Link Light Rail Trains at Capitol Hill Station, Seattle WA

This is an open thread.

85 Replies to “News Roundup: Huge Improvement”

  1. What’s that death-trap of a viaduct doing still standing? Wasn’t it supposed to be blown up in 2012? Good news about light rail ridership.

    But best thing about having it rapidly hauled away to a landfill will be absolute necessity of giving the Waterfront the transit system it really needs, but has never even been seriously included in the Viaduct removal plan!

    Would be great if somebody printed up some convincing “Condemned! Proceed at your Own Risk! Signed, Governor Jay Inslee and Mayor Ed Murray!” Forcing these officials to stand in front of a camera and personally declare that those ruins are safe.

    Bet problem solved in five minutes with short phrase: “Fire in the hole!” and the click of a switch. Too bad nobody uses Snidely Whiplash style detonator plungers anymore. Especially a couple of blocks from historic Pioneer Square!

    Mark Dublin

    1. I think they have one or two of those plunger style detonators on display at the Klondike Gold Rush Museum in Pioneer Square. Maybe they’d let you borrow it?

    2. If I remember correctly, didn’t Gregoire once promise to personally strike the first blow against the viaduct before her term as governor was up?

    3. My ex-wife used to know a guy who claimed to know some shady people who knew how to get dynamite. One night the conversation went the way it often does when people are sitting around a bonfire drinking beer, and we started spitballing the idea of trying to take down the viaduct – not by actually blowing it up, mind you, because that would be incredibly dangerous and somebody might get hurt, but by duct-taping just enough dynamite onto one of the legs that setting it off would shake things up and put a crack in the concrete. WSDOT would have to close the viaduct down to investigate, then they’d have to propose a repair, and when the cost of the repair project came along presumably everyone would just groan and tell them to knock the damn thing down already, and that would be that.

      Of course were this dude ever to have actually gone ahead with his crazy plan the FBI would have descended on Seattle like a herd of ravenous hornets, and everyone who’d ever talked to him would have been dragged off to Guantanamo Bay for years of enhanced interrogation before you could say “boo”, so this whole thing was generally agreed to be a Very Bad Idea Indeed. But I’ve always been just a wee bit surprised nobody’s ever tried it – dynamite aside, just ramming one of the pillars with a stolen bus or garbage truck or duck boat at the end of a drunken joyride seems like it ought to be enough, and yet none of our local troublemakers have chosen to do us the public service of orienting their rampages in that direction.

      1. Interstate 205 where I live once caught fire, along with several vehicles, due to a truck loaded with liquid oxygen crashing and splitting open.

        So, it’s conceivable that something like that could happen with a truck going to one of the hospitals or something.

      2. It seems that social cohesion is enhanced in this country by the tendency of people that want to unilaterally take out infrastructure to find their way into jobs that give them legal cover to do so (e.g. Mayor of Chicago, Governor of New Jersey).

      3. Al, add to the terrorist list every elected right-wing idiot in this country. Claiming that repairing public things before they collapse only aggravates the deficit.

        Talk about “the terrorists have won!” They don’t even need to fight! All ISIS, Al Quaeda and the rest of them need to do is kick back in ‘Vegas and take credit for everything that falls apart.

        Though it would be refreshing to hear officials, like the Governor of Michigan for instance, have to stand up and yell: “It’s a lie! WE did it out of fiscal responsibility! And we’re PROUD of it!”

        As for trips to Guantanamo, experience in the ’60’s proved that cataloguing and refrigerating a thousand pieces of the same saboteur were barely worth a single FBI postage stamp. For peoples’ revolutionary PR, also notice complete lack of Timothy McVeigh t-shirts and psychedelic posters.

        Much easier- and more effective- is to create some realistic-looking signs saying that charges are already set, but that crews have gone home until they come back in the morning and figure out why they didn’t go off when they were supposed to.

        Try to get anybody to go take the signs down! And also have reporters pestering the Mayor and the Governor to give a signed order to re-open the thing on their own personal responsibility.

        But best of all would be an assemblage of demolitions experts and dog-handlers on camera on the Federal Building plaza on Second, presenting a statement that rescue dogs go into clinical depression when all they can find are dead people. And not even whole ones.

        Which handlers really did discover when our viaduct’s California twin pancaked. Bet signatures of a hundred paw-prints will clinch it. Heads up, Patty, Maria, and all our Congresspeople. Give a brown lab PTSD and you’ll lose to Marco Rubio for dog-catcher!


    4. The viaduct is still up because the tunnel is late and the Powers That Be think it would be excessive traffic without it.. Also because if they now say there won’t be excessive traffic delays, the justification for the tunnel would evaporate.

      1. Useless? You could put like 8 railroad tracks in that thing. You could put entire stations in it. Forget the second downtown tunnel, we already got one.

  2. That ORCA article nails the biggest current problem. It’s beyond reason that simply reloading an ORCA card online is as tricky as it is. ORCA 2 cannot come soon enough and hopefully some lessons will be learned.

    I do wish they’d put in more vending machines in the meantime. They cover Link quite well, but have very little Rapid Ride coverage. There aren’t any ORCA vending machines in West Seattle, Ballard, or the U District. It seems like putting in a couple machines on every RapidRide line would go a long way toward ensuring a machine was available to most transit users in the city.

    There are retailers in those areas.

    1. Agreed, being able to add value quickly is essential.

      What I dont understand though is why I would ever want to pay for Car2Go or Uber with ORCA? Car2go and Uber both bill my credit or debit card directly, so why wuld I want to add a third intermediary?

      While we’re at it, why require the ORCA card at all? if you made the card readers accept ApplePay GooglePay, or even the VISA/MC’s with the tappable chip, the Card becomes superfluous to a large population segment.

      1. I think the credit card fees are a lot lower if the agency charges the credit card in $20 increments vs. one ride at a time.

      2. It’s not just the cost of credit/debit transactions, it’s the philosophical issue of giving a cut to a middleman that charges a 1000% profit. That’s how the 1% got rich and finance became 30% of the economy.

      3. It’s not just an add value issue.

        If I want to use a day ticket, I have to either buy it a few days ahead of time and not use that card for those few days, or buy the day ticket at a vending machine.

        Otherwise, you risk either not having the day pass on the card (because the transaction took too long to process) or using the day pass on the wrong day (because the day pass becomes active the next time the card gets used once it is loaded into the system).

      4. What you would do for the micropayment issue is either charge a fee per transaction, aggregate fares and bill at the end of the day, or force pre-registration in order to get transfers or other benefits (which is what Chicago did).

      5. I’m sure the car share companies want to see that a user has a clean driving record and a line of credit that can cover, towing fees, parking tickets, insurance deductibles, etc. I doubt they would allow the use of their services unless they could verify that information and I’m not sure how that could happen with a pre-loaded card based system like ORCA.

    2. What the article doesn’t address is that if our current contract with Vix lasts another 3 years, why it will be 5-6 years until we see any changes. Makes it sound like nobody is working on it until the current contract is up, even though I know that’s not true.

    3. @SeaStrap: Thanks for the article on Ventra. That sounds like a mess. It also sounds like a lot of self-imposed and unnecessary fees and complication. Fees for single ride tickets and bulk orders is unnecessary. If they want to encourage use of the card they should make it more convenient, and the cost of printing the single ride tickets should be absorbed into the overall operating budget for the system. Maybe these things were required by the vendor so they get more business, but if that’s the case the contract negotiations should attempt to limit the amount of “meddling” they let the vendor do to how the system works. These all seem like issues that could be avoided, especially since systems like Ventra now exist and we can see the pros and cons of various aspects of how they work.

  3. The viaduct closure wasn’t a disaster, but I am glad to see it open again.

    1. For two weeks, the waterfront was actually reasonably quiet. And I could even walk from the waterfront to Belltown along Bell St. without feeling like I was about to get run over at that dangerous crosswalk underneath the (then-closed) viaduct.

    2. Yeah. I’m glad my bus no longer has to take that meandering detour through Sodo where it got stuck behind a train 50% of the time.

      1. Well, you’re in luck, Nick, for avoiding either meandering, train-following, or being annoyed by a brown lab on furlough from Western State pathetically whining and pawing futilely at your peaceful pile of old cement and rusted-through re-bar.

        All you’ve got to do is assemble as many citizens as are daily trapped in construction-demolition traffic and threaten pertinent officials with recall if they don’t get some bus-only lanes through the whole new section of the city soon to be called The Waterfront.

        And also accuse them in front of TV cameras of actually having the plans, but concealing them. Forcing them to loudly and vehemently declare they not only don’t have any plans, but are determined not to set a dangerous precedent by demanding any plan or decision from Seattle citizens!

        You think anybody won’t believe that?


  4. I’ve noticed carry-over from the ViaDoom closure on Link ridership. It still seems to be more crowded on the trains even after the viaduct has reopened. I’m guessing there were people who tried taking light rail for the first time because of the viaduct, and liked the experience, and decided to continue using it. I’m hoping this isn’t just my anecdote. Guess we’ll have to wait for the May ridership data to come out in July.

    1. During morning rush hour, how long does the C-line typically have to wait in line for the Seneca St. exit into downtown? Without any transit priority whatsoever on the ramp, I’d imagine it could be awhile. Even if only 1/3 of 9-5 downtown workers are commuting by SOV, that’s still a very large number of cars. Possibly even enough to induce some to try taking a bus to SODO and switching over to Link – especially, those headed to the UW, who would, at some point, need to switch over to Link anyway.

      During the afternoon, however, I would expect getting on the C-line at Columbia St. to be nearly always superior to transferring at SODO.

      1. I’ve very rarely seen any sort of backup there (admit i tend to commute slightly past the peak of rush hour). The western exit gets backed up but the seneca one isn’t too bad.

      2. My experience is that there’s a lot of left turns there, but the straight/right lane is usually clear. Anecdotal though.

      3. I take the C every morning. I’m usually on that exit between 6:30 and 7:15, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a backup in the right lane.

      4. Yep, C line virtually never has to wait on Seneca ramp exit from 99 (ditto for my milk run doorstep service, the 57). The delay is all getting from WSB onto 99. This was a big surprise about moving to WS.

  5. Another news item this week – The giant coal terminal north of Bellingham is basically dead. This means that BNSF will probably be a lot more willing to give ST more track time on South Sounder.

    1. We shall see. With rail freight volumes dropping (coal, among other commodities) perhaps BNSF would be more open to increasing non-freight revenue streams.

      I never quite understood BNSF’s hostility in the first place. Sounder runs so few trains that interference with freight traffic is limited. BNSF is getting paid for hosting those trains. Basic business sense suggests that adding incremental revenue when costs are largely fixed (i.e. the rails) should generate attractive contribution margins for BNSF. As a bonus BNSF can get governments to help fund track improvements, something railroads always complain about vis-a-vis trucking companies using public roads (never mind that the railroads got one heck of a deal on their land back in the day…).

      1. I think BNSF is just conservative about future shipping capacity and they don’t want to leave themselves stuck in a jam. Perfectly understandable.

        At a hearing, Rogoff said that BNSF is a much better negotiating partner than a lot of the east coast rail companies.

  6. ST3 will cost $50 Billion. There are 3 million residents in the region. That equates to $16,700 per person. That doesn’t include the cost of ST2. And they are removing 2 lanes of capacity on I-90 (at a full cost of $7 Billion) to make room for light volume rail when Bus Rapid Transit could handle 4 times the capacity with minimal infrastructure cost. In fact, the rail capacity will be little more than the current 2 lanes full of 2 person carpools. At $650 Million per mile from Seattle to Bellevue, someone has a huge interest in us buying what they’re selling. And the rate of change in technology is accelerating so fast, before they have it open for business, it will go the way of the VCR, newspapers, and camera film.

    1. Yeah, the streets will be clogged with driverless cars, and human beings will be obsolete by 2023.

      I find it ironic that someone calling for no toll lanes on I-405 could be suggesting BRT on freeways.

    2. Agree with Brent – if your transit solution is freeway BRT, and you want “minimal infrastructure cost,” toll lanes are your friends.

      As to rail capacity on I90 – ignoring the fact that East Link will run in both directions, whereas express lanes run in both – the max capacity of I90 express lanes is irrelevant because it isn’t the choke point in the system. You still need to get people on and off the bridge, which is what East Link will do in both Seattle & Bellevue to a degree that BRT will simply never be able to do.


        Not to take sides on modes here, but here’s good illustration of the only way to overcome fact that a line of buses needs more following distance, which carries no passengers, the faster it goes.

        Also, until we can get the Benson line back, bet we can get an even better deal on some even more historic vehicles if we get the ones pictured here. Most financially-responsible of all is that preservation rules forbid new color schemes, classic rust removal, or- tempted to say preventive maintenance.

        But suspect that prime directive in Russian machine design is ability to withstand Russia. Meaning, guaranteed lower price than Breda for a bus that, like the ones pictured, despite similar appearance to remaining Breda fleet, actually work.

        And wouldn’t it be great to watch first consist go tooling past Surrey Downs?


    3. Well good morning, Troll. Nice unfounded accusation of corruption, there. It pairs so nicely with the arm-waving, unsubstantiated claim of technological change solving all our problems.

    4. You posted this under the username Stop405tolls. So, you are saying to run more BRT, while at the same time, you advocate actively sabotaging any chance that those buses can actually avoid traffic jams.

    5. The easiest and most effective way to reduce congestion on I-405 in DT Bellevue and I-5 in DT Seattle is to put tolls on I-90 mid-span. And not puny arss HOT lane tolls, but tolls on all the GP lanes instead.

      As for removing 2 lanes of capacity on I-90, that is a lie pure and simple. I-90 will have exactly the same number of lanes after the addition of LR as it has today. There will be no change other than that HOV lanes will now be bi-directional (an overall improvement).

      1. If that’s the cost of fixing congestion, I would rather keep the congestion. Tolls are a cancer.

        (Though the income-graduated congestion charge idea someone floated here last week was a toll I might not hate, I’ll admit.)

      2. Agreed. Traffic in Bellevue on 405 and every parallel surface street is in a constant state of gridlock with people diverting to I-90. Tolling I-90 is one of two options to fix that problem (the other being taking the tolls off 520 – or increasing 405 to like 16 lanes through downtown Bellevue).

      3. @Jeff,

        Yep. Adding tolls to I-90 would restore balance to the cross-lake commute and eliminate a significant amount of toll avoidance traffic on I-405 and I-5 between the bridges. This toll avoidance traffic is a significant source of congestion.

        Managing tolls on I-90 and SR520 together in a systematic way would be best for the region, and it could be done while lowering the tolls on SR520. Basically it could be a revenue neutral approach that would benefit everyone.

        It really should be done.

    6. No, the number of lanes available to cars will remain the same- they are adding two lanes for rail, plus rail has more capacity then BRT. Also, BRT will be slow and limited unless you toll I’-405

    7. Guys, maybe the “Stop” in “Stop405Trolls” literally means “Stop” on “405” (because that’s what’s going to happen).

    8. Tried resisting the troll but I have to call out that half of the ST3 money is projected to come from grants. Taxpayers would only be on the hook for half the amount. Even using your problematic estimate of $16k, let’s cut that in half to $8k. $8000/25 years = $320/year which is a bit higher but not too far from Sound Transit’s estimate of $200/year/person. Many people, myself included, think that’s a reasonable amount of money to pay to expand high capacity transit. If you don’t, then just vote no.

      1. Also, there will be many more taxpayers in the region by 2041, too. Don’t forget that. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to imagine over 100% regional population growth by then.

      2. Definitely. Goes further to my point that it’s not that expensive, really.

      3. Also, it’s not just per resident. Sales taxes and property taxes also apply to businesses, which means some people outside the district get to pay into the pool as well. It’s not like this is just a per head tax.

      4. Kevin;

        Well all government grant money is from taxpayers. That said, shouldn’t Seattle & vicinity get back some of what we put in instead of say giving money away to get the proper transit for US in the Puget Sound?

      5. Everybody in the Norse lands, which used to include Ballard, knows two facts about trolls. One is that they’re greedy and horde gold- but unfortunately have too much mike-fright to do those fear-propelled radio commercials.

        But also, if they get caught out after dawn, first sunbeam-hit turns them into a rock. The Norwegian highway authorities will always cover this up by claiming another boulder has just blocked a highway for a week by falling off a cliff.

        Truth is, though, that what always happens is that a troll, walking along a cliff-top chortling about the gold watch he found, fails to notice that the thing stopped a hundred years ago, so it’s now noon.

        Inaugurating a week of drilling and blasting. Maybe Snoqualmie and Stevens’ Pass have fewer actual avalanches and land-slides than WSDOT will admit. Sadly, efforts to get trolls to switch to digital alarm-clocks and apps keep resulting in training personnel being eaten and their gold watches getting stolen.

        Word, also, to people who insult trolls by giving their name to pests who, incidentally, often kick off a whole posting’s comments. Best just to hope that some morning their watch will stop.


    9. 2 lanes of capacity on I-90 (at a full cost of $7 Billion) to make room for light volume rail when Bus Rapid Transit could handle 4 times the capacity with minimal infrastructure cost.

      Yep, BRT can handle 4 times the capacity with minimal infrastructure cost, so long as they kick all cars off of the highway so that the highway can be exclusively used by BRT (otherwise it isn’t BRT).

      So, I agree completely! Get rid of all private cars on I-90! Get rid of them all on I-405 too!

      1. Also, 4 cars per train every 6 minutes (if you can call one car approximately equal to one bus) is approximately one BRT bus every 1.5 minutes as far as capacity is concerned. If these trains are even half full from drivers ditching their cars, then that more than makes up for the loss of lanes.

  7. That comment tool is cool. I was curious who used the most profanity, expecting to get a certain former vociferous commenter but found instead.. Martin Duke twice :)

    1. I enjoyed the comment tool also, especially the random comment generator. Thinking that your comment might come up randomly might encourage us all to sharpen them up.

    2. Most of the former vociferous commenter’s material wound up getting censured when it ventured into that territory.

    3. I tried searching for d.p., but in instead of loading comments about of by d.p., it loaded random comments where one sentence ends with a “d” and the next sentence happens to start with a “p”. Disappointing.

      1. Just search for the word “dips**t” and you should come up with a few.

  8. The Pierce Transit tradeoff tool is great! Its variety of choices makes it possible to explore different priorities. It sure beats a less creative approach used often in Seattle: The ‘take it or leave it’ or single alternative approach to transit decisions.

  9. At least a few times each week on University Way between 50th and Campus Parkway, I see cars passing stopped buses by (illegally) crossing the double yellow line and driving in the opposite direction lane. Last night, I was biking on the Ave and had an SUV driving at me after popping out from behind a stopped bus.

    Aside from the possibility of collision with other vehicles, all these bus stops have crosswalks in front of them, and there’s no way that the car drivers passing the bus can see pedestrians in the crosswalk until they’re nearly on top of them. We’re lucky that no one has (AFAIK) been killed this way, though I have seen some near misses.

    1. I’ve seen this many times on East Pine as well, which has a similar road configuration. Both drivers and cyclists (downhill, at least) seem to think that this is ok. Sometimes 1 car will pull out and then 5-10 more will just follow as if it is some sort of yield situation.

  10. Why is it when I click on a link on STB my browser leaves STB instead of opening a new window? I know there’s a workaround but why should I have to do that when virtually any other website I click on a link on doesn’t require that?

      1. I love that STB doesn’t do the “always open all links in a new tab” madness. I have too many tabs open on my own accord as it is. If I want a new tab, I can do many things on my own to get one (right click on the link and then pick “open in new tab”; middle click on the link; tap-and-hold on the link and then pick “open in new tab”; and so on).

      2. Those other sites are ignoring web standards to keep people at their site. It should be the user’s choice whether to open a page in a new tab. I start my STB sessions by opening the articles I want to read in background tabs and then going to them one by one. I read News Roundup articles the same way, and at other news sites. In my Linux Firefox a middle-click opens the link in a background tab.

      3. Because with the current design – there is a way to do both: open the link in the current tab, as well as open in a new tab (middle-click, etc.)

        If links defaulted to a new tab, there’s no way to open in the same tab.

  11. OK, let me start a discussion. For anybody that thinks TriMet in Portland, Oregon is a model… – Apparently TriMet is foul’d up beyond all recognition – Apparently TriMet management is screwing up managing its employees – one of many writings by Cascade Policy Institute about TriMet

    Folks, let’s commend and salute the wonderful, lovely management of Sound Transit. We don’t have the kinda problems TriMet does and I don’t think we will.

    Right now with my rescheduled trip to Portland of August 25-26 I’m real happy I’m flying into the event I have to fly into and don’t need Trimet. I also won’t need Trimet to catch my flight out. That said, I’m still excited to see the 123rd Fighter Squadron and work into my schedule some transit photography.

    1. Cascade Policy Institute is a group of Libertarians that want pretty much all of society to revert to 1700. No government roads; no government transit; no government nothing.

      Pre WWW, they had a piece in the Oregonian editorials about all the societal benefits of killing people with toxic air pollution because doing that is definitely preferable to intrusive government regulations.

      So, you might want to take what they say with a grain of salt.

      TriMet has its issues, but if Cascade Policy Institute looked at SoundTransit they would write similar pieces about ST. It’s government, so it’s evil, and so starting from that conclusion they would develop an article to prove it.

      1. Well what I like about Cascade Policy Institute is they ask tough, data-based questions of TriMet and rightfully question WES. For those who don’t know, WES is basically TriMet’s smaller Sounder North.

      2. Except WES goes from suburb to suburb rather than downtown anywhere. It’s more like Sounder North operated on the Eastside Rail Corridor.

        Sure, people should be asking questions about it.

        However, the Cascade Policy Institute has gone so far off the edge that nobody really pays attention to them much these days. It really needs to be a mainstream group to get any traction.

    2. Here’s another great example about their forward thinking:
      The study finds that “VMT is a large and statistically significant driver of GDP” and cautions that artificial attempts to limit driving through taxation or regulation will cause a significant decrease in economic output.

      So, we need to encourage people to drive because it puts more money into the economy! Of course, most of that money winds up going to oil companies but still !!!! it means more money going into the economy!!!

      So make everyone drive everywhere !!!! It means more money !!!! (for some)

      1. Indeed.

        Cancer is a statistically significant driver of GDP as well, so SMOKES FOR EVERYONE! (Just not any government-provided socialist ciggies.)

    1. I don’t imagine they complained about the 520 bridge celebration thing they did a couple of months ago?

      Of course celebrating highway stuff isn’t a waste of money.

  12. Some years back, I wrote to WSDOT with some concepts about what could be done with expanding the Cascades service. Part of their response to me was that they planned to order some of the new state corridor cars.

    Apparently this effort at building what is essentially a modern version of the California bilevel regional coach has run into problems.

    Someone with a Wall Street Journal subscription could probably tell you more about what is going on.

      1. Thanks very much.

        As annoying as they are (because they were set up for a 90 minute trip rather than several hours) it might be a good idea to look at the two Wisconsin Talgo trains. Whatever WashDOT was hoping to get from the state coalitions that put this together, it’s probably going to be delayed.

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