95 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Desmond Takes the Reins at TransLink”

  1. Anyone know when we might see more of the new 60-foot trolleybuses on the streets? This past week I’ve been thrilled to see several each day in service on the 43 and 44. I’m deliriously envisioning more…

    1. I wish that wasn’t such a good question Michelangelo. Not the when part, but the “why” have both the public and the health department taken so long to to ask? I specialized in the MAN 4000’s that came in from Germany early 1980’s.

      Built-in permanent problems with the suspension, but otherwise first-rate machinery. DSTT deserved same quality vehicles. Not a fleet of mutual embarrassments to the worlds of both buses and dumpsters. And, all Hollywood’s own Undead, which both move and smell like.

      So best answer is, can’t be soon enough. Between LINK and the Route 7, I’ll finally be able to fully enjoy visits to my favorite neighborhoods along Rainier. Will also be good to ride at least a hundred round trips first week, just to re-connect.

      Scenery from 62nd and Prentice is a memory I’ve got to refresh.

      Mark Dublin

    2. I’m reserving my delerium for the opening of U-Link. That will be a true game changer for local transit.

      1. (Contrary to my name here, I now live in the Central District.)

        Except, of course, for the thousands upon thousands of us who don’t live on the light rail line or any of its proposed spurs (unless you count buses that get bogged down in traffic to get to a light rail stop as “near”), won’t have light rail or other high-capacity transit service either for the foreseeable future or ever (depending on one’s view), yet are still seeing our bus routes split and tinkered with in the name of efficiency (why don’t both of the “new sides” of the 48 run until 1am? Because nobody goes to the CD after 12am, apparently).

        My kingdom for a Metro 8 Subway.

      2. People requested the 48 split for many years to make it more reliable, and Metro’s answer was always, “We don’t have enough service hours for the overlap in the U-District or the additional layovers.” Now in a rare moment it does have enough hours, so if not now, when? Splitting is also needed for mid-term future plans like electrifying the 48S, and extending it to Rainier Beach in Seattle’s transit master plan. (Metro doesn’t have a long-range plan yet so we don’t know if it agrees with the TMP, but in general it defers to it when in doubt.) However, the hours were apparently not enough to stretch past midnight. That midnight service was recent: the last time I looked at the 48 late-evening schedule it still ended at 11. It’s hard to say that one hour should stand against the long-time goal of Metro and many in the community.

      3. @Mike: I’ve been saying when…when Roosevelt Station opens. Alternatively, have the 48S use the layover space that used to be occupied by the now-defunct 48X and previously-split 48 that started further north. That way we keep access to at least some northern destinations in “exchange” for still sitting in bad-and-getting-worse traffic across the Montlake bridge.

        The problem that I have is that connectivity across the ship canal is bad for the Central Area. The 43 is being essentially deleted (so that means no 43s turning into 44s to continue to Ballard), the 48 is being split south of the canal where traffic is the worst (so those of us south still get to wait while the northern side gets an improvement), and there are already so many ways to get south from the Central Area to Rainier Valley that I really question why we need another one.

        Yes, the light rail will go north but it doesn’t go as far north and if you live at 23rd or east, like I do, you’re often looking at two buses just to get to a light rail stop.

        I’ve said before that I can’t believe I live in one of the densest ZIP codes in Seattle but still feel like I need to move back to Lake City just to get better access to high capacity transit. West Seattle will see HCT before we over here do…

      4. The Central Area is constantly being overlooked and I just don’t understand why. Wes makes some great points. This is one of the densest areas of the city and it is growing. It is worth mentioning that 23rd is going on a road diet, but is a key artery. More frequent buses or more bus routes is simply not a sustainable solution. It is time for the city, county, Sound Transit, State to invest in a true subway system that includes the “Metro 8 subway” line. Put transit underground through these dense neighborhoods. It will reduce congestion, not sacrifice parking, and provides a great value since the distances are relatively short.

        Connect SLU and the Central District along Olive/John/23rd with a Metro 8 subway line.

      5. “The Central Area is constantly being overlooked and I just don’t understand why.”

        It doesn’t have the cachet of Queen Anne or West Seattle. Places that feel entitled and the powers that be defer to.

    3. Finally got to ride one of the new artic trolleys this afternoon on the 44. I might have been imagining it, but it seemed to be a far smoother ride than the older trolleys. The biggest problem is that people still haven’t figured out that they need to push the back doors to open them, despite the huge signs on the doors. Metro might consider playing a recording explaining how the doors work, lest they have people get back in the habit of exiting by the front.

  2. I too admire what Translink has accomplished as we look up to our neighbor north of us.
    Is their Director now available to take the helm at Metro?

    1. Truce, Mic, and let’s get some wider perspective on the career years of both Kevin and his Canadian counterparts during his tenure. I’d long since left Metro before Kevin came in. So am asking for some assessment from his contemporaries.

      My start at Metro, the years of the project that gave us the DSTT between 1983 and 1990, seemed like a terrifically hopeful time for transit- unexpected in the Reagan administration.

      But the years of DSTT operations, including Kevin’s term of office, seemed bleak and demoralized. Far from crash of 2008, but perennial lack of money, meaning same for initiative, and also the spirit of my own early years. Which gave us the Tunnel and the George Benson streetcars.

      So am I right in thinking that Kevin, and the system he managed, deserved much better than the available resources- and political leadership- than he received? I hope is new job gives him both.


      Mark Dublin

      1. Speaking of the George Benson streetcars is the streetcar ever coming back to the waterfront or will we ever see it again? Since the Olympic Sculpture Park took the home of the streetcar it look as if for all practical purposes it’s never coming back and there’s not a whole lot of impetus to bring it back.

      2. All but two of the George Benson cars have been sold off. There was a brief plan for transit lanes for buses, then a plan to eliminate that due to a desire for more road capacity and streets easier to cross by pedestrian traffic.

        Consider yourself lucky at this point if the pedicabs are still around.

      3. They ripped up the tracks for the southern terminus when they built the FHSC. Oddly leaving the platform at Fifth and Jackson.

      4. Three of the five streetcars for the Waterfront line have been sold. The plan is to refurbish the other two and operate them along 1st Avenue. Think like a summer circulator to take people between the tourist hotspots: Westlake, Pike Place Market, Colman Dock, Pioneer Square and the International District.

        The plan to put transit only lanes along the Waterfront hasn’t been eliminated. SDOT has been asked by community groups to study how to make the new Alaskan Way narrower and therefore more pedestrian friendly. One of the ways being discussed is to eliminate the transit lanes… and narrow the roadway accordingly. SDOT has made it clear that they see that as a poor option. I think they realize those transit lanes are critical for moving buses between Downtown. West Seattle and all of Southwest King County.

      5. Hey, having all those old streetcar stops while having sold the old streetcars gives us an opportunity to add another arrow to our quiver of transit oddities: instead of running historic streetcars to new stations, we could run new streetcars to historic stations.

        Furthermore, these historic stations served by new streetcars would have previously been new stations served by historic streetcars. Think about it.

        Don’t think about it too hard.

      6. Ooh, ooh, the Pike Place station on the 1st Avenue line looks like it’s going on the block between Pike and Pine, which could truly use an “old scenic junk facelift” (aka New Urbanist spin on Kunstler’s “Nature Band-Aid”). So:

        1. Move the Occidental Park streetcar station there.
        2. Leave the old signage on, because the station should remember where it came from.
        3. Get a latte at the original Starbucks. It’ll just be a quick stop!

      7. The “transit-only lanes” are only from the south end to Columbia Street, for RapidRide C and other West Seattle buses. They won’t extend north to Pier 70 for the waterfront shuttle.

        The waterfront shuttle study is at waterfrontseattle.org. It outlines four modes: vintage streetcar, modern streetcar, electric (battery) bus, or electric minibus. It recommends the latter two, both to avoid railroad lanes that would cut into the recreational width of the are, and so that the bus can be extended to Seattle Center on the north side (which involves a hill).

    2. Yeah, there is a huge contrast between the two agencies. Translink seems to get the planning right, but the operations wrong. We seem to do the opposite. Lately we’ve been able to get the construction right although we failed in the past. The result is an agency that is viewed very favorably because they are building things “on time and under budget” (even though if you look at the big picture it was very late, has fewer stations and is way over budget). People shrug off the planning failures, and just assume they can’t have everything (“Why would you want to transfer from a bus to a train anyway?” or “It’s Metro’s fault” or “I’m sure there is some reason they didn’t add the station”). But if the fare card system doesn’t work, people blame the agency in charge.

      1. Translink has major operations issues. They are pervasive, and effect all of the operating companies. There is a serious sense of “this is the way its always been done” in the bureaucracy up there, and thus major operations improvements seem to be impossible.

        And, given that they are still talking about a Broadway rail line … 15 years after Translink came to be, I’m not even sure they are getting the planning right.

      2. I think we’ve discussed this before, on STB.

        There are dozens of operations issues where Translink or its subsidiaries just can’t get it together.

        Right now, they’re taking a beating on the rollout of the Compass smartcard and fare gates system. The whole thing has been botched, and the issues are mostly related to operations.

        Skytrain shuts down for a fault all too often during peak travel times and the system does not have the resiliency to absorb those problems. Operations.

        There is a huge disconnect between what happens on the street and what the planners are working towards. Some would say that transit investment given the degree of usage is way too low. I’d tend to agree, but there are many “low hanging fruit” to improve the way the bus network operates that would go along way to close that gap with minimal investment. They don’t happen because “we’ve always done it this way.” Operations, mostly.

        I’ve followed the transit scene in Vancouver closely for over fifteen years. Desmond, to have any real effectiveness, is going to have to clean house. I wish him good luck.

      3. Yeah, there are obvious operational flaws (I think I said that) but i would trade those in a minute for the problems we have here. Eventually they will figure out to operate the smart cards and the fare gates. Hopefully they will figure out how to keep the trains running.

        But there is no way in hell we get a First Hill station. Or a station (or two) on 23rd. Nor will the Mount Baker station ever be convenient (although kudos for the city for trying). Now, who knows? We are likely to get silly projects like West Seattle light rail years before we get a Ballard to UW or Metro 8 subway. Their light rail system carries around 400,000 people a day — does anyone think ours will carry close to that, when it is way more expensive and much longer?

      4. I’m not sure what operational issues Translink has aside from the botched contract with the compass card provider. Obviously that provider could not provide what it promised, but the contract doesn’t allow Translink to get rid of them and get a contractor that can. But the skytrain fare gates were not its idea. The province essentially forced them to do that to respond to complaints that people were cheating; although, it is clear that the cost of the fare gates will certainly exceed the gains from slimming down fare evasion.

        There has been a run of problems on the expo line, but some of that was just bad luck. A 25 year old power rail fell off just months before it was scheduled to be replaced. A pigeon’s nest caught on fire from rail grinding and then burnt through a data cable. Even with that, the reliability of the system is excellent. And all transportation infrastructure has failures. Accidents cause chaos on freeways and bridges with some regularity. But because the expo line is the second most important piece of transportation infrastructure in the region, after the No 1 and Port Mann Bridge, its failures are a big problem and big news.

        Translink developed the B-Line system, which Seattle adopted as Rapid Ride, which has proved extremely popular. Bus routes are changed to make them better and there aren’t too many howlers left. The bus fleet always stays fresh, new skytrain cars are purchased and refurbished.

        The big operational low hanging fruit left involve things out of Translink’s control. If it was a non-union environment, Translink could probably contract out more and make it’s police force far more efficient. The police force was probably a bad idea, but that was a while ago now and can’t be dumped that easily. And there are more areas where bus priority measures could be adopted, not just at bottlenecks, where they are common, but along whole corridors like Broadway and Main Street. But those measure are controlled by the municipalities and not by Translink.

  3. Driverless shuttles for low-density areas are now operating in Europe. These vehicles look like large elevator cabs with some seats. Because they are rubber- tired and weigh only as much as a smaller SUV, they look like they could be implemented with a relatively low investment.

    Will they become commonplace in Seattle? Will we rethink our transit route planning to accommodate them?


    1. Joseph, I don’t think anything about the Waterfront-to-Come is anywhere near finalized.

      These last several years, project renderings initially all showed streetcars, which progressively disappeared rendering by rendering. But renderings aren’t working drawings.

      Thankfully, because for a long time, pastel pics showed an artificial beach on a barge. ‘Til credible threats came in about putting a home for stray cats on another barge moored to it.

      The Viaduct itself was supposed to come down in 2012, but funding ran out, and ‘quake is behind schedule too. Seriously, reason I think streetcar might start getting more crayon is that only transit contemplated is Bus Route 99.

      Also, Al, project designers are thinking of transit being pedal-cabs and golf carts of various sizes. So likely solution will be automatic versions of both.

      And streetcars fitted with motormen quick enough to hit the brakes when swiftly-zig-zagging wheeled MAC and its passengers rip screaming by on their way back to the Geek Team.

      Also, one afternoon in the waterfront plaza in Oslo, or any transitbearing plaza in Europe will show that pedestrians fear streetcars much less than either buses of caddy-less carts, no matter how loud their horns yell “Fore!”


      1. Considering three of the five streetcars for the Benson Waterfront line have been sold… I don’t they’ll be making any more appearances on project renderings.

      1. Really, Mike, I think that in this years-long stressed period caused by people who can afford most taxes paying the least, the State of Washington has quietly been having its seismologists let plate tectonics do what they do best.

        Geothermal energy has more use than electricity and steam baths that smell like sulfur. Including the unused one inside the walls at Beacon Hill Station. Since neither Bertha nor the efforts to extract her have detonated as planned, past time for the always reliable Sink Hole Generator(tm).

        No limit to number of steamboats and former Pioneer Square residents they’ll find down there with the blades between their ribs being perfect “time stamps”.

        Floating “Cat Beach”(tm) will be replaced by incorporating the beloved curiosity shop into the Seattle Underground, alligator, dead guy and all.

        Mollifying justifiable Federal rage over the “Mold and Sold” fate of another piece of history. Which really should have cost perpetrators several hundred thousand dollars like the law said- subtracted from the budget and salaries of the Waterfront designers who killed the line in the first place.

        And forcing the Seattle Art Museum to sell contents of Sculpture Garden, or use them to incorporate the streetcar barn into the feature that destroyed it, but can now protect it from nuclear attack.


    2. I think the idea of shuttles like this has a lot of potential. They could work quite well in places like Sammamish or Issaquah Highlands. They could also one day replace corporate shuttles, such as the Microsoft fleet, currently staffed by human drivers.

      However, a lot of work is still left to be done. According to the article, they are currently confined to corporate and university campuses and don’t yet operate on public roads with mixed traffic. They also top out around 30 mph, which makes them unsuitable for places like North Bend and Snoqualmie, where you pretty much have to go on the freeway for at least some distance, in order to connect with the rest of the transit network.

      Of course, 12-passenger shuttles, with or without a driver will never be a sufficient replacement for high-volume bus routes in the core of the city, since their capacity is simply just not high enough.

      1. So, how does fare collection work? The key part of this is not that they are electric (that is interesting, but limiting, as you suggest) but that they are driverless. Theoretically, our whole fleet could be driverless. If this really is the revolution that people say it will be then it will advance quickly from luxury vehicles to working ones. Taxis, buses and trucks. Those are the real game changers. With trucks it is obvious (it isn’t as big a deal if that shipment is stuck in traffic — it will get there when it gets there). Taxis can be paid for in advance, I suppose (followed by a credit card double check, maybe?). But how does a robot guarantee fare payment? This could make off board payment systems a bit cheaper (since you only pay for fare verification, not the driver). But your average, run of the mill, the driver is the one collecting the fare bus is not obvious to me.

      2. Probably with Rapid-Ride-style fare inspectors. It would still require some amount of human labor, much much less than one inspector per bus. Or, if the costs of fare collection outweigh the amount of fare collected, they could simply not bother and make the shuttles free.

        In the case of something like a community shuttle to connect a local neighorhood to a nearby transit hub, the idea of free fares is not as crazy as it sounds. The vast majority of users would be transferring to/from higher-volume services, so as long as transfers are free, the marginal amount of fare collected for the shuttle would be close to zero, anyway. If the shuttle is connecting a transit hub to an employment center, the employer might even chip in for the cost of operations if enough of their employees use it.

      3. I’d just comment:

        I think that the value is in linking places that are a bit too far away from a station. Something like linking Bellevue College to an I-90 Link stop or maybe one in SeaTac that connects to Link and the Rental Car facility, or maybe one from the 520/Montlake lid to Link and on into campus. I’d also agree that once it is approved to operate on public streets, it would make a great way to circulate through more suburban areas even in neighborhoods like West Seattle.

        The vehicles are so “tech” that you could monitor the system pretty well for fare evasion, especially if the Orca reader system moves on to the next generation. They will need full-time camera feeds to a control center anyway, so verifying that someone paid would seem easy to do.

        It’s probably not useful for distances over 2 or 3 miles. The moving speeds are slow and the stops will probably take longer than a driver-controlled stop.

        Anyway, systems like this are going to come along in the next few years. It’s going to probably be an element of transit service whether we like it or not.

      4. For the Montlake Lid thing, it might be better to just install one of those horizontal elevator things that are used in some large facilities to go between buildings.

        6 passenger capacity probably just isn’t going to cut it most of the time.

        The several blocks or so distance from the 520 stop to the Ship Canal would let you gain some altitude, and with the NOAA boats gone from Lake Washington the maximum height really shouldn’t be that high.

    3. Al. S

      I didn’t see in your link where any driverless shuttles were operating on public highways.

      I’ll be interested in the legal issues when the first driverless car causes</b an accident.

      1. I think public street use will likely come about soon. It seems to be “safer” than a Google car in that the system only has to know it’s service area so there is much less data to manage, and operating at 20 mph would be slow enough to detect and adjust the vehicle as the video shows. I think the public won’t like them on busy, higher-speed streets (no one will want to follow one of these down Rainier Avenue or Aurora Avenue) but I could see them on lightly-used neighborhood streets. They seem especially attractive to feed the Link spine for 2 miles in either direction.

  4. On this Valentine’s Day, I’d like to give my top three most romantic Metro bus routes. Oh wait, there is no such thing as a romantic bus route. nm

    “Oh yeah, Sam! What about the route 37 that goes around Alki! Are you trying to tell me that the beach isn’t romantic?!?”

    First of all, angry straw man, that route doesn’t run today. And second of all, no bus route can be romantic when other passengers are: flossing their teeth, clipping the nails, blowing their noses, spitting sun flower shells on the floor, etc. all around you.

    1. Take heart, Sam. Inevitable that some gorgeous night when your Route 37 has just been ticketed for “cruising” Alki, you’ll find yourself sitting next somebody wonderful who’s been smitten for years by your STB comments.

      Fingernail clippers will flash like princely swords in the moonlight, and every sunflower seed will become a gold nugget. In the 1400’s, knightly war-horses all blew flames out their nostrils so you’ll look again, flick the plume and click down the visor on your helmet.

      At dawn, whole transit world ready with flowers- at least you’ll think they are- as they eagerly tear off the wax seals with the STB crest from their parchments, for next pronouncement. Quill pen in the ink, Sam!


    2. I can think of more potentially romantic walks than bus rides. The Cross-Kirkland Connector, the Bellefields trail in Bellevue (small waterfalls, woods, boardwalk through blueberry farm), the Carkeek Park trail (woods, orchard, beach). For romantic bus trips, I guess the 554+208 to Snoqualmie Falls.

      1. Except when Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday, when the 208 does not operate. Unless, of course, a 24+ hour wait for a bus is considered “romantic”.

    3. I must be incredibly lucky. I ride the 3/4 every day–outside of regular commute hours–and the “crazy behavior factor” is running maybe 5%.

      1. Careful, Wes…you’re not in Lake City anymore! Which really doesn’t make any difference because, because same misconception everywhere.

        Since the 3 and 4 are a single-seat ride between Downtown Seattle and a well-advertised mental hospital, it’s natural to occasionally see people with recognizable symptoms.

        But dangerously mistake is always behind passengers’ frequent comment: “You must meet a lot of interesting people!”

        Meaning recognizable symptoms of anything a mental hospital can treat. Especially drug and alcohol related. Once you know what somebody’s ingesting, both you and the police you call will already know range of what they’ll do.

        However, most dangerous are psychopaths, since their disturbance not only raises no caution, but gives them the ability to instantly scope out a victim and immediately appear to be exactly what their target needs them to be.

        A friend? A brother or sister? Someone needing something? Someone with a need to help someone else? But like every cultures’ most evil spirits, almost always past-movie-star intelligent, handsome or beautiful.

        Very often, truly no willful malevolence felt, let alone projected. Especially revenge or anger. Every victim is simply somebody they the psychopath temporarily need. Meaning avoiding every usual signal of ill-intent.

        Usually need longer acquaintance than a bus ride. Meaning be really careful of personal relationships with anyone you don’t personally know, no matter how often they ride.

        But in non-criminal shock, like crash or earthquake, the skill drivers most need training for, and never receive, is how to direct most people’s natural response for best results.

        As the 9-11 attack and the Boston Marathon bombing demonstrateds, in an emergency, vast majority or the US population will willingly do the right thing without orders.

        But to take full advantage- knowledgeable leadership always necessary, and always works.

        Mark Dublin

    4. How about routes that are romantic in different senses?

      I’ll nominate

      – The 48 because it was, IIRC particularly the southern half, a citizen-demanded route launched to official skepticism that became one of Metro’s top routes.
      – The 16, because it’s one of two routes that take First Avenue through Pioneer Square, where literally every attractive building in Seattle is, and unlike the 66, isn’t the 66. Furthermore the 16 yields some of Seattle’s best views on the Aurora Bridge, and it’s about to die, so you could make it a farewell trip.
      – The 106 because there’s a song about it.

  5. I bought the other night for my Kindle “Everyone But the People” about the happy warrior anti-Translink Tax campaign. Clearly your hero Desmond has his work cut out for him… and the book by Jordan Bateman is quite educational. Anybody dealing with transit should have to read this book… and learn an incredible amount about transit measures’ opponents’ very likely lines of attack. Going to recommend to the Skagit Transit Citizen’s Advisory Committee as a must-read…

    1. I’m not buying a completely one-sided anti-transit book that ignores counterarguments (judging from the description), and it’s not available at the library. It would be worth a page 2 article though.

  6. Supposedly ST will be operating 3-LRV trains for the opening of U-Link. Not sure how often they will run that way in normal ops, but it will be great to see.

  7. Since this is an open thread I hope people won’t mind this question: How does KC Metro determine stop names? My perception is that the name of the stop is the street closest to the stop. A couple or three months ago the stop for the 10, 11 and 49 was changed from Broadway to Harvard Avenue. The stop is right in the middle between Broadway and Harvard Avenue. Broadway is the more important street why did they change the name? They did not change the name of the stop for the 8 and 43 and it’s still Broadway, Westbound on the 8 and 43 “23rd Avenue” is nowhere near the stop and in fact is located between 22nd Avenue and 21st Avenue. Why is the stop called 23rd Avenue?

    1. The same with Summit Avenue and Belmont Avenue on the 10/11/49: the names are reversed. The bus stop redesign move the stops to the street in front, but the stop display still shows the street behind. My pet peeve is that Metro usually announces the physically closest street even when there’s a larger more passenger-relevant street on the other side. So “4th Avenue” instead of 3rd Avenue, “Broadway Court” or “Harvard Avenue” instead of Broadway, etc. Link stations don’t even get a break; it lists the street first and the station as an afterthought.

      1. An outsiders view.

        As I see it, KCM is programing the AVS with the street that’s in front of the bus – even if the important street is behind. KCM is far from the only system to use that tactic & it can cause confusion at times.

        Here’s an example of a situation in the village of Larchmont in Westchester County NY that’s quite odd & yet similar. There is a bus stop that is noted as Palmer Avenue & Chatsworth Avenue. Now despite such designations on the bus AVS & in schedules, there isn’t actually a stop at that intersection. Rather it is a full block east at the next traffic light. interestingly enough the schedules in both directions at the physical stops as well as the automated phone system have the locations correct do to the street crossings being in front of the bus.

    2. On a similar point why did they go with University Street for the DSTT when they could have used Seneca? Yes it was less of an issue at the time when there was no UW station but naming a main downtown station with the word University in a city with a huge university and at a location where there hasn’t been a university for a century is just creating unnecessary confusion. When I hear Seneca Street, I think exclusively Downtown Seattle. Are there even any Seneca Streets anywhere else? Or better yet use a non street name like all the other DSTT stations.

      1. Other than on this blog, is there any evidence anyone ever has been confused?

        Did you know we have other universities in this city? One of which is Seattle University, and the stop you’d take to get to it is . . . University St. Another is Seattle Pacific University, and it is not on the Pacific Ocean, which I’m sure has caused millions to miss it looking for it along the waterfront. And there’s this newfangled thing called a smartphone that gives people directions from a device they hold in their hand.

        If you’re looking for the University of Washington, seeking to attend it, and you can’t figure out that it’s not along University St., perhaps you have your admissions answer right there.

      2. Plenty of anecdotal experiences, I’m sure. I haven’t run into that myself, but I’m not around University Street station all that often.

        Seattle U is too far uphill to be used as justification for keeping the University Street name. It’s far closer to Capitol Hill station.

        And not all tourists/visitors have smartphones or, more importantly, U.S. carrier data plans. And besides, it’s not accessible in the tunnel. And with the map having two stations named “University” starting in March (and probably not marking U District station properly in 2021), the confusion is just going to grow and grow.

      3. There is only on station today with “University” in the name. The new stations are even called UW and U-District so the actual name “university” isn’t in them. Any confusion would probably evolve once the full line is open. Of course, lots of cities have multiple universities including Seattle.

        I don’t think that the confusion is that significant. I too wish that other names were on the table — but that train has figuratively left the station.

      4. I agree. University Street was fine back in the day (when it was just a tunnel) but it should be renamed to Seneca Street now. Like you said, it would remove all ambiguity. I’m sure there will be confused visitors trying to get from the airport to the UW who here University, and get off, then wonder where the campus is.

    3. idk about Metro, but I know how ST does it a lot of the time. What they do is first ask what’s the obvious choice, then pick the opposite. For example, with East Link, with the stop near all the hospitals, the obvious and intuitive choice would be Hospital Station. But, for ST, that name doesn’t have enough character or a je ne sais quoi about it. It’s too simple and too obvious. So they decided to reach back into history and call the station by the almost never-used neighborhood name that people from the olden days used to call it. Wilburton Station. Surrey Downs becomes East Main, even though the stops not on Main, and even if it was, it’s not called East Main street, it’s just called Main street. Rainier become Judkins. Overlake TC become Redmond Technology Center, and so on.

      1. Right? We’d get better names just asking one random person walking by the spot what they’d call it.

      2. they decided to reach back into history and call the station by the almost never-used neighborhood name that people from the olden days used to call it. Wilburton Station.

        They got that wrong too. The neighborhood is Midlakes not Wilburton. That’s what the Post Office was named and it’s still what Bartell Drugs calls their store there. You’re correct that there is nothing “east” about the East Main Station. It’s south of Main St. The major ridership will be people living, working or visiting what has become know as the Old Main St. area so Old Main or just Main St would have made more sense. And there’s no Bel-Red Station but instead the invented Spring District; the City even renamed an alley with huge signs to “Make it so”.

      3. That’s right, they name the stations just to confuse Sam.

        “Bel-Red Station” is ambiguous for 120th, 130th, and Overlake Village.

      4. “Midlakes” is ambiguous too: which lakes? Seattle has Interlaken Blvd and Interlake Avenue in two different places, which also both mean mid-lakes.

  8. I heard of an interesting ORCA scam recently. Apparently, props will advertise their ORCA card on Craigslust, take the card to a machine to demonstrate to the buyer it has a certain value on it, then sell the card. They then immediately report the card as stolen and recover the value off the card.

    I’m sure it isn’t new, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it

    1. It takes a special kind of idiot to buy an ORCA card on Craigslist. If someone is scammed that easily they probably deserve it. Live and learn…

  9. Would it be at all possible for STB to make a preview button, so we can proof read our comments better. For example, I’m writing this other comment, but it got a little long. So I asked my roomate if he could proofread it, but it’s got html tags and whatnot, so it looks all silly. Having a preview button would also help reduce the number of forgotten closing tags in published comments.

    1. It is weird that blogs all seem to use different software for their comments. Some (like the Stranger) allow you to preview, as you suggest. Others (Seattle Times) allow to edit the comment, but only within a few minutes of the post. Others allow you to edit much later.

      This one is very rigid — a one shot deal. Get it right the first time or forget it. I’ve made enough mistakes that I’ve pretty much given up on making inline links (e. g. anchors). I inevitably forget to close a tag, or end the quote or something, and I end up with a mess. I will occasionally use bold or italics, but I’ve learned to put them in first, then insert the text.

      1. In agreement here.

        When I comment, I usually write a long, multi-paragraph post. It’s nearly impossible for me to edit in the stupid little box. Thus, I hope that my mistakes don’t diminish from the point I am trying to make.

      2. It’s not weird because websites have always used a variety of software and forms and user interfaces. That’s what drives me up the wall: that I have to learn to navigate every site differently and learn what its unique quirks are. The Web was not invented with robust blog-and-comment software: that emerged from trial-and-error, and different people building the same thing differently, and how much users used and liked the various sites. Going to one commenting platform everywhere, for instance Disqus, might involve surrendering your data not to the owners of a site you love but to a largely anonymous third party whose goals are different than yours. So standardization is a double-edged sword. But since the nature of the Web is very open-ended (as opposed to a Web that was all like Wikipedia for instance), there will inevitably be sites with quirky user interfaces forever — or at least until all those site owners decide to make their sites the same. We’ve even seen some candidates of proposed standards, the Bootstrap-like site or mobile-first site. Those have some advantages in some places, but I think people would get tired of those if all sites were like that forever.

        (By “mobile-first” site I don’t just mean a small-screeen-friendly view, which is essential nowadays. I means sites that even on a desktop their home page is just five large icons, making the site look like it was drawn by a third-grader and devoid of content.)

    1. It’s amusing to see Jarret slap RossB down, and to see how far mic can get before mentioning the B-word (BART). I think Jarret’s initial position (the limited number of stations follows from the line’s intended purpose) is based on his philosophy of “Help the cities realize their values” rather than “Make the cities realize my values”. Link to Lynnwood, Redmond, and SeaTac is clearly justified by all-day demand. I don’t think he was necessarily endorsing Link to Everett or Tacoma, but leaving it vague because those are still speculative and uncertain.

      As for Mark Dublin’s “removing all but two stops” between Husky Stadium and SeaTac, or RossB’s “one stop in Brooklyn or Queens”, I don’t understand those. A NYC express would have more stops than two in fifteen miles; e.g., Capitol Hill, and one or two in Rainier Valley, like the distance between 59th Street and 125th Street. And “one stop in Brooklyn” would be like one stop in north Seattle, which is not what Link is planned.

      1. Thou doth protest too much, kind Sir.
        I didn’t invoke the B word one time.
        Dueling pistols at 20 paces.

  10. I was thinking about self driving cars today. As far as I can make out, widespread adoption will significantly increase congestion. That makes exclusive right of way for buses more critical. I present my reasoning below. Now that I’ve googled it, I see some other people have conclude similar things, but I’d never seen anyone say this before I started this comment.

    The capitalists (the venture variety) want us to believe their investments will bring salvation from all our transportation woes. What I can’t understand is why anyone believes a word of it.

    Some of the claims are, to me, reasonable. I think it safe to assume this will reduce the cost of taxis. I also think this will reduce the number of car collisions. But most of the claims range from unsubstantiated to downright illogical.

    Car ownership One claim is people will have less personal cars because taxis will be cheaper. I find that questionable. People like having their own space. They like ownership. They like their car to reliably smell a specific way. They like not worrying that the previous person who used it had scabies. They like having all their personal belongings inside. They like being able to take trips to places that are remote enough that taxis don’t make sense. None of that will go away just because cars can drive themselves. Even if economics suggests non-car ownership as cheaper, America culturally likes cars. Cultural shifts often take a long time. I think it might reduce car ownership, but primarily in cities and not by the majority.

    Ride share The fact that it’s possible to share a taxi, something which much of the world has already been aware of for some time, is not at all related to who’s driving, so lets not conflate the two. On one hand, the increased interest in taxis brought on by cheaper taxis may bring Americans to consider things outside the narrow confines of their regular thought, including realizing that exclusive taxis are a luxury. On the other hand, the reduced cost of taxis may mean more people can afford the luxury of having their taxi not detour to pick up some random, possibly ax murdering stranger (not that most strangers are remotely dangerous, but Americans can get strange about the intersection of car interiors and strangers). In my mind, the biggest reason why we might see ride share from self driving cars is the fact that many people believe self driving cars will result in ride share. But as a whole, I see no reason to believe there will be a significant increase in ride share.

    Following distance I’ve heard some people suggest that self driving cars will be able to communicate such that they need less following distance. I find that notion highly dubious. One, the security nightmare that would be involved is insane. Cars around your car being able to directly effect your cars brakes is a huge deal. Right now you have to go to really extreme means to hack cars through bluetooth into the entertainment system to finally execute engine commands. This on the other hand would have to be entirely accessible to allow connecting with any car in front. Additionally, each car would need to be able to assume whatever communication is happening is entirely reliable, an assumption which is pretty iffy even for wired communication, let alone whatever sort of wireless might be going on with cars. Even if we assume tech is developed to allow cars to safely platoon (peloton?), and we even managed to get the varied manufactures to all agree on a standard, they still wouldn’t be able to make chains over a certain length with acceptable measure of safety. For example, lets say a truck experiences a mechanical failure and enters the apposing lane of traffic. Even if every car brakes perfectly in sync, every car that hits that truck will have a very sudden change in velocity hitting other cars causing them to have very sudden changes in velocity. It simply will never be safe to have too many cars too close. In the short run, I suspect following distances will increase because following distances are currently too close for safety.

    Number of trips This is often not talked about in the popular articles about self driving cars, but it is highly relevant. All the people who can’t drive themselves, kids, seniors, disabled etc, will now be able to take these trips without needing to rely on someone to drive them. If two people share a car, they will be able to easier coordinate trips where the car drives the first, returns alone, then drives the second, where’s now the second person would just have to wait. Auto driven trips will also provide the option of doing other things, like homework, taxes, novels, or even sex. Because trips provide opportunity to do other things, people will be willing to take more of them. In some cases, people will not own cars because taxis will be cheaper which might mean they take less car trips total, but I doubt reduced car ownership will offset the additional trips due to lower cost of taxis and increased enjoyability and convenience of auto driven trips.

    Parking They claim since you can just have your self driving car drive away and park, no one will care about parking spots close. I think it will do the exact opposite. People will become even more territorial about parking spots adjacent to their residences and work. Even if your car can drive somewhere else to park, people would prefer the car be close. Often people don’t know exactly when they will leave. Having to tell the car to come, but then maybe not be ready, or forgetting to tell the car to come, etc will be an inconvenience. So people with the option, will fight to preserve their nearby parking. But if you are say, shopping downtown, and the option is pay twenty bucks for the parking in the Target parking garage or telling your car to go somewhere and be cheap, telling the car to get lost for 2.5 hours will make sense for all be the richest. So all the places near downtown that are sort of out of the way will now need to either accept not having any parking reliably near, or fight to have the nearby parking reserved. If we are at a point where half cars are self driving, having parking nearby will be extremely important for half the drivers, and moderately important for some of the self drivers, but places near downtown will no longer be able to have publicly available parking because enough self driving cars will know about the spots and take them. I think the amount of publicly available parking in urban areas will decrease, as people push to reserve what used to be available enough.

    Congestion All the things that supposedly will decrease congestion, ride sharing, decreased personal car ownership, closer following distance, are questionable. The things that will increase congestion, more trips and empty cars making trips to find cheap parking, are much more reasonable to assume. To make things worse, the cost of driving on a congested road, namely, the frustration and extra time, will mean less. If you don’t see the congestion, its not as frustrating. If you are doing something else, you aren’t even wasting your time. This likely will mean less peak avoidance, which will further exacerbate congestion. There will also likely be an increase in cars circling so they can quickly pickup as soon as the person is ready.

    As far as I can tell, the people selling us on self driving cars are the ones who will benefit the most. As such their conclusion are worth even less than all the above unsubstantiated postulation. As a cyclist, I’m personally very excited about the likely increase in my personal safety. But I think we need to plan for all the negative impacts, like buses being stuck, emergency vehicles being unable to reach scenes, environmental concerns like air quality, battery recycling, oil extraction, and political concerns like oil extraction.

      1. No harm, Ben, but good caution if oppression and ill-fortune force you to get work programming closing tags for automatic cars.

        But you’re missing the world of good for transit that automated cars will make possible. Not only will cars be able to ticket themselves and pay their own fines online for being in a bus lane.

        They’ll also be able to interface with SDOT’s whole traffic signal system so that every bus on the streets gets total signal-pre-empt 24-7-365. (Good to Go!!!)

        Automated system can also have smoke detector able to detect the overturn of a truckload of smoked salmon while it’s still rolling over.

        Enabling buses to find routes across lawns, parking lots, parks and the halls of shopping malls including Bellevue Square-you know, the Blues Brothers?-regionwide to stay on schedule.

        All depends on programmers. Bicyclists seeking revenge will make good ones.


    1. I agree with most of your points. I completely agree about congestion. I will add that even if a networked system could lead to faster speeds it would only do so if the entire system was networked. Otherwise it leads to slower overall speeds. Imagine if half the people really slowed down to 35 MPH when the freeway signs flashed it, and the other half swerved all over the place to get ahead, only to slam on their breaks when they encountered the congestion. That is what a mix of automated and non-automated cars will be, and that will exist for years and years, even if automated car sales begin to dominate.

      The big difference is that driving through congestion would probably become a lot more pleasant. I know personally that I hate it. It’s not really the extra time wasted, but the stress. Having to worry about stopping distance (too much and guys cut in front) or picking the right lane is really a pain. If this type of stress was suddenly eliminated — if driving was as fast as always but had some of the low stress advantages of riding in transit — then I could see it being more popular.

      I think it will dramatically alter the taxi business, if cities allow it too. Part of the reason there is a regulation around taxis is because cities didn’t like too many cabs clogging up the streets, waiting to pick up customers. The argument about too many cars circling the streets becomes rather silly if private vehicles (waiting to pick up their owner) are doing the same. In general, with discussions about Uber, that hasn’t been the focus. You hear talk about labor rights and fairness. Why should one taxicab company be able to ignore the regulations, when all those other cab companies paid a pretty penny for the right to pick up people? Those arguments continue if the cars are automated, but begin to fade away once the established cab companies start moving to autonomous vehicles. In general I could see a lot more cars being added to the taxicab pool. Imagine someone who drives into work, but then rents his car out to Uber the rest of the day, only to have his car available (waiting on the street or in the parking lot) when he leaves work. Or guys like me, who mainly use their car for trips to the mountains. It is raining hard right now, so why not just rent it out? That seems like a very easy and cheap way to make a few extra bucks. The end result is a much cheaper cab ride.

      Combined with decent public transportation, it may lead to fewer trips. Hard to say. But it could certainly solve the “last mile” problem. Personally, I can think of several trips that would involve public transportation if it was cheap. One example is from my house (close to Northgate) to a friend’s house outside of Fife. Getting downtown is easy. Getting south is pretty easy. But he lives in a trailer park that is not well served by transit. So I drive the whole way. If it is a weekday, this means I visit him from around 10:00 in the morning until about 3:00, because of rush hour concerns. All of this would go away if there was a cheap ride available from some place in Fife to his house. When you add it all up, it wouldn’t be that expensive, really, since from a resource standpoint, I would be using a lot less. The total number of miles put on a car would be way less. Of course there is the middle man (miles put on someone else’s car, not mine) but if that service gets cheaper and cheaper (as it would when you eliminate the driver) then it balances out. Meanwhile, I get to spend more time with my friend, have an extra beer or two (because I’m not driving) and otherwise have a much more enjoyable day.

      But along with cabs, the big change would be to transit. I’m pretty sure that paying the drivers is the major cost when it comes to running buses (just as it is when running cabs). Obviously there is a lot of wear and tear on the vehicles, but if you want to know why all the buses don’t run every five minutes, this is why. Eliminate that cost, and things get a lot cheaper (and thus a lot better) very quickly. Maybe running a forty footer every five minutes is too expensive. If so, run a minibus. Suddenly you can have frequency where transfers are no big deal and you never have to check the schedule for routes that you would never dream of before.

      I think the fundamentals don’t change. You still have congestion. It is still relatively expensive to own a car. But public transit — buses and cabs — would become a lot cheaper. Meanwhile, driving might be a lot more pleasant, even if it is just as slow. Those factors are likely to counteract each other — how they do is anyone’s guess.

      1. The imagery your 35 freeway sign scenario conjured in my mind made me laugh, but I think even current prototypes will break speed limit for safety.

        I think congestion pricing can solve the congestion issues self driving cars might bring. No one will want their car circling if it’s racking up a bill because the nearby street is congested. What don’t think is that Americans could be convinced of the worth of congestion pricing, which is why self driving cars are suddenly making me nervous. The funny thing about congestion pricing is that most places with enough traffic to warrant congestion tolls are places that, had it been planned for, could support convenient transit.

        Even though I enjoy the combination of smugness and guilt riding past jams and locking up right by the door, I still end up driving and busing sometimes. Like today I just busted my knee skiing, so it looks like I’ll be crutching to the bus for the second time this year.

      2. “Part of the reason there is a regulation around taxis is because cities didn’t like too many cabs clogging up the streets, waiting to pick up customers. The argument about too many cars circling the streets becomes rather silly if private vehicles (waiting to pick up their owner) are doing the same.”

        It’s to prevent everybody chasing the most lucraitive street-hails midtown and on main streets. Uber doesn’t do street hails, so drivers can wait in uncongested places.

    2. I think l-o-n-g before you see this technology available at a price that can compete with the old nut behind the wheel technology this will be incorporated into taxis and buses. Especially buses where the base unit cost is between $500k and a $1M. Someone sharp with math could do the calculation on what the up charge would have to be to pay for itself over the life of the bus. Driverless buses do then become cost competitive with trains for all but the highest ridership routes. More so when you factor in the dramatic advances in super capacitors for all electric buses.

    3. People believe in driverless cars not because of logic but because it perpetuates the American dream of SOV cars and single-family houses. It allows them to say, “Transit is still not the answer” and “Trains are so 19th-century”. It’s hard to separate the vision of driverless cars from the vision of electric cars fueled by renewable energy because proponents ultimately want both. Electric cars promise to solve cars’ environmental problem, and driverless cars eliminate the drudgery of driving in traffic. There’s another environmental problem: SOV cars require large freeways and parking lots that take space, but SOV proponents don’t perceive it as a problem: the freedom to go anywhere anytime and not share seats with strangers outweighs it.

      We rarely predict the social changes of emerging technologies right. In the 1930s and 1950s, cartoons of ubiquidous highways never had traffic. In the 1950s suburban expansion, people assumed that jobs would remain downtown, and department stores, and the existing level of transit would remain (local and national buses and trains). In the 1960s they did not anticipate the miniaturization of computers. In the 2000s people took up social networks, but they thought more about “How this is a convenience for me” than “What will society look like in a Facebook generation?” So we always need people who can predict the social consequences of emerging technologies. Luckily some people do, but it’s usually snapshots rather than a whole.

      So the answer to, “What would a driverless car society look like?” is that we don’t know. Luckily some people have outlined possible consequences: personal cars circling the block to avoid parking fees, or doing more errands than now, both increasing traffic. People see the individual benefit of sending the car out for an errand, but not the net result if eveybody did that. Which comes back to the age-old issue of “Tragedy of the Commons”. And people may take more recreational trips: “Sunday drives”.

      Shared taxis and routed taxis is mostly a marketing issue. If it’s a convenient service at an attractive price, people will take it, especially if private taxis aren’t dirt cheap yet. Russia has routed taxis (marshrutnaya taksi) which extend the metro network beyond its termini. They’re vans with a fixed fare leave when they’re full. It also has private taxis (taksi), which are just SOV drivers who stop if you hold out your hand (Uber without the Uber) — some people in Moscow spend a few hours or a night driving around being a taxi. People use them because they meet a need, and they think they’re better than alternatives.

  11. I would like to commend Metro/ST for making Westlake Station even more confusing to navigate by removing the platform information from the mezzanine. There are new signs that say “coming soon Link to UW”, but they removed the signs that say “Bays A-B, North and East buses”. So if you’re looking for the 71 to the U-District or the 41 to Northgate, best of luck figuring out which platform to go to.

    1. I’m wondering when there will be a subversive transit advocacy group that will secretly go onto Link platforms and put up the badly-needed sign decals on walls and other surfaces.

      1. Subversive?

        Hell, just buy advertising space in alropriate locations. “THAT WAY TO SNORK ‘S FISH HOUSE and 3rd Ave Exit.”

      2. I just noticed that ST has now installed big signs about the direction of the train in several stations! Yay! Finally!

    2. Hardly just a Westlake Station problem. The signage around all of Link and its stations is horrendously bad.

  12. Bad sign, Larry, bad, bad sign! Now I don’t want any sign to start whining and hiding his nose in his paws for wetting on a bay-marker. But somebody in charge of signage needs a trip to the vet.

    Tempting to instruct system in correct signage by attaching cardboard sign-prototypes to the walls with masking tape. Especially at foot if stairway where last door on an Airport train always stops.

    And where passengers drag their wheeled luggage around, asking where to get the train to the Airport. Often going upstairs and down to the Northbound platform.

    Now that smart-phones are 100% present on the platform except for me, Hope and Change may have their only mention this Election Season.

    Because after two minutes’ video of Security staff tearing down the sign, following twenty minutes’ video of lost passengers pleading for directions, Social Media will finally have something besides a weight problem to Shame somebody for.

    Making Kevin’s first task to get whole TransLINK workforce to stop re-running the footage while rolling on the rug in hysterics while ragging on Kevin for not attending to this. Comment, Kevin?


  13. I went down to ride the First Hill Streetcar for the first time on Saturday, for no other reason than just to ride it.

    First off I noticed that OneBusAway now has the FHSC scheduled available, but no live times … hoping this is a stepping stone. Considering the inconsistency of the speed of the trains at this point live times are going to be crucial. Sitting next to the Pioneer Square terminus it was clear that times were all over the place compared to the “schedule.”

    Riding North from the Pioneer Square terminus, it took just shy of 23 minutes to reach the Broadway & E Pine stop (2nd to last stop). That’s … quite slow, particularly for a Saturday afternoon where I felt we made it fluidly through a lot of green lights. Signal priority is still a serious thing that needs doing. For all of the green lights we did hit, we still stopped plenty. Though I know it’s not meant to be the best choice for an end-to-end run, and walking uphill on the northbound route isn’t the best, folks are still going to get fed up with these slow speeds (I know I would if I relied on it).

    The train was *very* full, as in almost turning people away at stops. Most of this was likely due to it being the last couple of days before fares were to be charged, and probably also on account of the Chinese New Year celebration happening in the ID and the fact that it was (lightly) raining, but it was good to see the FHSC getting exposure and having lots of people riding. I saw folks of all ages, and lots of people were getting on smiling as they looked around at the new trains. That was great to see.

    I’m sure the drivers are getting better about handling the trains, the complex stops and the interesting braking/hill situation, but I felt the streetcar was a bit jerky when accelerating and came to hard stops when it was on its way up Broadway. Not sure how much of this is avoidable due to the steepness of the hill, and it was *way* smoother than a bus, but just an observation.

    Being that I don’t leave near the route I’m not likely to use the FHSC a ton, but the first experiences make me super excited for the Center City Connector to be built. If it’s done as expected in its own lanes with signal priority, it’s going to be great. Doubly so if that’s combined with some simple improvements to the FHSC route.

    1. I’ve ridden it a few times and it was always standing-room-only but not packed. One Saturday evening around 8pm I was at 5th & Jackson eastbound and I thought I saw only four other people waiting, but when I got on some ten or fifteen people came on too. It remains to be seen how many people remain when it starts charging fares, but some people have a monthly pass like I do so the fare are not an issue. And especially people who work downtown and at First Hill hospitals have passes.

  14. Did Metro ridership really rise 44% or whatever number he said in his 12 years? What period was that exactly, and what were the starting and ending numbers?

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