Martin and I discuss light rail expansion, including the peanut butter plan, the latest round of ST3 alternatives and financing plans.  Also: bus-rail integrations in the wake of the Capitol Hill restructure.

25 Replies to “Podcast #7: Light Rail to Missoula”

  1. Good podcast! Entertained and informed me on my commute this morning. There was a bunch of creaking on Frank’s mic I think, so hopefully you can look into that.

    On the Belltown walkshed: I thought the standard walkshed numbers was a quarter mile, not a half mile, in which case Belltown isn’t served by the SLU stop. But i do hope this blog pushes the “mitigation” plan of extending the streetcar down 1st to connect Belltown to the uptown station, because that would be great! And it has the added benefit of no existing trolley wire until 1st N begins.

    Also urbanist has a good suggestion for DSTT2 today to serve both Belltown and SLU reasonably well, so check that out!

    1. The Seattle Center extension has long been an expansion option in the City Center Connector plan, but the magic word “mitigation” could cut through the obstacles and accelerate it.

      1. If you viewed SLU – Broadway as one line you could turn a Belltown line into a full buildout of the originally proposed CCC line and serve both Belltown and the Central District along Jackson.

        Its something to keep in mind as both areas seem to be frequently skipped by existing light rail plans.

    2. I think some of the “creaking” was my grunting as I frantically tried to open the bottle of whiskey whose cap was screwed on too tight.

    3. Thanks Zach. I don’t think there’s one standard. You might use 1/4-mile for “local” service and 1/2-mile for “regional” service. Link would fall more into the latter camp, so 1/2 mile is probably appropriate.

      You can wiggle the line to split the difference here and there, but there comes a point where some tradeoff is necessary if it’s going to be one line. Also it’s important to be mindful of turning radii. The train nerds can school me here, but a 4-car train can’t realistically pull off a tight 90-degree turn.

      1. Glenn, if you’re reading this, you can help me out here.

        Stats I’ve found say that the Siemens MAX cars can handle minimum radius of 82 feet. What does that mean for Downtown Portland?

        A four car train of articulated-meaning sections-separated-by-joints follows its leader through every curve.

        A two-car Portland MAX train really does look like a giant caterpillar on its way through Portland.

        Good working definition of “light rail” could be ability to share at least some track with streetcars.

        The “interurbans” of the 1920’s often did that. But term “light rail” is about the same thing, though no baggage car for milk cans.

        Also, nobody that was ever around one of those steel-wheeled battleships ever would have connected it with the word “light.”

        Mark

      2. I don’t think that link falls into the “regional” category in this instance. In Lynnwood, sure. People are heading downtown.

        But people in Belltown are almost certainly going somewhere in Seattle, or MAYBE Bellevue. That’s local service.

        As a resident of Belltown, I can tell you that no one would consider the SLU stop to be serving us. Most people live 6-12 blocks away minimum.

      3. Mark: the interurbans were considered “light” by comparison to the steam locomotives and the “heavyweight” cars which they pulled. And frankly, they were; I’ve seen them side by side at railway museums.

  2. Yes re Belltown getting shafted by light rail, there was no mention on the podcast of bus route 99 which I love to use as I live by the Sculpture Park. But route 99 just seems to be an afterthought by everyone. And frequent schedule changes don’t help.

    1. Seattle loves afterthoughts, but there’s a cure. Keep right-now thoughts in the foreground.

      The Route 99 worked just fine when it was on rails. Which until very recently used to be in the Waterfront Project plan, which being still on the drawing board can be corrected with an eraser.

      The First Avenue Connector is a good idea, but it’s too far up a steep hill to serve the Waterfront. However, both car-lines can share substations, communications, and maintenance.

      At very worst, streetcars or not, same right-of-way could use the new trolleybuses- which can easily cross the BN tracks on batteries before heading up the hill to the First Avenue wire.

      Added value: putting right kind of transit-only lanes in the right place. About the Sculpture Garden: fitting both a station and a “car-barn” into a certain bridge would have created an excellent piece of modern art.

      Since that hasn’t been done yet- Seattle Art Museum still owes it to Seattle to do that. Will also be good practice for the next dual-mode DSTT.

      Mark Dublin

      1. don’t get me started on the goddamn sculpture park and SAM’s unwillingness to replace the barn they destroyed

  3. Light rail to Missoula would’ve made my trips back and forth from college really fun. +1, Let’s do it.

    Great TOD potential around Kellogg, ID.

    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milwaukee_Road_class_EP-2

      There is a precedent- and maybe some catenary left somewhere in the Cascades. The Milwaukee Road went over the mountains behind some really enormous electric locomotives.

      Some expenses we will have to budget for. One is to get LINK painted red and orange. Or maybe just wrapped, except for the glass, for covering which you could get shot by railroad police back in the heyday.

      Also, maybe we can get some historic restoration funds to restore the correct station. Sound Transit doesn’t use the Great Hall that much.

      And some of the money could be used for really good transfer station, adding an orange line to the red, blue, and green ones!

      Mark Dublin

  4. re PSRC….

    Has that group acknowledged any issues with current model, or considering improving it?

    It seems like we’re at risk of wasting a ton of money based on bad assumptions.

    1. yes it seems like taking a look at those projections is definitely needed – some are wildly inaccurate

  5. The block with the Spaghetti Factory is going to be rebuilt, + greater density, maybe some transit accommodation could be built in?
    And what happened to the Save the Waterfront Trolley group?
    With so much cruise traffic on Alaskan Way in the summer there should be a bus or rail line there. If it linked to light rail going to the airport…one can only dream.

    1. As part of the rebuild of the waterfront, they plan to have exclusive bus lanes for the whole corridor and an electric bus line for the waterfront.

      At least this was my understanding last time I talked to representatives for the project.

    2. I think that many people who fought for the Waterfront Streetcars settled for the First Avenue Connector. Which I also support, but don’t think will substitute for the Benson Line.

      Or its planned successor, either. Will use the name out of respect for the late Councilman. But I think he’d share my attitude that Saving any public work suggests life support that mercifully should be pulled.

      The Archives section on the 10th floor of the Downtown Library has some interesting and detailed studies, by either Parsons Brinckerhof or Kaiser Engineers, about extensions both north and south.

      I don’t think that the line should be restored as a tourist attraction- though many people will indeed visit Seattle to ride any streetcar line. Nor will it serve for a mainline corridor. Streetcars are heaviest rail plazas will take.

      But while your observations about the cruise ships and the restaurants are on the right track, Deborah, think bigger and farther.

      A streetcar stop at the Victoria Clipper terminal can literally connect Vancouver Island with every flight out of Sea-Tac, after a very pleasant streetcar ride through Pioneer Square to IDS. And back.

      Present unsettlement of the Waterfront road layout could make time for another effort. Just so signs say “Build” rather than “Save.”

      Mark Dublin

  6. Thanks for the podcast, guys. A few thoughts, though.

    1. In 30 years, many of today’s “median voters” will either be dead or moved out, and almost certainly no longer “median” in future elections.

    2. So, probably best effort is to make transit-friendly median voters out of people who can’t yet vote. But can ride transit. Can STB do outreach to grade schools?

    3. Main problem with LINK connections to everything is present lack of LINK. Soon done with. And since taking down the 43 wire means budget and effort- no permanent Capitol Hill worries.

    4. Understand [topic] thing. But though engineering history really deserves its own posting, it proves that huge successful public projects always = (rage+desperation/ blind chance) cubed.

    5. Clipper ships and Zeppelins? Necessary insight into how you can use the power of massive forces you can’t control. Both designed to use hurricanes to keep schedule.

    6. Any chance the two of you can join Rob Johnson, or serve similar purpose on King County Council?

    Mark

  7. I’m from Missoula, so that title cracked me up. In all seriousness though, I wish there was still Seattle to Missoula rail service. Those passes and Eastern Wash can be scary to drive in the winter, and I’d be far more likely to visit home more often if I could hop a train. Way fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the Alaska Air direct flights. Also sometimes I think it is a shame that we lost the Millwaukee Road rail corridor. Given the rail choke points through the Cascade rail tunnel and between Spokane and Sand Point, having another crossing (especially electrified, as much of that route was) through the Rockies and Cascades would be amazing today.

    1. It still blows my mind that 1800 rail miles were removed with the loss of the Pacific Extension. A better way between the coast and where I live would be great. Especially since it seems Greyhound can’t get the Spokane connection right. .

      1. The history of the destruction of the Pacific Extension is one of the most embarassing episodes in the history of the US.

        It was the only profitable part of the Milwaukee Railroad. But their accounting was so screwed up — they were double-booking expenses — that the demented management thought it was the least profitable part. They refused to consider an outside proposal to electrify the rest of the line as a demonstration by GE with financing from GE.

        This was mismanagement on the most spectacular scale ever.

  8. Martin is really good at explaining complicated financial minutiae clearly and almost non-boringly. It’s a gift.

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