85 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Second Avenue Subway Drone Tour”

      1. Wow! Thanks, Glenn! Though it definitely causes second thoughts about my plan to make our National bird be the crow- whose teenage kids get street cred for running off eagles.

        So I think that since there are probably more crow-stealing-shiny-things than cat videos, every brass eagle on top of a Government flagpole should be re-cast holding a drone in its claws.

        But most important of all, we need bird stores where we can rent eagles (better just get a parakeet for the living room) to patrol our yards and subways.

        Though Ben Franklin’s key and lightning experiment probably did have an eagle as part of unfinished plans for a real Patriot Act. Thankfully, the War on Rum was still far in the future.


      2. There are a couple of police departments in Europe that have made an effort at training eagles to take out (in both senses of that phrase) drones. You might look for videos of those too.

    1. They’re using a TBM, but it’s boring through granite, not glacial alluvium. In addition, the station boxes are being mined from inside the tubes; Seattle would be wise to do the same with Midtown and the new north-south platforms at Westlake. Here’s a dramatic image of the process: https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Finhabitat.com%2Fnyc%2Fwp-content%2Fblogs.dir%2F2%2Ffiles%2F2014%2F05%2Fsecond_avenue_subway_2.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Finhabitat.com%2Fnyc%2Fmta-unveils-new-exhibit-showcasing-the-tech-used-to-build-the-second-avenue-subway%2F&docid=bK9Dycuo0Ko1ZM&tbnid=QDKCGpsfm4PDtM%3A&w=728&h=484&bih=742&biw=1267&ved=0ahUKEwj1hPK1j-7MAhVPymMKHYoIAhk4yAEQMwglKCIwIg&iact=mrc&uact=8

      1. Underground mining is never as cheap nor as risk free as cut and cover construction, particularly in our soils. ST did it for Beacon Hill because of the depth, but they had their issues (hence the offset elevator shafts), and ST is using SEM for the Bellevue tunnel. But ST would be wise to avoid mining in all circumstances where they can.

        Yes, surface disruption is often worse with cut and cover station construction, but such construction impacts are short term. I’d much rather have ST take the lower cost, lower risk approach of cut and cover for their stations and instead mitigate the construction disruption by speeding up the project. Just add the extra shifts, dig the pit, pour the invert, and seal her up as fast as you can.

        And speeding up construction also has other obvious advantages.

      2. lazarus,

        While C&C might work for the north-south platforms at Westlake, Midtown will be DEEP!!!!!. Mining will actually be cheaper than digging THAT big a hole.

      3. Midtown will be deep. Track level at the new platform at IDS will be about forty feet below street level, because they’re planning to have a true Mezzanine for those platforms; that’s what they showed in the conceptual diagram. The level at Westlake will be at least 60, because the tracks will underrun the Pine Street route.

        Fifth Avenue RISES to the south of Pine Street to Madison, whereas Third Street is flat to Seneca and then descends. The difference in street level between Third and Fifth at Madison is at least sixty feet.

        The station platform has to be very nearly level for ADA compliance, so even if ST holds the trackway completely level between Westlake and Midtown track level would be 60 feet below street level plus the roughly fifty feet that Fifth Avenue rises to Madison. That’s 110 feet below street level.

        However, I don’t believe that ST would do that, simply because it would make the grade between Midtown and IDS very steep. Instead, expect track level at Midtown to be at least 30 feet lower than at Westlake, or 140 feet below street level.

      4. 40 ft isn’t deep. 60’ft isn’t deep. For example, the plateform level at U-Dist station will be 80 ft below the surface, and it isn’t as deep as UW Station.

        As for 5th rising between the stations, who cares? The grades are mild and Link will just follow them.

    2. They are just below street level in a city that’s been there since the 1600s, and indigenous settlements before that. Think Bertha with a lot more undocumented obstacles in the way. Wasn’t this the project that got delayed due to the discovery of a long buried wall from the early 1700s or something?

      1. Actually, Glenn, the Second Avenue subway is pretty deep. I think track level is about 90 feet below street level. And I was wrong about them mining the stations from the tubes. At all three new stations there are a pair of shafts to street level from which they began the mining of the station boxes.

        However, it is still true that the station boxes were mined, not cut and covered. They did remove the spoils using the shafts, though, not the tubes. That allowed them to mine while the tubes were being drilled.

      2. Ok, by “they are just below street level” I was talking of the drone footage start.

        They are digging out the station entrances and walkways in dirt that is filled with several hundred years of potential obstacles and archeological discoveries.

        90 feet down is too low to get into too much of that, but even with three stations there’s considerable potential for undocumented obstacles.

  1. Since the second downtown tunnel is a big project with huge potential for technical difficulties and cost overruns, why isn’t a an elevated track above third avenue (like the Chicago “L” train and Seattle Center monorail) on the table? Even for station accessibility alone, this is the only option where could see the new light rail lines actually connecting well with surface buses.

    1. Elevated stretches of subway elsewhere in NYC are horrendous. (And run in much less dense areas.) The Upper East Side would never put up with that, nor should it. The costs of tunneling are very high, but at the same time the benefits with such high ridership are tremendous as well.

      Also, even if you did want to build the stretch to 125th above ground (through a less affluent and politically powerful neighborhood), you’d need to transition back underground on both ends to connect with the existing system. This would involve at least a couple of block stretch where the second avenue was completely blocked and no cars or peds could get across.

      Connections with surface buses is much less of an issue since subways are so dominant, but even so the access is not so bad since (unlike here) they generally do a much better job of designing quick and easy access from street to platform.

      1. Google “Chicago L”. Maybe just childhood memories, but I would’ve voted for the Monorail if its structure looked like the Brooklyn Bridge lying on its side, and fragrant creosote-soaked boards for platforms, and Pavlovian peanut machines that summoned clouds of pigeons with one “click”.

        Might check out the first Blues Brothers movie. Authentic classic Chicago Transit Authority scene in a period hotel room with a window five feet from the elevated track. Just before Carrie Fisher levels the whole building with an anti-tank rifle.

        Which knocks fewer plates off the walls than your average passing train. Though anti-elevated NIMBY’s (or “Front Yards and Kitchens” also!) have to face the fact that rents are sky high in same L-side buildings I used to ride by. Maybe sand-blasting all the buildings would help maintain property values too.


    2. Because elevated transit generally sucks. In the modern era most cities try to avoid it.

      1. Why does it suck? You know what sucks? Having to walk or take an elevator 100 feet underground to catch a train, just to have to go 60 feet back up to catch my next bus (Which I hopefully didn’t miss). Just an elevated track above third avenue just seems so simple and obvious. Madison street station would be very close to Madison BRT. In fact, you can transfer to any bus on third avenue very easily! Link is already elevated for much of its length, so we know it can work. What exactly is the problem with an elevated rail line?

      2. It sucks for multiple reasons. They are ugly, noisy and unsightly. You’d presumably have to take out a lane in the middle of the Avenue for columnar support. And on all the elevated lines I’ve ever seen, the streets along the route stink. Also, I don’t see what at all is preferable about having to go up to an elevated station and then back down to the street compared to doing down to an underground one and then back up. And speaking of elevators, I find the Columbia City station to be probably the most easily accessible in our system. Elevator right from street level to platform–wish we built them all like that!

      3. “They are ugly, noisy and unsightly.” I don’t know about you, but I think Link is one of the nicer looking rail systems. Much better aesthetically than the Chicago “L” or the NYC Subway.

        “You’d presumably have to take out a lane in the middle of the Avenue for columnar support.” You don’t know that. There are sections of the Seattle Center monorail that are supported by side supports.

        “Also, I don’t see what at all is preferable about having to go up to an elevated station and then back down to the street compared to doing down to an underground one and then back up.” The distance is much less. When UW station is at capacity, it stinks. The elevators take forever (even though there is two of them) because they have to move a distance of 9 stories, not including the bridge level. An elevated station would be, maybe, 3 stories max?

        ” I find the Columbia City station to be probably the most easily accessible in our system. Elevator right from street level to platform–wish we built them all like that!” The Columbia city station is not underground, it’s street level. I think you just proved my point, haha. Were you talking about Beacon Hill station?

        But really, a nice direct connection like Beacon Hill station to street level ain’t happening downtown. What you’re going to have is the platform, a mezzanine, then the street. For the new Westlake station, you’re looking at bottom platform, top platform, mezzanine, and then street. Elevated rail is just steet, platform. It’s like Beacon hill, but with something like 1/8th the vertical distance.

      4. You’re right, I did mean Beacon Hills. Here’s another thing, third avenue is pretty full with buses already. How’s that going to work if we take out a lane?

      5. Would I take noisy, ugly, elevated rail if it meant we got urban-spaced, traffic-independent transit all over Seattle before I end up back in Chicago anyway? Damn right I would. There’s no shortage of streets that are already noisy and ugly.

        Where does the L run in Chicago? A lot of the old lines run over alleys. The lines over arterials mostly aren’t over “Main Street”-like arterials. Perhaps 63rd suffers from the L overhead. Lake Street, on the other hand, is just a road. So, in Seattle, is Denny, is 3rd Ave, is Leary, is Westlake (north of Mercer). There’s nothing to destroy. Might as well run effective, efficient transit.

      6. Quite a lot of SkyTrain happens to be elevated.

        After 120 years of progress, it is possible to build elevated lines that aren’t quite as noisy as the Chicago L.

      1. Because those views on third avenue through a mess of trolley wire is worth spending billions more on a new tunnel to protect.

  2. Anyone know what was up with the on-board bus location system yesterday? It was totally offline morning and afternoon (at least on the 40, 62, and 44). In the evening on the 40, the text display was accurate, but the voice prompts were totally off – while going south on Leary, the prompts were for 3rd Ave downtown. At least they were in order (Virginia, Pine, etc.). It kept reading off tunnel stops, which certainly made me wish for Ballard-UW via Fremont subway. :)

    1. Saturday morning, the 45 had a mix of Stevens Way UW and Queen Anne stops all mixed up. The driver put up a handmade sign. Told me that it was throughout the system, not just the bus. By the late morning/noon on the 40, i heard the announcement to shut off the audio entirely.

      1. Drivers should be trained to provide accurate, audible stop announcements when the bus locater is broken. Only of the buses I was on yesterday had a driver who was announcing each stop. The entire point of the audio announcements is to make transit less daunting, especially for visually impaired people.

    2. Heh. The D Line was giving us a tour of the region… we heard Royal Brougham, some numbered-street pair in the Northeast, and Woodinville P&R.

    3. The 62 I was on had no audio or text stop announcements. Was a bit of a moot point because I was the only passenger on the articulated bus. The 65 I was on behaved normally.

    4. I don’t know, but my 8 was definitely convinced that it was at Bellevue Transit Center.

    5. I took 2 buses yesterday, and the displays and announcements were out on both. On my 120 ride, the driver was silent. On the 60 from white center to cap hill, the driver called out every single stop, which is a lot of them and also we didn’t stop at a lot of them. I thanked him and told him I really appreciated it.

      Also, I heard the drivers get an announcement that there had been some kind of “bad download” that morning, which I think was related to the problems.

  3. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    – Two Amendments after the one that gave chimpanzees the right to keep and bear tree branches to defend the Fourth one.

    If the Divine had used those great sun-rays (as He often did during the Age of Enlightenment!) to send the Founding Fathers a vision of how energetically our country would throw away the above statement, they would have just started dipping their goose-feather pens in their inkwells and using them for darts to throw in each others’ wigs.

    I don’t remember any voter initiatives permitting any perverted pest, private or on government payroll, to walk out of BestBuy with the means to paper-shred our right not to be looked-at without permission on our own property.

    Same with the right to collect, publish online, and sell everything from our police records to lists of people who may be related to us, or whom we “may know”, detailed views of our homes. Of course also collecting a credit-card number from their every twisted customer, hopefully resulting in some richly-deserved revenge.

    But under the influence of every 18th Century meth-substitute from snuff tobacco to whatever they called unregulated Southern Comfort, Ben Franklin (who belonged to the Hell-Fire Club in Paris) could never have imagined our our own desperate fervor to give several hundred million people all the details of every crime we’re planning to commit.

    And litigating any well-meaning effort to stop us on First Amendment grounds. But luckily, like the Boeing 707 and the whole Industrial Revolution prove, we can still have the Bill of Rights, subways, and the Channel Tunnel at the same time.


    First thing the TBM crews did was pull off all the electronic controls and replace them with the hydraulic ones from the past. Proving that spraying them with salt water solves drone-intrusion problems better than a stick and going “oook, oook, oook!”


  4. Did Metro and its predecessors keep the timetables for old bus routes? I want to know more about how the frequency of different routes changed over time, but I can’t find anything online and the Seattle library only seems to have old system maps.

    1. The 1984 system map is online somewhere, and I think it has a chart of frequencies on the back. My memory is not totally reliable but most Seattle routes then were half-hourly and suburban routes hourly. The suburban routes were very long milk runs such as Federal Way-downtown (174), Auburn-downtown (150), Bothell-downtown (307), North Bend-downtown (210), Kingsgate-downtown-Redmond (255/226).

      The most frequent Seattle service was UDistrict-downtown which had the locals (71/72/73 on Eastlake; 15 min; and 74 Eastlake/Fairview 30 min) and expresses (73E Eastlake midday; 71/72/73X I-5 peak; 70 45th/I-5 midday). The 43 ran just like it did until this year (15 min daytime; 50 min evening). The 7 was I think 15 min north of downtown daytime, 30 minute evenings; south of downtown it was 7-10 minute daytime, 30 min evenings, but some turned back at Graham St or Rose St so Rainier Beach had only 30-minute service.

      Several other corridors had two overlapping routed daytime for combined 15-min service: Market St, Fremont, Stone Way, 1st Ave S (for Fauntleroy and Admiral/Alki). Evenings one of the pair turned into a shuttle, giving an effective frequency of 30 minutes.

      Queen Anne was mostly half-hourly but the 2 had 20 minutes mid-day, and the 3/4 combined as it does now (with the combined 4 night/Sunday route), and extra runs between downtown and 23rd. On Capitol Hill, I think the 10 reached 10 minutes daytime.

      I think all evening service in Seattle was half-hourly, except where the 71/72/73 and 3/4 combined. And of course the overlaps in Belltown, Pine/Bellevue, and Jackson Street.

      1. Wow didn’t realize service was so poor back then, though I guess it’s typical of that era when transit wasn’t taken serious

      2. 15-minute midday and Saturday service was slowly expanded one route at a time in the 1990s and 2000s. I don’t remember exactly when it started;l probably around the time the 8 did. Metro had rotating restructures; each year it focused on a different part of the city. When the DSTT opened the 71/72/73X got their pre-Link all-day service; the 101, 106, and 107 were created as all-day freeway expresses to Renton. (The 101 may have had a predecessor I didn’t know about; the 106 replaced the 142 which went downtown-Deaborn-MLK-Renton Ave, so September’s restructure will be almost reverting to that routing.) At some point (I don’t remember in which order), trolley wire was installed on Eastlake-Fairview, the 70 got its pre-Link configuration, the 74 local was truncated in the U-District and re-extended on 40th to Fremont. Then the 74 was truncated again and renumbered to 30 and the 31/32 started, then the 31/32/65/75 were interlined. Among all this, N 40th Street went from no service to daytime to full-time to frequent, and U-Village went to frequent.

        In the suburbs, ST Expressed replaced a lot of the trunk routes and they were truncated at transit centers, and frequency rose from 60 minutes full-time to 30 minutes daytime and 60 minutes evening/Sunday, although some reached reached 30-minute evenings. That happened over several years, again with rotating restructures.

        Transit Now in the late 90s was going to fund higher-level RapidRide and other more frequent routes, but after Initiative 601 slashed revenues the extra money went to backfilling existing service so the improvements were more modest. From 2000 to 2008 Metro had just enough money for operations, maintenance, replacing the bus fleet, and planning the RapidRide and Link restructures.Then revenue fell with the recession and Metro cut everything else to keep the buses running and finish the RapidRide rollout. Then the economy recovered and Seattle’s Prop 1 passed and it significantly expanded, including the 15-minute evening service that I’d wanted all along.

      3. “suburban routes hourly.. The suburban routes were very long milk runs such as Federal Way-downtown (174), Auburn-downtown (150), Bothell-downtown (307), North Bend-downtown (210), Kingsgate-downtown-Redmond (255/226).”

        Some of these were better than hourly. The 174 was half-hourly full time. The 150 was half-hourly daytime. The 226 was hourly but alternated with the 235, for net half-hourly between downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue. I rode the 226 from eastern Bellevue to Bellevue High School; to illustrate the ridership then, it was originally a single bus but around 1982 switched to articulated (still hourly). The fare was 40c one zone, 60c two zones. The 210 ran about every 90 minutes to Issaquah, and about every four hours to North Bend. The 307 was hourly and took I-5 to Northgate, then Lake City Way to Bothell. It alternated with the 305 that ran on Eastlake-Roosevelt to Northgate, then north to Richmond Beach. There were a few shuttles from Northgate to Meridian Ave/Aurora Village, 15th NE/Mountlake Terrace, etc. Some of them were timed to meet the 307 and others the 305. I always thought it would suck to be on a route that was timed with the 305 because it took significantly longer to get downtown than the 307. Peak hours these shuttle routes went express downtown. The whole network was more peak-express oriented.

        In Bellevue all the routes were hourly except the aforementioned 226/235 pair and the 360. The 360 was half-hourly daytime, hourly evenings, on 405 from Shoreline P&R to Bellevue to Sea-Tac and Burien. The 252 and 253 went hourly on the Evergreen Bridge to the U-District and downtown respectively. Later the 252 was renumbered to 271, and when I was in college it was increased to half-hourly daytime. I remember a Metro staff stepping on a bus just before the changeover and telling passengers, “Half-hourly service to Bellevue starting next week.”

      4. That is… one of the most detailed responses I’ve ever gotten on the internet. Thanks. :) I’ll try to poke around some more and find that 1984 map.

    2. Can you be more specific about what routes and during what time periods? I’ve posted a few historic timetables on page 2. If you have a particular question I might be able to find an answer.

      1. I’ve been trying to find information about West Seattle before and after the Delridge restructure in 2004, just to give myself a focal point for the search. But mostly I’m looking for resources I can use to dig up this information myself.

        There’s a website that keeps track of all the timetables for buses in London since 2002, and it has some from a lot earlier. It would be awesome to compile a similar data set for Seattle, formatted in a way that makes statistical analysis easy.

      2. The September 2004 Metro revised Delridge/White Center service by creating routes 23, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, 131 and eliminating routes 20, 130, 135, 136, 137. The 23 has since been replaced by another revision to the 131 (I think). The 120 was a huge improvement for Delridge service. Better headways, faster trip times to downtown and continuing service south of White Center were the main benefits of replacing the 20 with the 120. The 136/137 followed a common path through Highland Park and then branched off at White Center and both routes ended up in Burien. The 136/137 each ran hourly from Burien and combined for 30 minute headways on their common path. The 135 was the downtown to SSCC route. It once had a partner route (138) that provided a bus every 30 minutes from downtown to SSCC/White Center and then the 2 routes branched apart to provide hourly service on 2 different paths between White Center and Burien.

        I’m not sure when the 128 started running (after 2004?) and I can’t find a date for the ending of route 138 (before 2004). I can’t find any route 20 timetables to compare trip times from Delridge to downtown, but I know that current service is much faster than the pre-2004 service.

    3. If anyone from Metro or KC IT is reading this blog, it would be super awesome if you would allow the Wayback Machine to crawl the timetables. :)

      It would be really cool to be able to see a time lapse of Seattle Transit/Metro/Sound Transit routes over time, with some kind of indication for span and frequency of service. Just over the 10 years since I moved here, it’s changed a lot (mostly for the better).

  5. Honest question, not meant to sound troll-y. Has anyone ever gotten a substantive response from Metro about a comment/complaint? I and my family have submitted several comments to Metro ranging from not having certain construction detours posted online to the NE restructure closing some local stops to difficult wayfinding in and around the DSTT to the rude bus driver that refused to say if that bus was going to Northgate and more. And also the occasional compliment when a driver goes above and beyond.

    We have NEVER received a response beyond a general “Thank you for your feedback. It will be passed along to the appropriate department for consideration”. What does someone have to do to get Metro to at least acknowledge their specific concern or complaint instead of sending a generic form letter?

    1. Your King County Councilmember is your own personal employee. And unlike Customer Service computers, you and your fellow citizens (even Libertarians have to admit that liberty and responsible Government require a lot of coordinated people) can yell “You’re Fired!” without gluing a woodchuck on your heads.


    2. I’m on link most of the time these days, so it’s been a while since I’ve sent a compliment or complaint to Metro. But they used to give responses that were specific to the issue. Last time I got one was probably 2 or 3 years ago at this point, though.

    3. I remember getting an answer approximately two years ago about whether a stop would go back to where it had been after construction was completed on a building (this was because an article I saw seemed to imply the “temporary” stop was permanent. And a couple years before that I asked something else about placement of a stop.

    4. I’m not sure if the system has changed much since my wife retired as a service planner, but it wasn’t unusual for them to be several hundred customer comments behind at any given time. Lot’s of referrals came from customer service, but it was one of those things that you did on slow days.
      It always made me think of the movie where prayer requests were answered with “Yes, to all”.

      1. It’s not so much the time as the lack of a response that actually addresses the question. On April 16 I asked Metro what was going at Roosevelt and 65th with the construction, why there was no notice posted online or on buses, and what the best way to transfer from the 67 to the 62.

        On May 12, I got this response “We certainly do regret the confusion regarding the bus stop in the midst of the construction in the area. In response to your comments, staff forwarded a report to the Service Quality department for review. The supervisor will ensure that appropriate actions are taken regarding your concerns.”

        It’s nice that they regret my confusion, but it would have been nicer if they had solved my confusion by answering my simple question. Or by posting a sign explaining the construction because presumably other people would have the same question. Honestly, my actual response was to ditch the 67 and 62 entirely, and instead take the 75 to the 372, because crossing Lake City Way is easier than dealing with construction zones.

  6. Have there been any ridership numbers for the newly configured 10 and 43. Anecdotally, they seem to be running pretty empty. I keep missing them because they are ahead of schedule!! In seriousness though, I’ve rode them in am rush them a few times over link (boarding at Summit/John) and there was maybe 4 or 5 other riders each time.

    I anticipated more demand for a rerouted 10 but perhaps i was wrong.

    1. I’ve watched a few 43’s go by waiting for the 542 at the Montlake/Pacific stop. The buses were usually immediately behind a 48 and, not surprisingly, nearly empty.

      1. Not surprising, since the 48 goes a lot farther. My own support for the 43 is mostly so 23rd Avenue passengers, especially going to Group Health Hospital, don’t need to wait for the Route 8 for a five-minute rid to their destination.

        Also in case fast bus-bridge is needed. But now that 48 is scheduled to be wired, can relax. Because if problems I’ve foreseen really develop, no sweat to add the 43 back when events and passengers start to demand them.

        Good practice for them.


  7. With a Trader Joes and REI coming to the corner of NE 4th and 116th in Bellevue, Metro will eventually need to run a route in between that location and NE 8th street. That whole Auto Row area of Bellevue is going to transform, esp after East Link opens. Metro, get your s together and run something a bit further up 116th. Wait, I forgot who I’m talking to. This is an agency that can’t figure out how to peel outdated stickers off the doors of a few dozen RR buses.

    1. Yaay, the long-awaited 116th development is finally happening. Play it again, Sam. The city’s Spring District/East Link plans include north-south bus routes on 116th and 124th, although it’s not clear to me exactly where they’ll go to or when they’ll start. Bellevue has an excellent transit master plan now, but I haven’t heard that they’re putting up any money or a levy to fund it, or whether they’re just waiting for a countywide Metro measure to pass (which is equivalent to doing nothing).

      1. Yay? 116th?

        Kunstler could spend an hour on 116th and have footage for a decade of smug, exasperated TED talks. Hey, look, it’s an uncrossable block a quarter-mile long! Tons of “Nature Band-Aids”! There’s even a pot shop, which could be used as the punch line of several cheap jokes! He could use pot in place of Prozac in one of his sort-of-insensitive depression jokes, or do one about how the sidewalks were built between the road and the trees to give stoned drivers a buffer! This is the place where we want to make the future of Bellevue? This isn’t one of these, “Magic development will fix it Because Markets,” things: the current urban form is limited and shaped by the infrastructure (and planning and regulations); future development will be, too!

        From NE 4th/116th it’s a half-mile by the street grid to Bellevue TC. I’m not saying that’s a long distance or a short distance, that’s just how far it is. If you walked it you might pass by six destinations on the way (depending which route you take it could be more or less) and cross fifteen lanes of arterial or freeway-ramp traffic; that is a low ratio. No bus route going anywhere significant from Bellevue TC would naturally pass through this intersection (4th isn’t part of any direct route east, it’s out of the way if you’re going anywhere to the northeast, and if you’re going to the southeast it’s better to cross 405 at Main Street to avoid interchange traffic). A route along 116th north from 4th Ave NE would quickly overlap with the 234/235 (though these could reasonably change); a route along 116th south from 4th Ave NE might go to Factoria… but it would barely pass fewer destinations taking the freeway! So it’s not on the way anywhere, and there’s very little on the way from it to anywhere. The ability of future development to improve upon the latter condition is limited, physically, by existing infrastructure and natural features. So now Kunstler exits the stage and Walker enters…

    2. The 271 already has a stop at the corner of 2nd and 116th. If the 6th St. overpass were extended all the way to 116th, the 271 could take that over I-405 instead of 4th St.

  8. https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=chicago+l&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-003


    Alex, your honest question is very important, because it gets to the real decisions the designers of any transit systems have to face. The wikipedia link really tells the story.

    My own understanding is that the elevated lines in Chicago came first, as part of a network of steam railroads that continued on embankments past city limits.

    A lot of the old elevated lines started out with small steam locomotives. Wikipedia notes that the CTA was planning to replace the whole elevated system with subways.

    The interesting thing to me is that the “L” around “The Loop”, the part of the CBD surrounded by the oblong elevated structure, is still there. I remember a newspaper editorial cartoon 60 years ago showing impatient buildings being guarded by a railcar with a prison-guard hat and a rifle sitting on the wall of the “L”.

    Would guess that for the purpose it serves, probably with a lot of public affection now, people have more reason to keep it and run it, rather than go to the really disruptive job of demolishing it. Wish I could get Waterfront Project to see streetcars the same way.

    But no way Chicago or anyplace else would build that structure now. And a walk down Fifth Avenue should give you some idea of the intrusion the proposed concrete pillars of the monorail would have inflicted. And neither structure is possible to install in ground with a tunnel underneath. Let alone utilities and foundations.

    Also remember how dangerous those elevated platforms really were, coated with the ice of a Chicago winter. Where the wind could literally cut the eyes out of your head on both platforms and surface streets. Longer underground transit walk can be a lot more pleasant than shorter surface one.

    And with our seismic conditions, while ‘quake survival is evaluated after the fact, the deeper the tunnel, the safer the bet. Have read that in many earthquakes, the ground rolls like ocean waves to about 20 feet down. Which is a lot worse to be elevated above than tunneled underneath.

    Probably the best thing about streetcar-evolved light rail is that the trains can handle a variety of operating situations on the same run. Central LINK is an excellent example, though it avoids running in general purpose lanes. Though the cars could.

    But even in really corrupt places, I doubt that decision to tunnel, elevate, or surface operate is ever made on considerations of favoritism or spite. Irrational results just cost too much.


    1. Chicago has one or two subway-elevated transfer stations, with switchback escalators that go up like six stories. That takes time to go through too. It’s not clear that this is better than a second tunnel as ST is planning.

  9. I’m not sure if it’s strange or wonderful that I can (suddenly, it now seems) use Link from just down at the spacious living art of Rainier Vista; but had I stayed in Manhattan (1st Ave at E 89th), I’d still be waiting for 2nd Ave subway opening day :-)

  10. As more buses get kicked out of the tunnel, it is going to be increasingly useful for Metro to post signs indicating which exit to take to get to a specific route. I go downtown rarely (maybe a couple times a month), and if I’m in the tunnel I’m always trying to remember whether I go left or right to catch my next bus. Fortunately my wife is much better at remembering directions but I can’t be the only one who gets confused.

    Surely posting some directional signs can’t be that hard? (Right?)

    1. +1

      I’ve lived in Seattle for a while now and I don’t find it helpful that Westlake Station has signage indicating whether the exit is at Nordstrom or Macy’s. It would be even less helpful for people who have absolutely no previous experience with where those stores are located. Instead the signs should read the nearest intersection they exit at and the two-letter directional of what corner of the street it is (NE/NW/SE/SW). This could be integrated into transit directions like Citymapper does in NYC which I found enormously helpful when I lived there.

      1. It would be useful also to have a One Bus Away sign for various connecting services on the platform (other cities do this). So you can know if you need to sprint or may as well stroll. Wifi in the tunnel is nice, but not everyone has a smartphone and there is no wifi at UW station.

    1. Out of necessity, the Swiss railroad tunneling probably really does go back to all those dwarves in Lord of the Rings. Props just forgot and left out Frodo and Gandalf’s hard-hats.

      I think I’ve read that Alpine tunnel boring really does have to account for the weight of a mountain being tunneled under.

      But would still bet that no Swiss foreman has to worry about their cutter ripping out anybody’s toilet system as it goes grinding by underneath the Matterhorn.


      1. Yes, there is the fact that this is so deep there are no known man made obstacles.

        There are also no stations. There was a proposal for an interchange station to the surface but that was deemed uneconomical due to the possibility of freight interference.

        There is also the fact that these types of tunnels through the Alps have been built in a number of places before. They have a design and pattern down and know what works.

        Also, with some millions of tons of freight going through this tunnel, as well as passengers, they don’t necessarily have to worry about financing. It’s the Swiss. They’ll figure out how to make money on it, or they wouldn’t be doing it.

        Considering they’ve been digging for 17 years, and planning for years before that, it’s not like it’s been lightning fast compared to ST3.

  11. Considering the Upper East Side is one of the densent neighbourhoods in the developed world, the average distance between stations on the 2nd Ave. line is ridiculous.

    1. Except for 72nd to 86th, those stops seem spaced about right, and the same as other existing lines. And the half mile between stops is WAY better than what we’ve done with Westlake->cap Hill–>husky stadium.

      1. IIRC, there’s no stop between 59th and 72nd either. That’s nearly 3/4 mile there.

        There should be a MAX of half-mile between stops in an area that dense.

        So there should be too more stops at about 66th and 79th.

      2. They’re connecting to an existing stop at 63rd and Lexington, which makes it just over a half mile. All the stops are a half mile or a bit over, which seems just at the outer edge of OK for Manhattan. A stop at 79th would definitely be in order though.

        The new stops are 72nd, 86th and 96th, with the next (as yet unfunded) phase adding 106th and 116th and then connecting to the existing 125th and Lexington.


  12. Hello Mark, from our hotel balcony overlooking the Atlantic south of Porto – ‘Surfs Up’.
    We’ve joined some friends with a car to work our way north through Portugal, as train travel between cities reminds me of Amtrak. Contrast that with Spain, where you can travel nearly anywhere via fast modern trains.
    Both countries were given huge loans from the EU decades ago to improve their transportation infrastructure. Spain choose trains and Portugal choose turnpikes. Today for example had us traveling at 100 mph along a ribbon of concrete (4 lane divided highway) with only a very few cars on the tollway. Tolls are quite high, so most cars use the older, narrow, two lane roads between hamlets. It’s a system of haves and have nots for sure.
    I’m not sure what the moral to this story is, but having poured billions into a road system that few can afford use doesn’t seem like the best choice for the masses. Now, the country is broke, and adding a train network is no longer an option.

    1. Could be pertinent, Mic, what the Sacramento LRV supervisor told me: that a right of way structured for road has plenty of muscle and bone for rail.

      Portugal isn’t that big a country, so very likely, especially if the turnpikes are so packed with cars nothing can move, some of them can become rail lines. And while they’re waiting, put one or two of the lanes to intercity bus only.

      Might be good to wait to try this until you’re safe back here in the ‘States, but my suggestion to Europe is that the main solution for the whole continent is to do what we’ve been doing from the beginning. Which is reacting to threats and taking advantage of windfalls by forming as large a united country as we could.

      From what I can see, Europe is reflexively doing exactly the opposite: reacting to contemporary stresses by separating themselves and hardening their borders. Against each other as well as the rest of the world. Even the world’s best street rail can’t give an advanced country of five million people a snowball’s chance in Hell.

      So I’m waiting to see if what I hope for happens: that new generations of voters from about the same population numbers that we have in the US will form a single European country with a population of 300 million people. One big motivation for young Europeans will be the chance to see how their own success by becoming unified will let them laugh at us for falling apart.


    1. Thanks, les. Best thing about this video is that it proves that elevated rail is extremely flexible, and that route changes are easy. Anytime ridership doesn’t materialize, just take this machine out of the garage.

      However, does remind me of those Alice in Wonderland creatures that would get somebody lost by sweeping up the path. Also have to be careful that no trains are left past the section being eliminated. Otherwise, work will lose ten minutes while machine has to go back and re-lay the track, and remove it again.

      If the Monorail Project had just explained this to us instead of yelling about how backward thinking and light-rail duped we were, we’d have demanded that the Mayor not cancel the project! Also, maybe the line can be installed along the Waterfront, and moved when sea-wall work demands.


  13. Oh, and meant to ask you, Mic. Is it true that Spanish trains have actual espresso machines with baristas in the bistro cars? Am told the Talgo trains are fitted to carry them. Though downside is that if we do bolt in the machines, AMTRAK will definitely use Starbucks.


    1. The Bistro car looks about the same as our Talgo Bistro, with only one person behind the counter doing everything. I’m still trying to figure out how to order coffee and get something over 4 ounces, but the machine makes hot steam ‘whooshing’ noises, so yeah, it’s the real deal.

  14. >>They’re connecting to an existing stop at 63rd and Lexington, which makes it just over a half mile. All the stops are a half mile or a bit over, which seems just at the outer edge of OK for Manhattan. A stop at 79th would definitely be in order though.

    The new stops are 72nd, 86th and 96th, with the next (as yet unfunded) phase adding 106th and 116th and then connecting to the existing 125th and Lexington.”

    It was actually the lack of any stops on 2nd itself between 55th and 72nd (when its fully built out) that is the really long gap I was thinking of.

    1. Yeah I’d agree with that. 50th and 59th would have seemed more reasonable. Just speculating, but there is a big bridge that dumps out at 59th and Second that might have made a 59th street station challenging or impossible. Or maybe some things are two expensive even for NYC!

      1. As a former upper east side resident, anytime I’ve seen the new subway stop plans they’ve made isense. These are large enough stations that blocks get consumed comfortably underground for one thing.

        There are things about wealth concentration and bus transfers on the upper east side that are hard to verbalize, but probably are the “why it’s OK” that you are looking for.

        In any event, I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s been a working person in Manhattan who’d ever say a half mile was even “walking”. A walk was from over on the river at Gracie Park down to Bloomingdales :-)

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