subway would think it is) then you have to depend on the buses for a huge part of your travel (and even New York has plenty of buses). But you can’t have the buses sitting in traffic, either. That is what makes it complex. To be successful you need a good train network that works well with a good bus network. Which is what Vancouver has.

        I don’t think that folks from Sound Transit realize that what Vancouver has is better for the suburbs than what we will have! That is my key point. If we complete the spine, it still won’t be great for the suburbs (as many have said). Likewise, West Seattle light rail won’t be that great for West Seattle unless it is built out to a ridiculous level (which will never happen). Nor are any of these ideas cost effective. If you take the “community center” view, then these things aren’t obvious. Quite the opposite (they are counterintuitive).

        The problem is both a function of the organizational structure you describe and bad analysis. Even given that structure, the next step should have been to consult with an agency to figure out the most cost effective system for the area. They would have come back with something similar to Vancouver. The suburban city reps would have responded with righteous anger. “How come they get all the light rail and we don’t. I want my town to get light rail!”. Then it would be up to the consultant to patiently explain why bus service (or commuter rail) would be a much better fit for that town. Explain that light rail would take too long and cost too much to build and operate. Buses would be a lot more frequent, and commuter trains would be cheaper (and in many cases faster). Furthermore, it turns out that a lot of your constituents have the most trouble getting around Seattle. They work in the various high schools or universities. They work in small office parks like Fremont or in hospitals like the V. A., Swedish and Virginia Mason. They like to go out on occasion, maybe after work, and see a band or visit a bar. For them (and there are a lot of them) the key is to have a good network in the city and be able to tie into that network from the suburbs. Oh, and it turns out that Seattle pays for the Seattle infrastructure — you just pay for really good bus service that complements it.

        That conversation never happened, which is why we don’t have a very good system. Or, if it did happen, the folks ignored it, believing that it was too difficult to explain it to their constituents. I see quote after quote from representatives pushing for the spine and nothing about how long it will take to get to Seattle. This would be fine if people really wanted to get from, say, Ash Way to Shoreline. But their are a handful of riders like that — many more want to get from Ash Way to Fremont or Shoreline to First Hill or Lynnwood to Ballard or dozens of other places in the city.

        This really isn’t a case of setting different priorities. This isn’t like the debate between coverage or frequency. Both sides lose in this one. But more to the point, they will lose a lot more if we continue to ignore standard best practices and build things that are neither cost effective from a capital nor operational standpoint (e. g. completing the spine).

    3. Actually, Vancouver has some pretty long distances between some of its stations. 22nd Street to New Westminster on the Expo Line may not look that far on the map but it sure seems far when you are riding it.

      One of the huge differences in Vancouver is that there have been some very obvious upzones near the stations. Some of those outer end stations on the Expo line have huge towers next to them in an otherwise sea of single level buildings. However, that zoning thing is a battle for a different comment thread.

      1. Here is a map of the stations on a Google background: sure wish there were more transit maps like this. It is much easier to understand scale. If you look at a typical Google map and select the “transit” layer, you can do the same thing, but you have to zoom in quite a bit before you get to the stations.

        Yes, you are absolutely right, those stations (and several on that line) are not especially close together. But there are several things to consider. First, that is a ways from downtown and along the waterfront. This means you won’t have large numbers of walk-up riders. Second, it is a diagonal route, which means that you aren’t crossing skipping over a major along the way. It would be basically like having a station at Northgate Way and 15th NE, and the next one in Lake City (Lake City Way and 125th). You really don’t need a stop in between there. There is always a trade-off, and that one seems reasonable. Finally (and this is sort of part of the same thing) it works really well from a network standpoint. There is another rail line to the north, and in between there, there is a frequent bus (including a bus that connects to one of those stops).

        This is really my biggest complaint about what we have built and are thinking about building. There are certain areas that will struggle with bus service because they are in the middle of a very congested, very high volume, popular area (e. g. downtown). These areas should have a station if possible. But more importantly, the light rail line should work well as part of a large transit network. The two go together. If I want to get from Pinehurst to First Hill I should first take a bus (which hopefully is frequent, takes a direct route and doesn’t get stuck in traffic) then a train (or two) before I get off close to my destination (First Hill being a very popular location). Skipping over popular areas is bad, but ignoring bus integration is much worse, in my opinion. We seem to do a lot of both, while Vancouver does very little of either.

      2. It may be interesting to contemplate why there isn’t a station at 85th. The answer essentially is that the area is low-density single-family and it would be impossible to get an upzone through because the opposition is so strong. That didn’t happen in Vancouver’s highrise villages around stations

        So then you can ask, if 85th was too low density for a station, why were 145th and 185th chosen, which are even lower density. 145th comes down to the highway, existing P&R, a wide-open road to 522, and serving two jurisdictions. 185th comes down to being the closest to the center of Shoreline. Unfortunately 85th didn’t have any of those.

  14. What we need to do is walk away from the strange mostly-US concept of the “two rooms and a bath” large-little-large segmented LRV … and something more like the Alstom Citadis

    Things I’d like to see on ALL new LRVs purchased:

    1. longer single LRVs (i.e. 2x current vehicle length)
    2. luggage racks
    3. more longitudinal seating / less forwards/backwards seating
    4. electronic strip maps … showing the next stops and the terminal … allows for cars to run on any line
    example :
    5. some BETTER way of indicating on the exterior whether the train is running on the Red line or the Blue line … something better than a little colored square on the external LED displays.

    There is no reason why the trains cannot have some sort of LED stripe down the sides and ends that corresponds to the line color making it quick and easy to determine if it’s your train or not.

    something like this tube train concept

    6. somewhat akin to the image above … make them look cool and exciting. not more of the same.

    1. External coloring would be a nice touch to be sure. I think the biggest help to identifying the lines is if our digital displays in the station actually indicated where the next train was going for once.

      Even now in the tunnel with trains just operating on one line, folks are often confused about which side they should be on, and there is zero indication on the platform for folks who don’t know already. This makes catching buses complicated too for new users.

  15. A couple days ago, I saw someone in a wheelchair have to get pushy for a couple able-bodied middle agers to vacate the fold-up seats in the wheelchair area.

    I don’t understand why those fold-up seats are there. If they are designed to hold the space for wheelchairs, they have the opposite effect of that intended. When there are crushloads, people fold them down and sit in them, reducing the capacity of the car.

    Run the new designs by experts from the various disability communities, especially riders from those communities who have traveled many times on Link.

  16. Airport travelers storing their luggage in the disabled priority seating area is a chronic problem. And disabled people shouldn’t have to ask and wait for people to move their luggage. Something should be done to fix, or at least lessen this problem.

      1. And also common sense and standard human decency. I’ve never seen anybody refuse to move luggage, or stand up, to give space to anyone in a wheelchair.

        I do think that message boards above windows could give directions for best ways to arrange luggage. When I have a wheeled bag, I sit on a side-facing seat and hold the luggage vertical. Suitcase edge comes even with aisle edge of the partition separating the seat from the door.

        The animal message with the really cute little seat-hog really do give right information. When we get little transit gift counters- T-shirts, hoodies, logo-cups, etc., a little stuffed reformed seat-hog could be a great mascot.

        As our regional lines get longer, one real advantage of multi-section trains is chance to arrange different configurations per section. More luggage. Bicycles. Etc. Car-types could be marked, or specially painted by usage.

        But mainly: have signs reserve seats for “Whoever needs them most.”

        It’s humiliating to be offered a seat by a young woman who’ll be working three jobs for life before she sells her body to science to settle her loan account.

        For college debt piled onto her by a generation that got sent to school by the taxpayers. Fine for making her get up should be permanent loss of “Back in MY Day” privileges.



  17. Another benefit of longer cars is that fare enforcement officers can cover a whole train more quickly. 180-foot cars cut the number of travel segments it takes for an FOE team to check the whole train from four segments to two, given adequate time between stations.

    It also more than doubles the number of passengers benefitting from the presence of an FOE team, or any other uniformed law enforcement, on that car.

    In defense of having at least one operator section on each car, security and FOEs could hang out there, and make sudden appearances, reducing the smugness from potential misbehavers that help will not be available until the next station, should word get around that ST is randomly hiding security in the operator section. But unless they have 360-foot cars, there should never, ever be an operator section on both ends of a car again.

      1. Isn’t ST building a new O&M facility for all these new cars on the Eastside? They really need to consider both together.

      2. Even if the OMSF is sized for longer cars, the current plan is for them to go to the OMF for major maintenance. But the requirement would probably be just for the shop spaces to accommodate longer cars. If they can hold two of our current LRVs, they should be fine. If not, they could be lengthened.

    1. Brent, might be good to check out which costs more: designing cars based on need for police, or just buying whatever cars fit other service needs best, and eliminating the “random” bit by putting however many transit policemen we need, in uniform, aboard trains.

      “Random” implies that average traveling perpetrator has enough imagination to calculate percentages. Many of them are seeing so many imaginary space aliens and giant lizards that police are their least worry.

      But here’s main calculation for single versus double-ended cars. Single-ended ones need loop track every time the train has to reverse.

      You’ll notice that the Siemens cars in Portland are always coupled so the train has a cab at each end.

      With standard non-articulated streetcars, like the old PCC’s and earlier, car-lines often ended at parks, with plenty of room for loops. Often landscaped into the park.

      Regional rail can’t handle either the space for loops- ground level, expensive, elevated, unaffordable.

      But: can definitely think of two uses for cab-sized compartments on trains. One, a toilet in case a train has a “stop for an hour on the elevated” issue. Or for mops and other cleaning supplies if somebody doesn’t make it.

      In southern Sweden the streamlined purple electric mini-bullet trains have several ADA-sized bathrooms aboard every train. As well as hundred mile an hour top speed. When LINK makes it to Olympia…good to think ahead.


  18. Thinking ahead about having multiple lines, ST should spec out putting electronic signs above every door stating the line and end point of each train. With crowded platforms and inattentive riders, not every waiting rider can see which train is arriving. Even when more signs are on a side but not near a door, it can be very hard for someone to see where the train is going from where they are on the platform.

    I’m not an expert on audio announcements, but each train should also have some speaker system outside of the train which announces to waiting passengers the line and end point of each train.

    It may sound like a minor element, but adding it in the specs (at least the wiring and room for this) should be done now. It would prevent ST from spending money on refitting the cars for this or for us riders accepting years of frustration by boarding the wrong train.

  19. I’m in Vienna right now on vacay and have been blown away by their system but also by their rail cars. A couple thoughts that we could steal from them (why reinvent the wheel):

    1. More room b/w the door opening and the wall separating the first set of chairs to either side of the doors. Would make it so those spaces can more effectively be a standing space and allow people to more efficiently move through.
    2. In “open” spaces where people stand, having a post in the middle that has 4 separate vertical bars at hand level so more people can hang on.
    3. Arrows on the displays for the next station. The arrow would point to the door side. Being here and not speaking German shows me how important a visual is vs. “Doors to the right ” said over the speaker. ..especially since it’s not always correct!!!

    1. Thanks, Max. Portland uses the pole-with-4-bars handhold. Good idea. Also, I think LINK cars need more straps in the door areas.


      1. Of course, you’re also enjoying the “no fare barrier because everyone in town has a transit pass through an employer and no one bothers about fare enforcement officers” feature of the Vienna transit system. And of course the almost complete lack of single occupancy vehicles in the center city. And bike lanes everywhere. And trams so well-engineered it seems they come within an inch of parked cars but never hit them. I love getting around Vienna.

      2. @breadbaker – YES! my wife was gettin annoyed with me as i was raving about all of these things, so it feels so good to get the validation from you here!

  20. More comfortable seats seems appropriate if people are spending an hour on it.

    And fixing the jerkiness (wobble) inherent in the first gen

  21. I think significantly more has to be done if ST is serious about Link replacing freeway express routes. In its current planned form, it would take twice as long to go from Fed Way to Seattle on the Link than the 578. STB kind of confirmed this when they wrote an article called “South Link is not about Federal Way.” I think if Link is serious about being a freeway express, the minimum requirements in my opinion would be 1: A Boeing Field bypass, which would have the additional benefit of being a straighter path for trains that can go faster. 2: A center track for a limited stop one direction Link express, with direction changing based on time of day (like i-5 express lanes). There could be stops for this at FWTC/SR 516 at Highline College/SeaTac Airport/Boeing Fld/SODO station through Westlake.

    1. For South King and Pierce, you’re absolutely right, though ST staffers have said several times that they view ST Express service as purely temporary until the trains roll in (some even view this as a legal requirement). The most recent staffer seemed exasperated at the question of continued express bus service, saying, “Look at the great systems of North America. You don’t get an O’Hare express bus, you get the Blue Line!”

      Those southern members on the ST Board are about the ask their constituents – just one year from now! – to spend billions to increase their current travel times. As I mentioned previously, this is only worth it if the short and medium trips it enables are worth it, trips like Tacoma-SeaTac, Federal Way-Des Moines, Angle Lake-Columbia City, etc, which is only served by the density maximizing alignments from which the Board seems so eager to flee. Longer trips will just never be competitive unless we neglect our freeways to the point that Link wins anyway, which is ironically the explicit case made in the Federal Way EIS.

      1. Bingo, gridlocked freeway lanes are viewed as poster children for the next tax bump up. Getting them to free flow for the trips ST isn’t making isn’t even part of the discussion.

      2. Yep, good point mic. There is no need to move to HOV3, or HOT (with free HOV 3) even though both would be better for suburban commuters than ST3 (not counting the cost).

      3. “Look at the great systems of North America. You don’t get an O’Hare express bus, you get the Blue Line!”

        Seriously? Did some bozo actually compare South Link to the blue line in Chicago? Seriously?

        OK, first of all, the population density along the entire Blue line is several times higher than South Link. Even our most densely populated area south of Beacon Hill (Rainier Beach) is less populated than the least populated, might-as-well-add-it station along the Blue Line. Most of the Blue Line, of course, is way more populous. As in ten times the population per square mile. Seriously, have fun — look at the census maps. It isn’t even close.

        Then there is the fact that the O’Hare branch is 14.6 miles. That is roughly the distance from SoDo to SeaTac. In other words, we already serve the airport! An airport with way fewer customers and way fewer people along the way.You want to compare the Blue Line to an extension to Federal Way, let alone Tacoma — that is crazy.

        Oh, and just so everyone knows, Chicago did not build the line out to the airport until well after everything else was built. They had the good sense to build the parts that made more sense to build. We can’t seem to do that. So back in 1970s folks had to take a bus from O’Hare (then the busiest airport in the world) into Chicago. But once they got there, they could take the ‘L’ anywhere. The same was true (and is true) for suburban commuters today! Of course it is. You don’t take the ‘L’ from Naperville, you take commuter rail. Then you take the ‘L’. The same is true all over the world. The great systems of North America follow that pattern. Great subways inside the city, and commuter rail or express buses from the suburbs. All the great systems follow that pattern of North America follow that pattern: New York, Chicago, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Washington D. C..

        We should do the same. How anyone would think that the Blue Line resembles South Link is nuts. Truly nuts.

      4. Light rail doesn’t make sense for Federal Way. It never made sense. There is no way that adding an additional line would make sense (it would be an even worse waste of money).

        No one has done this successfully. Even BART. Keep in mind BART covers an area many times more populous. The Bay Area is huge compared to Puget Sound. Furthermore, Muni Metro (which serves San Fransisco proper) is good, and way ahead of what exists in Seattle. So someone from say, Fremont (which is roughly the population of Tacoma, or twice the population of Everett) could take a train to Fremont and then get around San Francisco quite well. But very few do. It really is quite shocking. Other than Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco proper, BART has ridiculously low ridership (under 10,000). We have bus stops with higher ridership than most of the BART stations. Oh, that station in Fremont: 8,300. By the way, there are two lines to Fremont; one connecting it with Berkeley and Richmond; the other connecting it with San Francisco (Oakland is served by both lines). Why does anyone think that Tacoma (let alone Federal Way) will do better than that, given that Fremont is more densely populated (next to the station), passes by way more densely populated areas (Oakland), has an additional line, is faster and connects into a better transit system?

        The answer is won’t, which means it doesn’t make sense to build it. The BART experiment has failed. They should have run a few extra lines in East Bay (Oakland especially), added a few connections to commuter rail and freeways (for buses) and been done with it. It would have carried way more passengers and cost way less money. We seem to be trying to make the same mistake. Please don’t. We should be focused on better bus service and more commuter rail as well as integrating this mess we have with both. That is it. Quite trying to pretend that light rail or subway can be built successfully to sparsely populated suburbs that are really, really far from the city.

      5. The issue is how well Link meets the transportation needs in Pugetopolis, not whether it’s better or worse than Skytrain or BART or CTA in their areas. Like it or not, 80% of the region’s population lives outside Seattle, and one of the main reasons people many voted for Link was to have an alternative to I-5 and its congestion and accidents. Having buses go to Lynnwood and Des Moines does not get them off of I-5, so it doesn’t address the primary goal in many people’s minds. That’s why Mike Lindblom is able to write a whole article about Link’s impact on I-5 commuters and the tax rate and only one or two lines about TOD station areas and walking to a station, because that’s what Times readers care about, and Times readers are a pretty good cross-section of the population. And as for Vancouver’s top-down approach, they’d say they prefer the local control in their suburb and a greater voice in Sound Transit’s direction because that’s democracy.

      6. Unfortunately Mike, the municipalities in the region still haven’t all climbed on board by demanding rail come to their business centers, especially as a way to mitigate the traffic issues that they seem to be stuck trying to solve in perpetuity.

        They view their road ‘improvements’ as ‘getting something done’, but don’t realize that most of the travelers on those highways aren’t shoppers, but commuters. Thru-commuters. Large amounts of money are being spent, using local taxes, to people who aren’t contributing to the tax base… how? By shopping. By getting out of their cars and walking around.

        This means that in addition to serving commuters, the rail line should be the generator of future, non-auto-dependent growth. Growth that will happen with or without the train.

        How to handle the growth? With TOD… That’s totally within the jurisdiction of the local governments… zoning for higher density around the rail stations.

        This is the biggest disappointment for me with North Corridor Link. Sound Transit wasn’t interested in fighting with Shoreline. I knew when I asked the question at one of the scoping meetings in Shoreline “What does the City of Shoreline think about a Hwy 99 alignment (aka- the Interurban route)?”
        Their answer? “As long as it doesn’t affect the improvements they’ve already made and are making.”
        Then when I saw the Cost/Benefit analysis went out only 20 years, I knew that Sound Transit was making the freeway alignment look better to avoid a fight.
        Maybe what they should have also listed in the C/B analysis for the Hwy 99 alignment was “Lawyer Fees”.
        Whatever salvageable TOD potential there is needs a champion in the station areas, to keep the NIMBY’s from forcing the design into another TIB station situation for every north end stop.

      7. “Sound Transit wasn’t interested in fighting with Shoreline.”

        That’s ST’s philosophy: ask the cities what they want and defer to them as much as possible, except only the most egregious demands. The feedback the public gives seems to weigh 1% or 10% compared to the cities’ feedback. There’s some reason to this, because cities have control over the building permits and use permits, and they can make the process fast and streamlined or slow and obstructionist. ST also spent its first decade being neutral in TOD/land use issues because it didn’t want to be blamed by both sides. Last year it switched to actively favoring TOD and walkable station areas, realizing that best transit practices actually require it, but that was too late for the ST1 stations or Shoreline alignment or Roosevelt station design.

        It’s now up to Shoreline whether it follows through with the significant upzone it proposed around 185th or waters it down, and whether it makes a similar plan at 145th.

        “I think significantly more has to be done if ST is serious about Link replacing freeway express routes.”

        Only in certain corridors. Link to Lynnwood, Everett, and Bellevue will be competitive with ST Express, falling in the middle of STEX’s travel-time range. I.e., slower than a 5am bus but faster than a 5pm bus. The hordes of noisy commuters care mostly about 5pm, and don’t care if it takes slightly longer in the off-hours. I think Redmond will also be competitive, although not quite as well. Of course, Link is not competitive for Bellevue-UW and Overlake-UW, but buses will doubtless remain for that. (Although some people might take Link anyway for the comfort.)

        In the south end it’s a different story, with Link around 20 minutes slower or more compared to STEX. That’s partly because of the Rainier Valley detour and surface segments, but it’s also because of the distance. People think Everett and Tacoma are equidistant, and Lynnwood and Federal Way, but actually Lynnwood is as close as Kent, and Everett as southern Federal Way or just over the county border. If Link continued further north to Marysville and Arlington, it would start to exhibit the travel-time deficiencies of Federal Way and Tacoma. So, it’s up to South King and Pierce to decide if they really want Link given this, and think it’s worth the price. Noises out of Tacoma suggest it likes Link more to attract companies and workers to Tacoma than about a rosy illusion about Link’s travel time to Seattle. This is where truncating the bus routes become a critical issue, because either they will be cut and travel time will increase, or they won’t be cut and they’ll be running in parallel, which raises the question of why did we spend billions for Link if the buses are still running?

      8. Re Tacoma, this raises the fascinating issue of, why not extend Tacoma Link to Federal Way rather than Central Link to Tacoma? It would presumably be much less expensive, match Tacoma’s ridership better, and give a one-seat ride through Tacoma and its neighbors. Transferring at Tacoma Dome just a mile from downtown is kind of a bummer. And Fife was one of the lines proposed for Tacoma Link anyway.

      9. The issue is how well Link meets the transportation needs in Pugetopolis, not whether it’s better or worse than Skytrain or BART or CTA in their areas.

        Aren’t they one and the same? I mean, no one from the Sacramento Kings says that “the issue isn’t whether we are as good as the Spurs or the Clippers, the issue is whether we can meet the basketball needs of our area”.

        My point in mentioning these other systems is to point out what works and what doesn’t. Outside of San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley, BART doesn’t work. Meanwhile, Vancouver SkyTrain works really well. So why the hell are we copying the design of BART and expecting it to work better than BART? Why aren’t we copying the design of SkyTrain?

        80% of the region’s population lives outside Seattle

        As it is with Vancouver. Vancouver proper is only 600,000, while Metro Vancouver is about two and a half million. That doesn’t include Abbotsford, which sprawls to Vancouver the way that Tacoma sprawls to Seattle.

        Your other comment deserves its own comment.

      10. and one of the main reasons people many voted for Link was to have an alternative to I-5 and its congestion and accidents. Having buses go to Lynnwood and Des Moines does not get them off of I-5, so it doesn’t address the primary goal in many people’s minds. That’s why Mike Lindblom is able to write a whole article about Link’s impact on I-5 commuters and the tax rate and only one or two lines about TOD station areas and walking to a station, because that’s what Times readers care about, and Times readers are a pretty good cross-section of the population.

        Right, but my point is that people are ignorant. They don’t understand transit. I can understand this — I didn’t understand a lot of these ideas until recently.

        But that is why you talk with experts and get their opinion. You craft a system that is good for the city and the suburbs. You stop trying to bullshit people into thinking that the spine is a good system, let alone a good value. If I’m on the ST3 board, the first thing I talk about when it comes to I-5 is HOV3. But HOV3 is controversial. Somehow raising taxes a huge amount isn’t. Meanwhile, if the board goes ahead and pushes for the spine, do you think they will emphasize travel times? Of course not. That would be stupid. They will continue to ignore the possibility of HOV3, while continuing to push for a system that will lead to ridiculously low speeds from the suburbs. Because, of course, there is traffic, and this is the magic answer.

        I don’t know how else to say it. Extending the spine will not be as good for the suburban areas as if we improve the inner city service. Experts know this. Our politicians didn’t contact the experts. That is the problem.

      11. that’s what Times readers care

        Funny thing that you mentioned that talk, Mike. For those who don’t know, this was one of the questions posed to the panel before the meeting:
        I was a bit disappointed about the responses, so I wrote Jarrett Walker. This is the email and his response (in its entirety):

        Dear Jarrett Walker,

        In the Seattle Times, I read your response as well as the response by your colleagues to the second question posed to them (as part of the upcoming panel discussion). This was the one centered around I-5 traffic. I think there were two important points left out. The first is that the buses that serve I-5 would move much faster if the HOV lanes were HOV 3+, not HOV 2+. This would substantially reduce congestion for the buses (and larger carpools) as it has on 520.

        The second point is far more important as a teaching moment, in my opinion. For those who work in Seattle, but not downtown, what is important is the transit within the city, not just to the city. This is not a very well understood concept, because people think of transit from a driver’s perspective. It is common to think of light rail as you would a freeway or a road. Unless it serves your city, it really is of no value (and once it serves your city, it doesn’t matter how well it fits into the rest of the network). This isn’t true of course, but it is a common assumption.

        Seattle will soon extend light rail far into the northern and southern suburbs, largely along I-5. This will essentially eliminate the transit bottleneck within the city on I-5 as well as provide service to a handful of areas in the city. In both cases, there will be very good transit stations at both ends. These stations have excellent bus access (via HOV lanes and ramps) so that the buses can serve them from the freeway without congestion. Extending light rail farther will be of little benefit, because there is very little demand for suburb to suburb travel. What is of greater importance for the typical suburban rider is the transit within the city from those stations. For example, someone trying to get from Everett to the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle (a growing employment center) will first travel through the University of Washington neighborhood. But once there, getting to Fremont becomes difficult. It simply takes a long time to get from the UW to Fremont via a bus. For a trip like that (Everett to Fremont) extending light rail from Lynnwood to Everett would result in a marginal improvement in travel time, but improving the trip from the UW to Fremont would have a huge impact. What is true for Fremont is true for the entire city. There are relatively small numbers of people driving downtown. Many of those that do drive downtown need their car for a trip later where transit is poor. For example, someone might drive from downtown to visit a friend in a different neighborhood, then go home. In short, I believe improving transit within the city would mean a larger improvement for those outside the city than simply extending light rail along a corridor already well served by HOV lanes (albeit HOV 2+ lanes). This would, in turn, mean more people taking transit along the I-5 corridor.

        Ross Bleakney



        Thanks for the note. I agree completely with all of your points. I have no idea what I’ll have time to say but I’d say this if these issues come up.

        I especially share your frustration about the regional neglect of inner city service. This is a common political problem and it’s the reason Seattle is having to take its own initiative on transit funding — a thing I generally encourage core cities to do.

        All the best,


      12. “My point in mentioning these other systems is to point out what works and what doesn’t.”

        Because the areas are different. The cities within each metropolis have different distances between them, different population levels, the jobs and cultural attractions are distributed differently, different physical barriers, and most pertinent to why ST made the decisions it did, different levels of political power. You can’t just take a network in one city and slap it down in another and expect it to work.

        That’s a good exchange with Jarrett Walker, and I wish he’d had more time to elaborate. When he was here for Metro’s long-term plan kickoff, somebody asked him what he thought of Link and the ST2 extensions and the preliminary plans for ST3. He said his biggest wish was that it had been a combined regional+local network rather than a regional plan in a vacuum. I wanted to attend the roundtable but I waited too late to register. I’m surprised STB didn’t say one word about it. It might be worth a Page 2 article.

  22. The lack of good standee space on the current fleet is a bit of an issue, they do have an odd and somewhat cramped interior layout. I’d recommend 2+1 seating at least in the lower level. More+bigger windows with less pillars would be nice as well. Also better destination signs (and programming for same) along with an LCD strip map+interior display like what is used on buses and trams all across Europe showing the next several stops and making other visual announcements.

  23. More bike/luggage storage would be nice. Definitely more standing room, and more opportunities to get around people in ailes. If possible, larger doorways for quicker on/offs.

    But for me, a larger priority item should be freakin’ down escalators in the bus tunnels. Get that done ST!

  24. The problem with those hanging bike racks is that the handlebars poke out and obstruct the aisles. Just make some space for people to stand with their bikes on the ground. If someone comes along and wants to help me hang my bike and get it down for me, I’ll accept their help. Otherwise I will continue to just stand with it. Those hanging racks are just too hard to use with a sturdy commuting bike.

    1. Agreed, I’m 6’2″ and ride a 58cm bike. In the hooks it sticks out into the aisle and riders have to walk around it awkwardly.

  25. One big trade-off from the low-floor design is that the floor at the end of the cars are raised above the wheel wells, as is the case with buses. That effectively diminishes capacity with the stairs and really disrupts passenger movement.

    I also wonder if open gangways are even possible with low-floor vehicles. I can’t think of a technical reason barring it, but I’ve only ever seen open gangways on high-floor heavy-rail trains.

    1. You can do open gangways with low-floor vehicles; they narrow a bit at the gangway (you do still need a place to put the wheels). If you have center-facing seating, there’s generally a gap in the seating at the join.

  26. Longer consist with fewer cabs make sense, as do walk through interiors. They could make a consist which is the length of today’s 2-car train, interior walk-through, cabs at either end, and then run these as singles off peak, and doubles (full platform length) during peak periods, or even decouple as ridership falls off at the outer ends. Saving cars and car hours.

    +1 to lower HVAC noise. The Kinki cars are horrid in that regard.

    Two of the suggestions seem at odds – make the seats more comfortable. And reduce the seating. I do think front/rear seats are more comfortable to ride than longitudinal seating. Plus there is always the problem of where do you put your feet if people need to stand. There could be a bit more standing room at the doorwells.

    It seems to me that Siemens and Bombardier have more ergonomically and visually appealing cars than does Kinki. Maybe Alstom also. So give some serious consideration to these vendors. Just stay away from Breda under every imaginable circumstance.

    1. The advantage of a train over a bus was supposed to be a lack of engine noise. It’s frustrating if a loud fan negates the benefit.

    2. Personally, I think high-backed, straight-backed, flat-seated wooden benches are the most comfortable form of seating, but I may be odd… :-)

  27. Senior-aged rider here. Keep the seats few, firm, short and the butt part not forward sloping. Standing will be fine from UW Link to the airport as long as there’s a pole to hold onto.

  28. An important attribute is early arrival and implementation. The additional LRV are needed in 2016. It will be time to truncate SR.-520 services; I-5 is jammed. Can we talk the ST board out of the regional Link spine before ST3 is assembled?

    1. If the 6 year plan just released in draft form is accurate, then the answer is No.
      2 car trains are all that are planned for until Northgate opens. I’m sure there will be some fill in runs with 3 cars but not many according to the TIP.
      Convincing the board to scrap the spine is a Halloween Joke, Right?
      Zombies in the street chanting “Must complete the spine, Must complete the sping, Must …”

    2. Dream on. The regional spine IS Sound Transit. Everett or Bust! All the Way to Federal Way! Tacoma: City of Our Destiny! One Spine to Rule Them All, and in the Traffic Jam Bind Them. They’ll let nothing stand in the way of building the World’s Most Disappointing Transit System.

      1. its all about the light rail buzzword. Somehow, even with a complete spine there will still be a need for most of the 57x and 59x series buses, not to mention all the service from Everett.

      2. So the spine has no backbone? It’s a snake – venomous, aggressive, and really, really scary.
        Boo! Trick or Treat.

  29. 100% low floor would be good. Worldwide, that is where things are headed.

    Alstom already has 100% low floor 65 mph cars in production for Ottawa. Put production in New York rather than Montreal and give it a 1500 v electrical system.

    1. It looks like the Citadis Spirit that they’re building for Ottawa can be up to 59m long, that’s the same as a two car Link train. Using those would cut down the number of vehicles they need to procure substantially.

  30. A bit about that HVAC noise:

    The car has to have enough HVAC capacity to deal with a full load of passengers. That means moving a huge amount of air through a small duct, because standing load plus seated passengers is pretty substantial.

    There are ways of dealing with this. The company I work for has, in fact, done this on some of its HVAC systems. However, it is a significantly more expensive HVAC system upfront. Thus, only a handful of our systems are on cars operated by transit agencies. Instead, most of our systems wind up on office cars or track inspection cars or similar owned by the mainline freight companies. For them the less noise is worth the extra cost. If the award is based on the cheapest price, then our systems simply aren’t the way to go.

    However, a lot of the noise issue could probably be resolved by rethinking the duct work in these cars and using a different fan design. Current production may very well have resolved this issue. Siemens latest delivery for Portland is quite a bit quieter (inside and outside) than the 300 series cars they built, and the 400 series cars are somewhere between. It is hard to imagine Kinki-Sharyo not keeping up with what everyone else is doing.

    1. Or they could just forget about air conditioning and go with openable windows and individual car heaters, since this isn’t Arizona or Texas.

      1. The other possibility would be to actually look at the real HVAC need. Designing the HVAC air flow for maximum packed capacity and a 110 degree F day makes sense in Brazil. In Seattle you get this combination of passenger load and temperatures during the occasional Sounders game and a 10 year high. The Seahawks mostly play at a cooler time of year. The passengers have to suffer through it for maybe what? 20 minutes at most? That game day crush load doesn’t happen from one end of the line to the other on Link.

        Taking all of that into account when specifying the required HVAC capacity would help.

  31. Idea I would pitch many moons ago if I had a time machine: Don’t do LINK light rail, just look at what civilized countries do (S-bahns!), build that, and buy some trains from Stadler.

    But as I don’t have a time machine, there isn’t really anything to improve LINK’s schizophrenic rail cars other than maybe having them be longer (as many have suggested) by way of adding segments to current cars and new ones being longer from the start. LINK’s a pretty pathetic excuse for a rail system that has no idea of whether it’s light rail, a subway, or a commuter line. That tends to happen when the people in charge have no idea what they’re doing. Sound Transit had a shot to build a rail system based on best practices across the world. But as rail really isn’t America’s strength, they didn’t. Between LINK and Sounder, I’m not sure which is sadder.

    1. That’s why I think it is time to put the brakes on spinefest destiny. We can accept it or fight it.

      Tacoma-Seattle I have a different proposal in the works. Snohomish however will take a bit of work.

    2. That’s what many people have suggested, an S-Bahn for the metropolis and a separate city subway, but ST didn’t want to build two systems or even get into a city-only subway. And one of the original suggestions was heavy rail, which is essentially like an S-Bahn or what the 1972 subway would have been like.

      But the capacity ceiling is only a future theoretical. ST has extra trains so it could run 4-car trains now and that would alleviate the occasional crushloads at ballgames or other times, but it has chosen not to. Lynnwood Link might reach capacity in the 2030s or but there’s still questions about that. In any case, ST can increase capacity significantly by going from 4-minutes to 3-minutes when it needs to; it would just need to do some deferred capital work. So we won’t need longer platforms for quite a while, and the extra capacity from reconfiguring trains might be more of a “Why not?” than “We absolutely need it”.

  32. Here is the thing when it comes to getting rid of seats.

    If you want CT to not be running buses up and down I-5 during peaks, people from Lynnwood will want a comfortable seat and people from the Airport to downtown will be wanting seating. So sure you could fit more people in, but having the extra C cars instead of the cabs would help accomplish part of this, especially if they are designed with a high floor.

    The low floor areas would have space for racks in order to accommodate bags but I know even in Italy the dedicated airport trains had their luggage racks next to the doors for all the bags coming in. Hard to say if this is really needed but more comfortable seating is a must.

    1. That’s why I think the seats will stay, just like they stayed in the new Metro trolleybuses. Regardless of whether they make boarding slower and reduce capacity, they’re a marketing point to convince people to take the train. People might be convinced that open-plan trains are good enough, but only after these trains are running, so it’s a kind of catch-22.

  33. Another vote for quieter interior hvac system. But also, the motors are super loud. I especially notice this in the beacon hill tunnel. Deafening! Hopefully u-link will be better.

  34. The biggest thing I’d like is onboard displays that say “BEACON HILL” rather than a scrolling “Entering Beacon Hill Station”. They say “Entering” even if the train has been stopped at the station for two minutes waiting for traffic ahead to clear. It’s not “entering” at that point, it’s “entered”. Specialized messages can be scrolling, but not the basic station signs that’s a minimum for trains to have.

    1. ALL the scrolling should stop. On the outside of the trains and on the inside signs.

      The majority of the scrolling is of needless words, like the word “station”. The outside signs should show the final station, abbreviated if needed to fit the limits of the matrix. SeaTac Airport. Seattle Westlake. Mt. Baker. SODO. Stadium. Rainier Beach. They can all fit without scrolling. The interior should similarly show the current station while the train is stopped, and then when it is underway, show the name of the next station.

      1. +1

        One thing MAX got right. Probably because the 1980s signs were only worth scrolling at the end of the line, since they were completely mechanical. Literally, they were scrolls.

        Even with complex routings, such as orange line trains that become green line trains so they can later be blue line trains, only the final destination is shown.

    2. Seriously. The message boards both on the trains and in the stations continue to baffle me. Such easy fixes (I assume, without having any knowledge about signage in ST).

  35. >>In addition to being wide and flat, Metropolitan Vancouver <<

    Metropolitan Vancouver is extremely hilly. Look at the Northshore, or Burnaby Mountain, or even QE Park. I doubt there's a hiller metro area in North America.

    1. Metropolitan Vancouver may be hilly but Vancouver city isn’t. Seattle has hills in downtown and throughout the city, and a waterway next to downtown. Jarrett wrote about it, “chokepoints for effective transit: the example of seattle“: “No North American city has more chokepoints than Seattle. The city itself consists of three peninsulas with narrow water barriers between them. Further barriers are created by steep hills in most parts of the city. Nowhere in Seattle can you travel in a straight line for more than a few miles without going into the water or over a cliff.”

      1. Reasonable example, but New York City has significantly more chokepoints. Manhattan is on a freaking island with a steep hill on it. Go west, you have a very deep river, followed by a narrow strip of land, followed by the *Palisades*, basically a mountain range, followed by a huge swampy river, before you get to Newark. Go south, it’s New York Bay and then another island (Staten Island). Go north, it’s a river in a *gorge* (Harlem River) before you get to the hilly Bronx. Go east, it’s a ocean channel, and then another island (Long Island), split north-south by another river (Newtown Creek), with another big hill (Brooklyn Heights) on the southern part….

  36. Softer seats.
    Interactive maps (ones that show the progress of the train).
    Non-scrolling displays, internal and exterior.
    Clearer, larger signage marking storage & bike space.

    On a different note: is Sound Transit due for a livery change? A new fleet is a great opportunity to implement one.

  37. You can definitely walk between subway cars in New York, at least some of them. Anecdotally, I’ve done it. Also this:

    1. The 50 (IRT lines) and 60-foot (IND/BMT lines) cars allow passage between carriages, due to tightness of some curves and switches in the system. The 75-foot fleet (R46 and R68/68A on BMT/IND lines) don’t due to more severe angles between carriages through some of the tighter turns and switches. Hilariously enough, the MTA spec’d the R142A/B/S, R143, R160A/B, and R188 all with easier to use door handles, and then went ahead and made crossing between cars illegal.

  38. Something I would like to see change, on all of ST vehicles, switch away from cloth seats! These cloth seats attract smells and dirt and are gross. The first 9600s ST has stink most of the time i get on them at the end of the night, and anytime it rains. Many agencies are going to vinyl seats, even BART managed it, so can we!

  39. Maybe this is weird, but I love the loud white noise generated from the HVAC. It’s also great when the driver is running the fans high on the Breda buses. Basically, it erases all of the obnoxious noises that inconsiderate people produce – like listening to iphones sans headphones or just yucking it up (seriously, what kind of deviant thinks everyone is enjoying their playlists or personal conversations?). Anyway, if this was Tokyo or Stockholm (where people follow proper decorum, and you could hear a pin drop even with crush loads) then I would be all for total quiet, but since Seattle has a noticeable amount of undisciplined transit riding egomaniacs I say keep the white noise rolling.

  40. I didn’t see this question in the comments: doesn’t shifting funding from a construction project (Northgate) to LRV procurement run afoul of the spirit if not the letter of subarea equity? If we’re trying to decide what to do with all the money we’re saving, I could think of a deferred station or two in the West subarea.

    1. The money in the Northgate budget was earmarked for LRV procurement. They were going to procure LRVs for each extension separately, now they are going to procure them all in one batch.

      1. So what about the money that’s purchasing (say) vehicles for the Des Moines extension? Wouldn’t that have originally been paid for from the Des Moines budget (South King), but it’s now being paid for from the Northgate budget (North King)? Or what’s the meaning of “transferring $236M from the Northgate Link budget in order to do so”?

  41. I ride the light rail systems in Seattle and Phoenix regularly and they have the same LRVs, but with very different interior configurations and materials. The Valley Metro Rail vehicles in Phoenix are much more open, with fewer seats in the low floor section and no paneling. The 4 bicycles racks are located in the center which can be problematic. There are substantially more bikes on Valley Metro Rail than Link, so the open configuration allows for some overflow.

    If I could pick and choose, I would pick the Valley Metro Rail floor plan but with the Link materials (seats, etc.), while modifying the bicycle hangers in the center portion of the LRV. The Seattle and Phoenix light rail systems opened about 8 months apart, but the wear and tear in on the trains in Phoenix is much more noticeable. Of course, that system has had more riders over the past 7 years but that’s about to change with ULink…

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