With the Puget Sound region continuing to add housing and jobs at a rapid clip, and large rapid transit solutions still years (or decades) away, there is increasing pressure to do “something” to facilitate more commuting options and lessen the environmental impact of solo driving.

Unfortunately, things that could really make a difference in the short term – like converting parking lanes to bus lanes or tolling the freeways – tend to meet with public resistance as drivers perceive a zero-sum tradeoff that “forces” them to sit in more traffic.

So what’s an elected official or business leader to do? Sure, you can and should support big-ticket votes like ST3, but day-to-day you have to do something to show progress to your constituents or employees in the short term.

Somewhat lost amid the Ulink/ST3 talk over the past few weeks was a pair of initiatives, one from Mayor Murray and another from a set of local business leaders, to do something in the short term about the region’s #1 problem.

  • Murray’s Drive Clean Seattle is a grab bag of initiatives intended to make the most of Seattle’s renewable energy bounty, including more charging stations, an upgraded municipal fleet, and more electric trolley wire for buses.
  • Challenge Seattle is a high-profile nonprofit led by former Governor Gregoire and backed by local employers, aimed at improving the regional transportation system.  There’s some techno-futurism (“what if we made an app…?”), but mostly Challenge Seattle has a set of smart ideas, like better land use regulation, tolling, reducing SOV share among employees, that lack a strong political constituency.

Whether Challenge Seattle can provide the needed political muscle remains to be seen, but its mere existence is encouraging.  Drive Clean, on the other hand, should be instantly effective in making EVs more widespread, but can’t do much to aid commutes (though more electric trolley wire is always welcome!).   Ultimately, though, the best fixes for congestion remain as boring as they are intractable: legalize more housing near job centers, and prioritize high-capacity transit in our limited right-of-way.

As a side note, I was idly browsing for electric vehicles recently, and I learned that certain EVs are not even available for sale in Washington State.  Since automakers often lose money on EV sales, they tend to not sell them in states where they’re not required to.  So, for example, the Mercedes B250e and Fiat 500e (which Fiat’s CEO doesn’t want you to buy) are not for sale here, but you can buy them in California.  While I’m generally skeptical of the impact such micro-interventions in the market can have, it seems like a useful additional tool in the toolkit.

48 Replies to “New Tactics for Thorny Transportation Problems”

  1. In terms of EVs, the state could also raise the sales tax waiver of EVs from 35000 to 40000 (so you don’t have to pay sales tax for the new Chevy Bolt, a nicer Chevy Volt, or perhaps more options on Teslas Model 3).

    1. It’s ridiculous that if the vehicle price is 35k or below, you don’t pay any state sales tax. But if the price is 35,000.01, the ENTIRE amount is taxable.

      1. That sort of nonsense is why people (accurately) think that their state legislators are idiots.

    2. Pushing electric car expansion will lower gas tax revenue that funds road maintenance. Some may say “Who cares?” and “That’s good” because the fund is limited to car-oriented highway projects and ferries and excludes transit or rail projects [1], while alternative revenue sources would not be so restricted, but we should make a conscious decision about the impact of more non-petrol-cars on the gas tax rather than walking into it blindly.

      [1] According to the prevailing interpretation of the 18th Amendment to the state constitution, which limits gas tax revenue to “highway purposes”. It was originally intended to exclude the monopolistic railroad barons and the streetcars/interurbans of the early 1900s. Some have said “highway purpose” can be interpreted more widely to include mass transit and modern rail, but so far the state hasn’t pursued it.

      1. But electric car owners pay an extra 100$ at tab renewal time ($150 starting July 1).

      2. Depends upon how much you drive, what mileage your car gets to the gallon (The Volt, which has a gas engine as a backup, has been quoted at getting 106 miles per gallon), etc. I put about 8000 miles a year on my 2009 Honda Civic– which based on my average mpg, is about, 235 gallons of gas a year.

      3. Actually, that $150 specifically punishes people who drive less for getting an electric car, while rewarding people who drive way too much.

        It’s sick, terrible policy.

      4. The original concept of the gas tax was to tax people on the amount they drove.

        Maybe it should be replaced by an additional tax on tires or something?

    3. Encouraging greener cars is certainly a positive step, but it only addresses pollution (in the Seattle area, as opposed to where the electricity is generated).

      It does nothing to reduce congestion, improve mobility, or address our larger land use issues. Which is why, in my view, electric cars don’t really have any bearing on a discussion about mobility or public transit.

  2. I don’t see in the press release for Drive Clean Seattle that it specifically calls for more electric trolley wire for buses. Are you inferring that from the statement, “the City will continue to partner with King County Metro, Sound Transit, and other regional transit agencies to identify opportunities to continue to use our clean electricity as a transit fuel.” ?
    In addition to potentially adding trolley wire, I could see that as meaning any of the following:
    1) less use of diesel buses on weekends on trolley routes
    2) more frequent trolley service
    3) adding Proterra bus charging stations in the city
    4) expansion of the streetcar network

  3. Personally, I am a fan of tolling and/or congestion pricing but I understand how controversial this is on this side of the country. If we are not going to “punish” people for driving alone, then the region should at least do a better job of rewarding people that take alternative Transit.

    The big thing not mentioned here is biking. Although only 3-4% of the city bikes to work year round (approx 12k people and obviously much higher in the summer), this surprisingly adds up to a lot. I’ve never thought that amount could be very impactful until the Emerald City Bike Ride last weekend. With “only” 7k people riding, it was surreal seeing just how many people that really is when you put them in one place. Just imagine if we increased this % a little bit…the Bike Master Plan needs to be rolled out more quickly and employers need to be encouraged to offer incentives to all employees that bike to work. I think it’s inevitable that a large chunk of the next wave of new bike commuters will not be doing it for lifestyle or fitness reasons but just to get out of traffic. The city needs to do everything in its power to support this through increased and improved safe cycling facilities.

    It won’t fix our traffic woes but we need to do a lots of small and even unpopular initiatives in order to just make things manageable until ST3 is finished.

    1. This is all about safe and flat. Give people safe, flat options to bike where they need to go, and you could easily double that percentage in a short amount of time.

      Of course most safe, flat options are bottle-neck areas already taken be motor vehicles, that don’t really care about route being either safe or flat. So it’s a battle. That bikes almost always lose.

  4. The advent of EV is only fur thing the necessity of maintaining freeways and other roads. People love their independence via motor vehicle and resist riding that crowded bus to town.

    As a motorcyclist often stuck in the slog between Shoreline and the Seattle CBD, it’s perhaps time for the State to evaluate lane-splitting.

    The City of Seattle continues to snub motorcyclists and only offers 100 parking spots within the City…and there is no mention of motorcycling within its comprehensive transportation plan. Many of these motorcycle spots require the rider to pay the same price as a car. Thankfully, a number of private park garages offer lucrative rates. Meanwhile, cities like Vancouver (BC) and San Francisco are far more motorcycle friendly even with their expansive transit network.

    1. I completely agree. We need to (a) make parking a motorcycle/scooter cost proportionally what it costs to park a car. Private lots really lead in this area because they can make more money doing this, and the city should realize the same thing. I agree with lane splitting as long as it is only allowed when traffic is below X MPH (say, 20-30 mph). But the real opportunity here is allowing the use of shoulders by motorcycles and buses.

  5. Something to push in Challenge Seattle would be shifted hours. Give employers incentives to have more employees work hours that are not 9-5. Also incentives for allowing more telecommuting for jobs that can at least be done 2 days a week from home. The less SOVs on the road during rush hour, the less idling and gridlock which adds more carbon to the mix than trips that are able to avoid congestion.

    Provide a remediation option to businesses losing parking to new BAT or BRT lanes. Then 6 months or so after construction is complete, it expires. This way it’s not permanent but it gives the businesses less to complain about. Well they would probably complain either way but maybe this would help tip the scales and make the city look a bit better after the 23rd Ave disaster.

    Get serious about signaling. Seattle’s traffic signals are incredibly outdated. Even with Mercer Street getting brand new lights, they still have time based static schedules. They should focus on improving those schedules ASAP (they claim they intend to do this), upgrade them to better allow dynamic flow control. There’s too many problems with cars taking lefts on to Mercer S or off it and blocking lanes, intersections, etc. There’s no reason that the intersections along this corridor or the Denny St corridor should be using decade old technology. These intersections deal with more volume than a lot of upgraded ones that exist in the suburbs. This isn’t a magic bullet that removes gridlock at rush hour but it could shorten the gridlock by allowing cars not yet stuck in it or stuck in it at the end to get out of the system quicker.

  6. Seconding Jon: How about charging employers a special privileges fee for making workers all show up at the same time? How well would our sewage system work if we were all required to flush between 8 and 9am?

    In dollars and cents, really how important is it for Joan or John Q. Citizen to be riding an elevator to the 10th floor at 8:55a? Worth paying for? $100/year? $5000 for 50 desks filled at the top of the hour: is it a requirement for the business to function?

    1. That puts companies that are mostly customer contact or inter-business contact at a disadvantages since they have to be there when the customers expect them and their business contacts are available.

      1. It’s important to distinguish between direct contact with customers and other, the latter being the majority justification for the diurnal tide of metal. There’s no good reason to be at a special desk to read a script or have a conversation over the telephone. A relatively few workers are positioned at a counter or desk intended for contact with “outsiders.”

        Policies can be tuned, of course, in any case. Look at the tax code for tuning gone amok. Tax code aside, if there’s good faith on all sides and avarice is kept at a proper level of priority and we are encouraged to look at the big picture we can solve this problem with a lot less concrete.

      2. Direct customer contact?
        Based on my experience with most businesses, that’s what India is for.

        The company I work for is a small manufacturer, and we have people there starting at 4 am because that’s what works for some people. Others stay until 8 at night. Any meetings happen late morning or early afternoon.

    2. I think you don’t have to be this targeted with incentives. Just toll all roads variably based on demand and individuals will demand their companies allow more flexible schedules, such as first 2 hours at home, then 4 hours in office, the 2 hours at home, or shifted schedules such as 10-7 etc.

      1. Indeed :-)

        The toll should depend on the vehicle size as this is directly related on how much street space it takes. In particular, motorbikes should be cheaper and trucks more expensive.

        In order to address road maintenance costs, it should also depend on the weight. Win-win for motorcycles.

  7. Not impressed with Challenge Seattle. The new electronic check-in at the airport doesn’t do squat if there ain’t enough room for planes on the runways, and an electronic driving app don’t help when there ain’t enough room on the highways.

    I’ve learned over the years to just stick with the main road, cause the alternates are always every bit as bad. No app will ever change that basic fact.

  8. Hmmm, trolleybuses. Personally I’ve always thought they were a cool idea, and they’re one thing I like about Seattle (most US cities ripped out their trolleybus systems decades ago; Seattle is one of a select few holdouts). And in a city that gets most of its electricity from nonpolluting hydropower, they just make a lot of sense.

    However, with the new technologies like the Proterra, I’m not so sure my personal like for trolleybuses is a good enough reason to go through all the expense of stringing significant new overhead for what looks like it may well be a mode that’s about to be rendered obsolete by technological advances within the next 20 years. That overhead comes at a significant cost.

    At the least, some argument for choosing more trolleys over the new technology has to be made. Such as, for example, comparing the cost of adding new overhead to the cost of having to support two mostly incompatible modes.

    1. I think the new trolley buses with batteries that allow a few miles off wire are a really good middle ground. I think a lot of the expense and operational complexity comes at the switches at intersections. If you could simplify the overhead network by removing all the “special work” (aka switches), you could probably save a fair amount on initial cost and maintenance.

      Does anyone know how the trolley pole raising/lowering works on the new ETBs? Is there a camera to allow the operator to remain in the bus? Also, this would be something that is fairly easy to automate I would think.

      1. I believe the pole raising and lowering is manual, as it always was. Even back in the days of the Breda buses, when there were special areas at Convention Place and International District stations for raising the poles, it wouldn’t be an instant process. For the reason of delays, I don’t think removing switches and letting trolleybuses run off-wire through intersections is in general a practical solution.

      2. Brent, wish I’d read your concise description before I wrote a whole page. David, extremely embarrassed how little time I’ve spent around pole-raisers on our present Gillig fleet, let alone the newest from Canada.

        At Tunnel portals, the a Breda driver would pull his front door level with a line of red reflectors set into the pavement of the staging area. At that point, his “shoes” would be directly under a clear fiberglass little house over the wires. Panels would guide each shoe to the wire.

        For normal operation, the poles them selves were raised and lowered by a combination spring and compressed air mechanism on the roof. But large spring-loaded reels called “retrievers” were equipped with latches quickly pull the pole down and away from the wire if the mechanism sensed that the pole had “dewired”.

        Most dangerous thing when a pole slips off the line is having the pole get tangled in the overhead wire, or its supports. Every intersection can have at least several elevated tons of electrified metal hardware.

        Different raising mechanism now- never got to use it. But do know that spring-loaded retrievers have been replaced by a mechanism on the roof that automatically lowers the poles mechanically if it senses dewirement. Poles are then guided to rest on the roof by two posts fitted with fiberglass panels.

        Not sure about mechanics of full-raising procedure. Mechanism probably adjusts to poles will raise when driver unhooks rope from holders. But driver must use the ropes to guide the shoes to the wire. Much safer without the old spring-loaded reels, which could break fingers or separate shoulders. Camera-guided mechanism possible, but doubt we have it now.


    2. Proterra buses spend an awful lot of time charging. During this time:

      – The bus is stopped during its normal span of revenue service
      – The operator is still tied to the bus
      – Schedule is not being recovered

      And that’s on some of the few routes short enough for the battery buses to consistently make the distance and time. It forces a trade-off: either cut into schedule recovery or add hours (and possibly even buses) for schedule recovery on top of charging. Based on early reports from the trial routes, they cut recovery, and reliability tanked. Too bad for anyone counting on the schedules of these not-so-frequent routes!

      The charging technology will have to get much faster and the battery capacity much larger for this to really be operationally viable. If Proterra buses were proposed for my local route I’d protest it unless adequate schedule recovery time were maintained, with hours spent charging not counting against any metrics used for route performance evaluations (because they would be hours that have nothing to do with the value of the service, rather Metro’s operational choices).

      1. New Flyer and BYD both went with larger batteries and charging only at the ends of the route. Did Proterra do the same?

    3. Wired vehicles have more flexibility in energy sources compared to self-powered vehicles. Battery-powered vehicles spend their first units of energy hauling around the batteries, which are big, heavy, space-consuming, and made of toxic chemicals. There is some energy loss in wire transmission but I doubt it’s as inefficient as charging a battery and using it up. Hydrogen fuel cells may be less toxic than batteries, but putting electricity through a wire has got to be more efficient than filling up a fuel cell.

      Regarding emerging technologies, we shouldn’t depend on things that may not work, be more expensive than expected, have fewer environmental benefits than expected, and lock us into a single vendor. Experiments with emerging technologies are fine, but don’t bet the fleet on them. Trolley buses, diesel buses, and light rail have been proven for a long time; there’s not much that can go wrong with them that we don’t know about.

      1. Just reminder that technology of our current trolleybus fleet goes back to days when buses had hard rubber tires on spoked wheels, and bodies like carriages- except whip-holder removed, though probably left attached just in case.

        Testimony to how durable a well-designed mechanical mechanism the late 19th century could produce.

        Nothing against our new systems. But break-in problems expectable. Meaning system trying them out should have back-up equipment ready to fill in. So for sure. First hand observations, or doubts- for sure phone them in.


  9. While Seattle takes a few more decades to tackle its affordable housing issue, I’d suggest that employers consider relocating their businesses to Tacoma, Federal Way, or Everett. These are urban areas that have good access to both public transit and affordable housing. When you walk into an office in downtown Seattle or Bellevue and only 1 out of 10 employees lives in the city in which the office is located, but a plurality, or even a majority, lives in a handful of suburbs located 20 miles away, it is time to ask the question whether or not it makes sense to have a central business district. With modern video conference capabilities, and access to decades-old email and phone “technologies”, you really don’t need to have the same proximity to other businesses that you once did. I can attest that I am now much happier with my much shorter commute, and I can afford my home. In the event that freeways in the Tacoma area got tolled, I could afford to own a much smaller home that is walking distance to my office. It is time that we question and reconsider whether the business patterns of the last century make sense. Locating businesses along Link and Sounder in the suburbs makes a lot of sense for businesses and for their employees, and will do a lot to reduce traffic and commute times.

    1. They do still make sense and we’re witnessing a return to CBDs rather than the suburban office park. Large multinational companies want to recruit two types of people – well educated younger workers who bring a diverse workforce, and the best highly experienced talent from other world-class organizations. These people want to live in the city and/or the best suburbs. Generally speaking, the best talent doesn’t want to live in the outer suburbs or exurbs but rather in places like Fremont, Ballard, Madison Park, Bellevue, and Kirkland.

      Even in Seattle we’ve witnessed a large migration into the city over the last 10 years… Frank Russell Investments, Expedia, Weyerhauser, REI, etc. all being very relevant examples. Same is happening in the Bay Area. And with respect to telecommuting, the trend seems to be away from telecommuting and more pointed personal interaction. The reality we are seeing is exactly the opposite of what you propose.

    2. Employers have always been free to so relocate, and some have already chosen to. It hasn’t made a great dent in how Seattle and Bellevue are such focal points for jobs.

      In fact, it’s interesting that you brought up Bellevue, which started out as a low-rent alternative suburban location not too terribly long ago. That just goes to show that traditional downtown concentrations of business are still very much relevant and seen as desirable.

      Downtown Tacoma, of course, was once far more of a concentration of jobs than it presently is (though it’s already bounced back a lot from its low point; I remember what Tacoma was like in the 1980s). So it becoming a big job hub would be a revival, not any sort of new development.

    3. I worked for a Fortune 500 company in a suburban office environment West of Chicago and it was a disaster. It was located along the rail line and unlike here it offered hourly service 7 days a week and throughout the entire day. It didn’t matter. Everyone still drove alone to work. To make matters worse, everyone in the office was trapped. They were all fortunate to live near the office but when they announced the office was closing in the next year no one was mobile enough to transfer to our other company’s office north of the city. There was no inter-suburban public transit and the commute by car would have been insane. This is why company’s across the country are moving back downtown. Their employees can live in the city or the suburbs and at least have the option of taking alternative transit. Look at how difficult it is just to fund a transit network to service Seattle in every direction. How on earth would we also do this for Everett, Tacoma, Bellevue and every other suburban “job center”?

    4. All the urban centers should be built up with a mixture of jobs and housing, and fast/frequent transit between them. It’s not reasonable to expect three million people to all work in downtown Seattle, or between Weller and 85th Streets. But at the same time, the predicted death of the Seattle CBD is greatly exaggerated. The isolated office-park concept peaked and companies are moving closer in, and are most heavily moving to downtown Seattle and Bellevue.

      The other cities can and should get on with their transit master plans, pedestrian master plans, and breaking up superblocks to be ready for companies to locate there. But this requires two players: the cities and the companies, and it’s not yet clear that companies are willing to move to Federal Way or Tacoma or Everett or Issaquah or Totem Lake. Maybe in ten or twenty years they’ll do it more so — either because Seattle or Bellevue has “filled up” for large campuses or at an affordable price point, or because Link/Sounder/feeders have gotten so good to the other centers, or for some other reason — but maybe they won’t.

      Federal Way does not have “good access to public transit” from its “affordable housing”. The housing is a mile or more away from the transit center in cul-de-sacs and low-density houses. Local buses aren’t very frequent or full-time. Federal Way has not lifted a finger to make the Commons area pedestrian-friendly. It may be “safe” in the sense of having sidewalks, but it’s a long circuitous walk from the Transit Center to the Commons or to the theoretical offices and housing that might exist someday, and the large traffic crossings sing, “Nobody walks in LA”.

      Tacoma has a much better pre-WWII built environment to start from, and Everett has a somewhat better environment (north of downtown, but very wide streets and setbacks), but both cities have tried to revitalize their downtowns repeatedly the last few decades and failed. There are some small successes: UW Tacoma and the Everett Events Center (I can’t keep track of its name changes) but they have not brought employers to the cities in large numbers. And getting to Tacoma or Everett takes a long time if you don’t live in central Tacoma or in Everett or Lynnwood.

    5. @Engineer — The 1980s called, they want their land use pattern back.

      When you walk into an office in downtown Seattle or Bellevue and only 1 out of 10 employees lives in the city

      Citation please! That is nothing like what I’ve experienced. Move the jobs out to Tacoma or Everett and you will have a fire storm on your hands. A huge percentage of your workers will simply work somewhere else (more convenient).

      For all its warts, it is easy as hell to get downtown from just about anywhere. The thing is, people would rather live closer to the big city. This is not a “Northwest thing”, but part of a larger trend. People like to experience the urban lifestyle, while being able (if they choose) to get out of town when they want. They are no longer afraid of “those people” (AKA people of color) and are just fine with living in the city. The result is that huge numbers of people are moving to town and of course, the businesses are smart to follow them.

      Consider Weyerhaeuser. Now obviously, Weyerhaeuser is not your typical company. One would assume that the folks who want to work at Weyerhaeuser are a little more rural. I’m sure more than one employee knows their way around a chain saw, which is more than you can say about the latte sipping guy in Belltown. Weyerhaeuser is a very big, very old company, and it has had three headquarters. First it was Tacoma, which is one hell of a timber town and a very nice city (I give you that). Second, they moved to Federal Way, right before the big suburban office boom. Now they are moving to the big city, and paying a high price to do so. This is because when someone graduates from the UW with a forestry degree, working in Pioneer Square doesn’t sound so bad.

      If there is a trend away from the big downtown, it is a trend towards the nearby, still the city, but not downtown job. Think Brooklyn or Queens. Think UW, Fremont or even First Hill or South Lake Union (although one could argue that is simply downtown being stretched). Which is why good transit within the city is more important than ever. Not everyone wants to get downtown, and fewer and fewer want to get to the suburbs or even very nice, nearby cities (like Tacoma). They want to get around within the big city. We need to get that right (and so far we’ve failed).

      1. Maybe it’s just the interurban rides I used to love in the farm country north of Seattle which are now giant malls. Not the Electroliner, which ran a different route, but cars that looked like the Benson ones on steroids.

        Pretty ride through fields and woods, and right down the main streets of pleasant towns. Knew drug-stores all had soda fountains with delicious “malts.” Not sure if pharmacist was really named “Doc” but probably.

        Then actual nature again. Point being that living patterns don’t have to be either slum, office park, or Sahalee. That’s why I keep advocating aggressive regional light rail development right into the heart of cul de sacland.

        Essence of ideal development for me? A necklace of copper wire and steel rail, with jewels of living/working places along the way. Creating a strong enough base of healthy industry that we don’t have to care who or what any oversized corporation demands about anything.

        Bet it wouldn’t be long before worst perpetrators were desperately trying to build similar developments of their own- as tycoons often did- to steal each others’ employees.


  10. Walking, Bicycles, Pronto, Scooters, Motorcycles, Cars, Carpools, Vanpools, Taxis, Uber, Greyhound, Bolt, Metro, CT, PT, ST Express, Streetcars, Link, Sounder, Amtrak, Ferries, Water Taxis, plus billions of dollars spent on hundreds of miles of new bike lanes, bike paths, HOV lanes, and bridges and tunnels, etc., etc., etc.

    “We demand even more options and we want them NOW!!!” <— Shut the hell up, you spoiled rotten brat. I'm sorry, but someone had to say it.

    PS, that's a beautiful post pictures. It's the image of a healthy economy.

    1. Really, Sam, worldwide a healthy economy usually has a lot more cars and pollution than that. But when novelty wears off, next move is to make traffic jam attendance optional.

      Until next generation, who always are actual brats, demand, just to tick off their dads, that he put that embarrassing ’59 Continental in the garage and get a bicycle. And then laugh at him as he goes away whining at the top of his lungs.

      Because along with traffic jams and pollution, downtrodden people everywhere usually celebrate their liberation from a poverty-stricken dictatorship by exercising their long-suppressed right to whine.

      Meantime, please stop yelling. You’re scaring the poor little seat-hog on the passenger behavior caution sign, who is starting to wet on the luggage you told him to illegally put on the seat next to him so you didn’t have to put it under your seat like the sign says.

      So just suck it up and put the luggage in your lap ’till you get to Airport parking.


  11. I wish these two campaigns didn’t look so much like attention to small things to relieve pressure for action on the big ones. Should be show called “Stuck is the new 70.”

    Not to get tiresome, but people trapped for hours, every single weekday, in places they can’t escape…on a National Defense Highway…, the Mayor needs meeting with Washington National Guard early as possible. And then get back to us about the other points.

    Meantime, we need exercises and experiments to prove how much lane-space can be reserved to people who need to use exactly those lanes to get to a work destination. Or other temporary things to put in the public’s mind what a freeway line of buses going 70 looks like. And how many cars don’t get on the highway either.

    And also about using things already installed. Is it true that Rainier Avenue has signal pre-empt that only works when a bus is late? And is there ANY elsewhere. Can’t the fire department hold signals ahead of their machines, at least on arterials? At least the Mayor can order this himself- can’t he?

    Electric buses?. Proterra is brand new. Which means we need couple of years experience. Meantime, present machines are well-tried and reliable. Wish second word held of our overhead system. Most of which was installed forty years ago, by somebody who’d put a dead spot at the bottom of northbound Queen Anne Hill. And everybody else has left there.

    Choice of electrified neighborhood streets, I’ll leave to the neighbors. But good test of where we need trolleybuses? Places where we replaced cable-cars with them. If no place else- 3rd Avenue to Harbor view on the Route 4. And between Lower and Upper Queen Anne.

    From experience, I think the already – wired artic routes, like the 7, the 44, and the 49 should stay wired- since hills are high enough to warrant wire, and because loads carry enough people that electric motors can save a lot on fuel. 43 already wired where it’s needed most. Word to whoever is still making LINK adjustments.

    But anybody serious about modernization- a lot of our present overhead will be great for the Museum of History and Industry. We need, and can get, wire a bus can run at street speed its whole route. And not have to slow through switches.

    Also, technical point: wherever two sets of wire cross, current has to be “bridged” over wire being crossed. “Suitcase handles”, right? But meaning wire under the bridge can’t have power. So to avoid rough lurch, driver must let up the pedal and coast back to powered wire. Like at bottom of Queen Anne Hill.

    Worth some research into trolley-world. Cure might already be there. Big advance in our new fleet: auxiliary motor can power a bus around a blockage. Meaning: there are a lot of pro trolley things we can start with one work order tonight. Ed, call Dow right now and have him put a line truck on there soon pm rush is over.

    And call KIRO news, too. Good kick-off for your campaign.

    Mark Dublin

  12. I’m scratching my head a bit at this being full of non-sequiturs. Are we talking about addressing congestion or reducing greenhouse emissions? Are we talking about solutions in the next year or two, or in ten years? Are we wanting to move people away from peak hours, peak corridors, or merely get people on other modes? I am flummoxed.

    For example, electric cars may reduce greenhouse emissions, but they do not reduce congestion in any way.

    1. Careful about congestion-reduction as evidence for, or especially against, transit. Healthy working and living places naturally put people closer together.

      Which rest of the world minds a lot less than we do, and even likes. And over the years, small merchants have told me they’d rather have a packed sidewalk out front than an empty one.

      So I think that right now, whether transit is reducing traffic jams or not, it’s doing its job by making beingf stuck in a stopped car a personal choice.


  13. If you want to reduce congestion, then you need to reduce the need for people to go places. It seems to me that investing in gigabit fiber broadband – to facilitate telecommuting that would be almost like being there in person – would likely produce the best bang for the dollar.

  14. While an “app” to fix transportation system woes is nearly laughable, there are definitely some technology solutions on the horizon. Consider – autonomous/semiautonomous vehicles to decrease head ways and improve speed, continuous induction charging from the roadway, full demand-based tolling on all highways and major streets to replace both fuel tax and mileage fees. I’m sure there are more. But many of these changes will require a paradigm shift in the way we think about urban transport. It’s easy to envision future states, not so easy to envision how to get there from here. Especially when the political system that has the most power over the future of transport – the Legislature – is locked into old ways and powerful interest groups.

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