A television documentary from 1984 about the history of the Bay Area’s transit system featuring scenes of long gone interurban railroads.

82 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Bay Area Transit History (1984)”

  1. Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Oran. I grew up a block from the UP tracks, then lived near BART in Union City when it was being built.
    I’ve long held our short sighted politicians responsible for not understanding how vital existing ROW’s are to transportation, as short sighted money interest chop them into little pieces. The Burke Gilman, ERC, Interurbans both north and south of Seattle all come to mind.
    We now contemplate spending a hundred billion to replace what was once a given as Bart tried to do in the 60’s.

    1. It makes you wonder how much else of American exceptionalism in the 20th century was a lie. Eastern Europe kept its streetcars and modernized them, and here we let one company swindle them away. “What’s good for GM is good for America”, indeed. Talk about robber barons. And this was before WWII in the supposed streetcar suburb era! I agree with the documentary, if they could just just held on until the war, things would have been vastly different. Still, this is an example for the rest of the world? An example of what not to do.

      1. Yes, the ROW is golden, and the robber barons of today know it. Just try to build HSR, or even 79+ mph rail in America without having to cart sacks of gold to the railroads main office buildings. The FRA are willing partners in making passenger rail as difficult to embrace as is bureaucratically possible.
        Just wait until the FAA starts giving airspace away to the major airlines.

      2. The example we’re setting for the rest of the world, Mike, is what really does make our country exceptional. We’re the first country in history where the average person can forget, if they ever bothered to find out, who killed their six times great grandfather back home. All three hundred million of us.

        200 years ago we created The European Union, a real one. Which Europe seems unable to do, as the world daily proves that the world’s best streetcar system can’t give an advanced country of five million people a snowball’s chance in Hell by itself. We’re showing Europe their only hope of survival- which they’re perfectly capable of achieving, but willfully won’t.

        With population, wealth, and land-mass that could give them the strength and size of the United States, which gives us our real power in the world. We never were a great military power, or wanted to be. Countries that do are generally too poor either to farm or industrialize. Highland Scotland and Prussia, for example.

        We’re protected by the unique fact that whatever we think about bathrooms and what Donald Trump just said, we all think at the subconscious level we’re all the same country. Spain? Basques in the north can’t figure out who put their industries in the same country as those ignorant Spanish peasants. Italy? “Who asked us before they attached all those Arabs with names like Don Vito Corleone!” Germany? “Well, don’t blame us! He was a Bavarian!”

        In one sentence, we’re the only country in the history of the World all of whose problems are completely self-inflicted. Last foreign military boot-print in our dirt was from a British marine who’d just helped burn down Washington DC in 1814. Which nobody else forced us to rebuild.

        Success of our example is daily proven by young Swedish streetcar passengers telling me the country they’d most like to go to is ours. Why? Hundred percent: “Opportunities!” Which a united country on their own continent could equally provide- if all its countries’ approach to danger weren’t further division.

        So that’s it, Mike. We’ll be building 70-years-updated PCC streetcars for a Continental interurban network long before the unwanted immigrants from Syria become citizens of those little streetcar dens and make them do it. Pretty much like my ancestors did the United States, where Northern Europeans made us much less welcome than Syrians in Denmark.

        Final example we COULD set: Start obeying our own Statue and taking in our share of war-shredded anti-totalitarian civilians. Which would cost a fraction of anything military we’d be stupid enough do there, or anywhere else. And make us a lot safer.

        Mark Dublin

      3. American exceptionalism is about America being organized not around a common place or shared history, but around a belief in self-government. It’s never been about America being the best at everything ever.

        Self-driving cars were supposed to be here long ago, preventing all our congestion woes. Our futurists were several decades (filled with congested traffic) early.

    2. You and other Americans are building streetcars in Europe? Now that is interesting. But it goes along with the fact that people go to New York and Europe and come back saying how well those subways work and with that and the buses and the walkable neighborhoods they never wanted a car. And you say, “Great, let’s build that here.” And they’re all, “No, no, it wouldn’t work here. People here want to drive, want their low-density house and big-box stores and freeways, they don’t want to feel cramped, it would take too much taxes, etc.”

    3. Thanks so much for posting this documentary. I lived in Marin County in the ’70s and 80s and wish I had seen this before now. I remember when Golden Gate Transit system started with ferry service to Marin in 1970, and a few years later with buses to replace Greyhound. The old train tracks were replaced by bike paths, and there has been much discussion in the past few years of re-opening the old tunnel between Mill Valley and Corte Madera for bike route as well. And train service from San Rafael northward is starting this year: http://www.sonomamarintrain.org/
      The more things change….

  2. Okanogan County’s new transit system opens up July 1. For only $1 each way, we’ll be able to go from Winthrop to Twisp 9 times per day. Also, with some transferring, we’ll be able to get to Pateros, Omak, Okanogan or Tonasket.

    TranGo is funded in part by a county-wide small increase in the sales tax that was passed in (I think) 2014.

      1. Mark–Hope this helps.

        Okanogan Transit https://okanogantransit.com/

        I remembered incorrectly. The vote was in 2013. http://www.omakchronicle.com/news/2013/nov/05/voters-saying-yes-public-transportation/

        And here’s the County Commissioners being pissy about the whole thing because they didn’t like the way the vote went. You’ll need to scroll down a little bit to “The Bus Stops Here.” http://methowvalleynews.com/2014/02/27/editorials-feb-26-2014/

    1. Thanks, Emily. Really curious, though, about those consequences. I hope there isn’t something Steven King going on that strangers don’t know about until they get attacked by scarecrows!

      But really mean to make fun of public servants just doing their job. Which includes denying service to anyone who leaves straw and crow-feathers on bus floors.

      I wish King County Councilmembers would become aware of the ongoing consequences of using bus fareboxes in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel at rush hour on Friday afternoons when there’s a game in town.

      If loss to the public of wasted operating hours, and personal time, counts as a tax, townspeople in three-cornered hats should be howling and waving pitchforks as they fill up Elliott Bay with paper transfers.


    2. That’s good to know about. I know there is an Amtrak Thruway bus that goes up that way, but some local transportation is a nice addition.

    3. Pateros will be nice, but wish they could make it to Brewster, Bridgeport and Chelan as well.

      1. The Okanogan to Pateros route stops at the Brewster Triangle Texaco. I don’t know about Bridgeport. Chelan isn’t in Okanogan Co.

      2. That is great news for Brewster! What, they need a bi-county ST board there too? Visiting Chelan from Brewster is a big deal for me as well as others.

  3. https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/27772690195/in/dateposted-public/

    Revival of regional electric rail transportation, and the living patterns to support it, need much attention to this aspect. Common justified criticism is that we do so little for the small industries that also need recovery. Which for 80 years have indeed been better served by trucks and cars.

    Personal favorite starting place is renewal of our own Central Waterfront. Regards to Tom Gibbs for keeping two wonderful old streetcars. Wherever else we run those particular cars, and whatever else we add to the fleet, the electric rail industry they belonged to can add the world of missing energy our Waterfront really deserves.

    As well as providing the only form of transit that can serve the place. And giving our overburdened philanthropists a break.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Yes, but transit is not meant to relieve congestion (adding more road capability doesn’t do anything either, because of induced demand). It’s meant to give people a way to bypass the congestion if the transit is on its own ROW, and it is also much more high capability then SOVs on roads are (even with self-driving cars).

    2. WPC treats it as an admission, but actually Ranganathan said it to nip the most common misconception in the bud. Transit agencies have sometimes said a rail line will relieve freeway congestion, but that’s impossible because more car trips will fill the space. Pro-rail advocates have to make it clear that it’s an alternative to congestion, not a way to reduce congestion. Which Ranganathan did. But then WPC keeps throwing out the “reducing congestion” argument anyway after that. A favorite right-wing trick nowadays, keep repeating a lie often enough and people will believe it, even when the opposition has clearly contradicted it right in front of you.

      Link’s south end travel time unfortunately makes it harder to address the “faster” argument. But WPC ignores reliability There are traffic accidents almost daily that block a freeway somewhere in Pugetopolis. Link is immune to that, and that is valuable in itself.

      If WPC really wants to pursue that “speed and mobility” issue, it should look at ST’s original decision for light rail in the 1990s as opposed to heavy rail or monorail. It was because light rail can run in streets, which would keep capital costs low. But when it came time to design each segment, area after area said they wanted it grade-separated, not surface, and the public said, “Yes, grade separated! We’ll pay the taxes for it.” That’s how Link ended up being more like light metro than traditional light rail. But look what would have happened if ST’s original proposal had been adopted: a surface routing from Mt Baker to SeaTac. Would that have been extended to Federal Way and Tacoma? I shudder to imagine the travel time. Surely FW and Tacoma would have put a stop to that and advocated something else. But instead Link will be grade-separated from Rainier Beach to Tacoma. That makes it somewhat slower than the freeway (when there’s no accident or heavy traffic), but not as slow as it would be if it were mostly surface. That’s why the Tacoma extension is still being taken seriously. The slowness is partly because of the Rainier Valley detour, and partly because of Tacoma’s distance to Seattle. The longer the distance, the greater the difference between a 55 mph train and a 65 mph freeway becomes apparent, even before you add the 30 mph surface sections (soon to go down to 25 mph if the “Vision Zero” speed reduction goes through).

      If WPC really wants to pursue this “speed and mobility” angle, there’s something else right there: Sounder. Sounder South has been increasing ridership year after year. The third track project and other improvements could bring it up to 90 mph, hourly or even half-hourly. Why doesn’t WPC tell ST to go big on Sounder?

      1. As to;

        If WPC really wants to pursue this “speed and mobility” angle, there’s something else right there: Sounder. Sounder South has been increasing ridership year after year. The third track project and other improvements could bring it up to 90 mph, hourly or even half-hourly. Why doesn’t WPC tell ST to go big on Sounder?

        It is because I believe WPC is anti-Sound Transit because its black money donors are anti-Sound Transit. Let’s remember ShitWa, another black money propaganda outlet is anti-Sound Transit.

        I will say however that when Bob Pishue was hired away from WPC, transit advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief. A quality opposition leader just left the frontbench at the most critical time for Sound Transit opponents.

        All that said, it would be nice if John Niles and other light rail opponents backed Sounder South expansion and a new heavy rail inland line for Sounder North. I doubt they ever will however…

      2. It is quite common for ST3 supporters to imply if not state that ST3 will help the traffic situation. I don’t have a link to the mailer but I assume the quote is correct, even if the organization is biased (https://shiftwa.org/sound-transit-launches-campaign-for-st3/). If so, then the ST mailer included this

        “Mass transit offers major relief for our most congested corridors, helping riders and drivers alike” .

        Then you have editorials like this: http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/how-to-get-puget-sound-traffic-moving-allow-a-vote-on-a-package-to-fully-fund-light-rail/. That isn’t the official ST3 campaign, but the title is quite clearly making the case that ST3 will reduce traffic. Glancing at the main ST3 site, the argument is a little more subtle. Look how often the word “freight” is mentioned with ST3, http://soundtransit3.org/why-st3. If light rail won’t do a thing for traffic, then it won’t do a thing for freight.

        Here is a brochure (http://www.kirklandwa.gov/Assets/Keeping+Kirkland+Moving+ST3/ST3+BRT+Frequently+Asked+Questioin+Brochure.pdf) from the city of Kirkland, that includes this sentence:

        “BRT on I-405 and the CKC will serve to reduce traffic congestion on major north/south corridors”.

        Here is Dow Constantine, head of Sound Transit (http://mynorthwest.com/244924/does-anyone-feel-free-driving-on-i-5-these-days/):

        “Even if you never intend to set foot on light rail it is still in your interest because every person who chooses to ride the train is one less person snarling up traffic for you,”

        His quote on ST3 though, is more accurate, stating that it gives people an alternative (http://soundtransit3.org/news/st3-%E2%80%9Cclearly-the-answer%E2%80%9D-says-chair-constantine).

        I don’t think this is a straw man argument. I think it is an attempt by ST3 opponents to go after one of the strongest arguments implied or made by proponents. Very few people will take advantage of the transit improvements, but if they are convinced (rightly or wrongly) that it will improve traffic, then they are much more likely to vote yes.

      3. All that said, it would be nice if John Niles and other light rail opponents backed Sounder South expansion and a new heavy rail inland line for Sounder North. I doubt they ever will however…

        Opponents of ST3 will, of course, be a mixed bag. Some of them are simply right wing anti-tax crusaders, who either want no money spent on anything, or only want to spend money for SOV infrastructure. I wouldn’t put John Niles in that group. He is a strong bus advocate above all else. I’m pretty sure he is opposed to expanding Sounder (south or north) but I’m not certain. So far as I know, the organization he is a part of (CETA) has not taken an official stand. They are focused on accountability and cost effectiveness. When Vic Bishop said that we should build another tunnel, but use it for buses not rail, I was told (later) that this wasn’t an official position of CETA. Like any proposed infrastructure, it would have to be studied to determine whether it would be worth it. To me the bus tunnel is clearly better than what ST3 proposed and better than anything else seriously considered, which is why I agree with Vic. But I can understand why people would want to consider alternatives (tunnels are very expensive, and you can carve out hundreds of small improvements for that kind of money). If your organization is focused on accountability, then you can’t officially support a proposal without having the data to support it.

        Other opponents include Troy Serad (who wrote this: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/05/09/st3-is-not-the-way-forward/), who is a huge fan of commuter rail. I would bet he is strongly in favor of improving Sounder South if not north. I feel the same way. Commuter rail is usually very cost effective, and I believe Sounder South is. Sounder North is not the “clear winner” that Sounder South is, but it is possible that it could be made much more effective. As with all these things, the devil is in the details. Fixation on mode — assuming rail is always better than bus service or the opposite — is silly. What matters is how much we can get for our money. More than anything, this is dependent on where we invest in rail, and where we invest in bus improvements (not necessarily how much we invest in each). I would guess that Sounder South improvements are a very good bang for the buck, but Sounder North aren’t (but again, I would have to see the numbers).

    3. I’d like to know what the price tag would be for a road building initiative designed to relieve commute hour congestion. What would it cost to double I-5’s capacity, build a couple more cross-lake bridges and give everyone else a congestion free ride to work in their own car? Please WPC, just give me a ballpark estimate of what it would cost to provide us all our constitutional right to a hassle-free commute.

      1. One could argue that it doesn’t matter how much you spend — induced demand would end up making things bad very quickly. There has to be a limit to that, of course, but my guess is that it would be hard to spend your way out of the problem of traffic congestion in the region.

        But that really isn’t the argument they are making. They basically have no solution to traffic. They are simply saying that ST3 isn’t a solution either. This is true — it is simply an alternative. Whether it is a cost effective alternative or not is another matter.

        What I am curious about is whether WPC opposed the recent freeway expansion. The 509/167 is a horrible value, even if all you care about is freight mobility and cars. It is really easy to get into the argument that we should spend more on cars versus transit (or the opposite). But too often we spend a ridiculous amount of money on very bad projects for cars (the new 99 tunnel as well as the other projects) or a ridiculous amount of money on very pad projects for transit (most of ST3). Both are horrible. Of course I would spend way more on transit than cars but either way I want to get the most for my money.

      2. It’s worth quantifying because that’s the logical conclusion of the no-rail, well-no-transit-lanes-either position. Even if this group doesn’t go that far, some of their sympathizers who believe in “more highways for everybody” do. So draw up those highways. That’s what they did in the 1950s: they drew enough freeways that their traffic models said would accommodate everybody driving everywhere. The I-5, Spokane Street, 99, Bay Freeway ring. NE 50th Street, 15th Ave W. The Bothell/Thompson freeway from I-90 to Lake City and Bothell. When people saw the entire extent of it they recoiled in horror, and individual projects went down due to environmental destruction or neighborhood destruction. In the end only a quarter of the freeways were built; and the same thing happened nationwide.

        When Bailo kept saying we sholdn’t have stopped building highways while the population grew, I kept asking, “Which highways do you want, where?” He never said. He talked generally about high-speed rail to Centralia and Wenatchee and Idaho, but never about which specific highway corridors in Pugetopolis were needed. Should the Kent-Kangley Road be a freeway? Wouldn’t that make it a worse stroad?

  4. Fellow transit advocates;

    I gotta ask some fundamental questions here in STB Land.

    #1. Do we believe transit can provide congestion relief by giving folks a chance to get past

    #2. Who is going to attend Thursday’s ST3 Board Approval and give presents to the staff?

    #3. I was recently at an Everett Transportation Advisory Committee meeting and noticed only ONE WOMAN in the room. I am a guy but also a HeForShe. What should I say next month, if anything?

    #4. Why streetcars at all? They get stuck in traffic as much as buses, buses which can now be powered by electricity?

    1. #4. Why streetcars at all? They get stuck in traffic as much as buses, buses which can now be powered by electricity?

      I agree completely; unless a streetcar runs in its own lane (preferably with barriers to separate it from other traffic), I don’t see the point of spending that kind of cash.

      On the other hand, I do see some features of streetcars that I like and would enjoy it if buses could emulate:

      Streetcars are consistent. For a variety of reasons (including how operators are trained to work them), streetcars will always stop at the same place. No more of this “being at a crowded stop waiting next to the bus stop sign and the bus stops a third of the way short of the bus stop so good luck getting a seat” or “three buses have stopped at the stop and I need the third one but by the time I walk back there the third bus has now pulled forward to the stop or, worse, pulled around the other two and left.” The streetcar acts like a train and will only open its doors at its designated stop zone.

      Streetcars always have all door boarding. RapidRide does or doesn’t depending on the rules of the day (which have changed) and, in my observation, whether the driver feels like opening all of the doors that day/hour/moment. Again, consistency.

      Streetcars allow standing with a bicycle in the lower floor part. If a bus you need arrives with its bike rack full, tough noogies, you wait for the next one or if it’s the last bus you get left. Seattle Streetcar rules say that if the racks are full, stand in the streetcar’s middle and hold your bike firmly.

      None of these features are inherently unique to streetcars but we only seem to do them on streetcars which is why if SDOT/Metro/ST wanted to run one up and down 23rd between, say, UW Station and Mt Baker Station, I would devote all of my free time campaigning for one.

      1. Streetcars also last much longer then buses. You still see streetcars from the 30s working today, but you don’t see any buses from the 30s still working today. People are also more attracted to streetcars (and trains in general) then buses. Witness how the old Waterfront Streetcars were always busy, even with a $1 fare, compared to the often empty Waterfront buses that are free.

      2. The reason why light rail was developed as a term was to make people aware that what was being built wouldn’t be in the street.

        The only point to having a streetcar line that is stuck in traffic is if the has too much ridership that a bus doesn’t work. Toronto seems to be the only place in North America that has that situation, and even there the new lines are built to light rail standards.

        This is also, by the way, true of virtually all the lines in Europe that our modern streetcar lines are supposedly emulating: no new lines are built in the street, except where there is no choice.

        Something like the 70 could be a valid streetcar line, but vastly better if built to actual light rail standards (ML King type operation).

      3. “The streetcar acts like a train and will only open its doors at its designated stop zone.”

        That, right there is a big reason why streetcars are so much slower than buses. With a streetcar, a single car waiting for a red light delays the streetcar by an entire signal cycle by blocking access to the stop until it moves out of the way. A bus, however, would just open its doors a car-length behind the actual bus stop and continue on its way when the light turns green.

        If you have ever traveled down 3rd Ave. or through the U-district on a bus, having your bus opens its doors behind the one in front of you, rather than sitting until until the leader bus moves out of the way, makes a huge difference (and an even bigger difference if you are actually trying to transfer to the bus in front of you, in which case a bus driver who is overly anal about stop locations could end up costing you half an hour).

    2. As to 1, transit can provide congestion relief, but it has to be something that is favored over the automobile. There are cities in Europe that have increased their share of trips on transit by building good quality transit and having land use that supports it.

      I don’t know that any city in the USA has ever been able to do this.

      1. Decades ago, there was an editorial in The New Electric Railway Journal (a publication you could appreciate as it was pro-transit conservatives running it) about marketing. Their opinion was that marketing has become a major problem in the USA, especially at transit agencies, because the focus is so much on advertising. It really needs to also include finding out what people want and need and how to provide that.

      2. Parking policy (or, if you wave a wand, roadway pricing) does much more to discourage vehicle travel than new shiny transit.

      3. Parking policy does here, but transit and land use patterns are also not so good.

        Average speed of some of the newer “streetcar” lines in Europe is around 2.5 times that of such lines here. At that speed, on city streets they are very competitive with driving speed, and beat driving when total travel time including parking and walking is included.

        If you are able to beat driving, even with no congestion, then you reach a tipping point where transit use starts to decrease congestion because driving no longer has a time advantage. It’s good if you have heavy objects for delivery or that type of thing, but transit starts to look awfully attractive once it starts to be faster.

    3. 1. The phrase “congestion relief” is so dual-meaning I wouldn’t use it. Transit with its own ROW may or may not be faster than average congestion depending on the specific corridor, technology, and other factors. What it will be is faster than traffic accidents, ballgame surges, and other random surges. People don’t hate congestion just because it’s long, but becuase it’s so volatile and inpredictable, Will I get caught in it today? Will it occur after I leave the house? Will I be stuck standing still for an hour or even six hours? Exclusive-ROW transit has breakdowns but it’s less common because it’s a small number of vehicles and all professional staff, vs tens of thousands of amateur drivers and if any one of them causes a slowdown it spreads to everybody.

      1A. Frequent transit is valuable in itself. People like cars because they can travel anytime day or night. The 194 is half-hourly and ends at 10:30pm. Sounder is half-hourly peak only, and may approach hourly in ST3. Compare that to a 10-minute train running until after midnight. People hate waiting for trains/buses; it’s the second biggest usability factor after total trip time (=waiting+riding+transferring+walking at the end). If a 10-minute train is twenty minutes slower than a 30-minute train but you’re ready to travel five minutes after the fast train left, that negates the difference, because people would rather be sitting on a vehicle moving than sitting at a station watching the clock, or just being idle somewhere so they don’t arrive at the station too early.

      2. I may attend but I was at the last two, and I think it’s unlikely ST will do anything surprising the last day and screw up the timeline. If they wanted to modify or cancel the prposal they would have done it by now. However, there were some potential amendments lingering after the last meeting; Pierce was unsure about those provisional lines and what impact or constraints they’d have, so that may be clarified.

      3. I’m skeptical of men recruiting women campaigns. I was an organizer of a programming users’ group that also had one woman organizer. One guy was concerned the group didn’t have many other woman attendees and that women feel discouraged from programming etc. He asked the organizer her thoughts on how to bring in more women and she said, “What I appreciate about this group is that people treat me like a programmer, not like a woman programmer.” In contrast some larger groups explicitly recruit women and I think that’s going overboard. In some cases women’s subgroups form themselves and they tell the larger community what they need; that seems to be a more reliable path to reform than men recruiting women. Of course you need to check for misogyny in your own group, and that the educational system isn’t turning women off, etc. So I would just focus on recruiting people, the entire communit. And maybe ask the one woman whether there’s any anti-woman atmosphere in the group you’re not aware of, or any things it could to to make women more comfortable with it. But if you have one, then it will probably grow into more over time, unless there’s some other factor hindering it.

      4. “Streetcar” can mean anything from the Portland Streetcar in mixed traffic, to Link which is like a modern European tram or light metro, to interurbans. The Seattle/Portland definition of a streetcar is very limited, and made to form an artificial contrast with light rail. ST’s definition of light rail is exclusive-lane or grade-separated, with larger cars that are coupled. So “streetcar” means less than that: lanes shared with cars and smaller uncoupled vehicles. By that definition, streetcars are useless and a waste of money. The old streetcars did not wait for cars or lights: they had the right of way even when the lanes weren’t physically separated from cars. In that case a street-running streetcar can be worthwhile. But not in the Seattle/Portland case. Way back in the 90s I attended a Seattle planning meeting asking whether the city should focus its transit upgrade on buses, streetcars, or light rail. I said, “Light rail because it’s fast, or buses because they’re cheap. Streetcars are the worst of both worlds: more expensive than buses but not faster than them.”

      1. In the case of the 194, the wait time saved by Link’s additional frequency and reliability was enough to compensate for a few minutes of additional travel time. In fact, for a trip between the airport and the U-district, Link all the way today is undisputably faster than a connection between the former 194 and 71/72/73 used to be. But, in the case of the 594, the time penalty is large enough that this is no longer the case. For a Tacoma->Seattle trip, hopping on a Link train that is right there would be time-equivalent to waiting 20-25 minutes for a 594. Just as Sound Transit is not proposing to eliminate the 542 and have everybody detour to I-90 on East Link, eliminating the 594 would be bad also.

      2. On the other hand, while the commuter crowd of the 594 would largely object to cutting back service, I don’t see the same objection for weekends and it is likely weekend 594 service would get axed. There is precedent between Minneapolis to St Paul, where the I-94 express bus got chopped nights and weekends when the Metro Transit Green Line opened, and in Santa Monica where the express bus from Santa Monica to Los Angeles will be whacked on weekends.

    4. “Streetcars also last much longer then buses.”

      That’s what made me hesitate about opposing streetcars for a long time. The vehicles last longer, the tracks last longer, and they use less energy. But we have so many critical needs for several more frequent lines now and faster corridors, that we have to address those first. And getting people from cars to buses is a bigger environmental benefit than replacing a bus with a streetcar. So we need to go full speed ahead with good RapidRide and light rail, and not be distracted by streetcars.

      1. Yes, that’s why I see streetcars only ever occupying a niche between BRT and grade-separated light rail.

      2. if you’re going to do a streetcar, you need to make it like Link on MLK. Not like SLUS.

        That’s basically the rule to remember.

    5. Here’s a link to a great article on Portland’s StreetCar. It mentions several pros and cons and seeing how I just rode it last week and loved it here are a few pros:
      “Despite that focus, at 15,200 passengers a day in April, the streetcar’s ridership approaches that of the MAX Yellow Line. Hour-for-hour, it’s busier than most bus lines.”
      At $251 million to build, “It’s the single best investment the city has ever made,” said Hales,


      1. Notice that the expansions to Portland Streetcar mostly have exclusive lanes.

  5. Joe, standing passenger load on a streetcar much nicer experience than same load on a bus. But since railcars can’t pass other vehicles, public pressure builds a lot faster so they don’t have to. Since buses can get around obstacles, they generally have to. And always get stuck in the attempt.

    But speaking of un-clearable obstacles, B-section of today’s Seattle Times has article on Sounder expansions. Cost of avoiding chief obstacle, also called using somebody else’s freight tracks, is starting to look cheap by comparison.

    However, John Niles has, after all these years, come up with a proposal that will definitely give us rapid regional transit far faster, cheaper, and less delayed by freight and bad signals.

    Because by his own standards, the busways he’s advocating will be structured, graded, and curved exactly same as for high speed rail. And unlike BN tracks, without any grade crossings.

    Which means that after a week or two, the traveling public will connect strangely slow speeds with fact that a platoon of articulated buses at 60mph requires about a third of a mile of for following distance.

    And deduce that if resulting distance between buses can be somehow filled with passengers, all of them would also move a lot faster.

    So. If we’ve built trackway to John’s own specs, mounting them with rails and stringing catenary should be easily financed by what we won’t have to pay BN! John gets to keep the gold-plated ground-breaking shovel engraved with his name.

    However: if we can get the wire up before the rail, would love to be at the wheel where the Route 7 gets to drop poles and take off for Dupont on batteries!


  6. Did everyone see the Seattle Times “No on ST3” editorial? It’s out of touch garbage, but you should really read it.

    The Times loves the spine but thinks everything else is garbage. Things we should slow down our progress.

    1. “Board members should consider a leaner Plan B that would continue extending the system’s north and south spine. It should rely more on flexible, rapid buses and less on costly, fixed light rail duplicating current bus routes.”

      That can be interpreted as modest Link extensions to 164th and Federal Way and Redmond, and enhanced bus service beyond that and elsewhere. That’s consistent with an alternative I and other transit fans support. Maximum Link is worth pursuing if the region is willing, but it’s not strictly necessary to go beyond Lynnwood and Des Moines. If you take the first sentence to mean “Build the Link spine to Everett and Tacoma”, then it contradicts the second sentence of “costly, fixed light rail duplicating current bus routes”.

      “A pause and reset would not stop Sound Transit’s progress.”

      There’s a two-year window. If planning takes five years, then we must approve it by 2018 in order for construction to begin full-speed in 2023 when ST2 is finished. Otherwise there will be a gap until construction can begin, and the transit needs are now, not starting in 2034. This also means that if we wait until 2020, the next presidential election, that will give only three years until ST2 ends, meaning at least a couple years’ planning gap with no construction.

      “Some lawmakers re concerned ST3 consumes part of the state property-tax cap, which is being eyed as a potential s9olution to the education-funding gap.”

      So eliminate the cap. You’re the legislature. Or pursue an income tax, wealth tax, or other way to capture the giant windfall the 1% are gaining while homelessness, transit needs, mental-health needs, and education needs, and higher-education needs are increasing.

    2. “Sound Transit last year pitched a $15 billion project, but extended it to $50 billion in March so it could build for decades without another vote.”

      It raised it to $25 billion, not $50 billion, for a parallel comparison to the $15 billion figure. And people’s actual taxes would be around $23 billion. Or what did the article say elsewhere? “…would cost King County homeowners about $20,000 over five years”. The $50 billion includes ST’s cash savings, grants, inflation over the 25-year period, and other things that don’t directly cost the taxpayer. And why did the plan go up from $15 to $25 billion? Because the public demanded it! The vast majority of feedback and polling to ST was to go big.

      “the budget in May rose to $54 billion, to speed things up and placate those cities wanting more.”

      That was from cost savings and the expanding economy, not additional taxes. Think about it slowly. The legislature capped the tax rate. ST is using the maximum tax rate. The only way to collect more taxes is to extend the program longer. It didn’t extend the program beyond the 25-year period. So therefore it isn’t making the tax burden more onerous. The $4 billion increase comes from other things.

      1. Well, Mike, according to The Seattle Times, proposed expansion of the Convention Center, in addition to putting an end to DSTT years before it’s necessary, will cost $1.6 billion. Which would make up more than a quarter of $4 billion above.

        Whatever you think about joint operations, 1.6 billion dollars isn’t bus-change.


      2. And, that increase of several $billion was because people asked for it.

  7. Oran, I wish my screen had been able to bring up that fantastic video. Whose picture quality truly conveyed what those trains and tracks really looked like when I started riding “L” and North Shore at age 5 in Chicago in 1950.

    Fine machinery, Mall-free countryside- all coming to the badly-maintained end of a very hard working life. Good thing BART’s still getting repaired! But do recall personally that ever fewer people any longer wanted to live in those country towns in same condition as the trains they no longer felt like riding either.

    The conspiracy- the law said that, not me!- had a lot of accomplices. Like the standing un-air conditioned North Shore loads of sailors headed for Great Lakes Naval Training Station. Maybe footage has been conspiratorially suppressed, but the most ardent pro-transit documentary has never shown me a single intersection in California blocked by pro-rail protestors. Or historic preservationists.

    Because what nobody pro-transit remembers, let alone ever heard of, is that to the average kid getting off the troop-ship, a car was the world’s most power symbol of liberation. Whose memory has for decades hardened many a greying committee-chairing legislative head. Meaning, like Roger Rabbit’s Red-Car co-passengers used to put it, we’ve got a tough act to follow.

    That old developer with glasses carries strong passing hint at counter-attack. Maybe our best bet is some working family- priced development with tracks coming out of it. Real estate history suggests Kemper Freeman’s blood-line could have enough catenary over it to make him our first competitor.


  8. Will Seattle’s transit ever improve to the point where “frequent service” is considered to be every 10 minutes or less rather than every 15 minutes or less?

    1. Yes but it happens slowly. We’ve just gotten to the 15-minute standard with Prop 1, and even now there are substantial gaps such as the evening/Sunday 11, 8, and 75. But 10 minutes has made it into some Metro and SDOT proposals, such as Madison BRT, the failed 2/3/4/13 consolidation in 2012, etc. So it will keep coming back. But at first it will only be one or two routes, then it will gradually spread over time.

    2. It is the city’s 10-year vision to “Provide 72% of Seattle residents with 10-minute all-day transit service within a 10-minute walk of their homes”.


      The city has already funded service increases to 12-minute service. As the frequent transit network gets more intensive service, the definition and expectations will change.

      1. Currently, the 12-minute service network includes just a few routes, and only Monday-Saturday during the daytime. Basically, C, D, E, 44, 48, 49, and Link, So, we’ve definitely got a way to go in this regard, especially if all-day includes evenings and Sundays. There are still a fair number of core routes in the middle of the city that still have just 30-minute frequency on Sundays, including the 2, 3/4 (combined), 8, and others.

    3. I was just in Vancouver, the trolleys on the main streets run every 10 minutes on sunday… wow

  9. Hi. My first time commenting here.

    Just wanted to share that sometime in the past couple of weeks I was at the Mountlake Trasit Center and giddy to see a survey crew on 236th right where I remembered the video animations showing where ST2 brings light rail into the transit center.

  10. Hello from Chicago! I love the fact that anywhere I want to go can be by rail – as long as I’m willing to walk a few blocks, I can completely avoid having to take a bus. I can even look down on the El from the airbnb I’m staying at in one of the South Loop towers and it’s awesome.

    1. That explains why more people take the bus than take the train: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Transit_Authority. Here is a map of the “El”, which as fantastic as it is, does not allow one to go “anywhere”:https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=12phHnQP7CcPH07FaT9p1YyaNvCE&hl=en_US

      Every time I think of the Chicago Transit Authority I can’t help but think of the band:

      Waiting for the break of day
      Searching for something to say …

      Great city, great band and yes, great transit system (including the buses).

      1. And the Ventra card sounds so vastly better than anything anyone else is doing right now.

      2. I said anywhere *I* wanted to go, which actually includes the sIngle family house suburbs – yay for the Blue Line.

        And I’m not surprised that half of CTA’s riders take the bus because they have to – its usually the fastest way to an el station if you don’t want to walk, although today there was heavy traffic and i beat the bus to the station. Having a dedicated right of way (the sidewalk) kept me out of congestion the three blocks to the station… Unfortunately, the bus didn’t have that and took longer.

        I also like the investments they’ve made in bicycle infrastructure. Lots of dedicated right of way, cycle tracks, etc. Id do a lot more riding if i lived here – the flatness of the city helps a lot too.

  11. Thanks a lot for ruining my chances for even being a liberal Republican, Glenn. Or even a Monarchist, since Louis XVI was a Communist according to Paul N. Weyrich, the publisher of The New Electric Railway Journal.

    The greatest transit periodical in history. Based largely on the accurate observation that everything about the US automobile world was the result of the largest and most wasteful socialist program in History. For most uses, also, wheel-reinvented heavy rail transit systems were expensive un-maintainable overkill.

    He also calculated that real free enterprise would give us a fifty-fifty mode split between transit and cars. An economy even more despised by the average billionaire than it would’ve been by that Maoist Louis XIV.

    But most shameful conspiratorial secret is an article on the DSTT, co-authored by another union member and me, who am responsible for every piece of misinformation, and all the consequences to anybody in the transit world who read it.

    Spring 1993 issue. Some Day Those Fools Will Realize that There Are Things Mankind Was Never Meant to Know! Thunder, lightning, Elsa Lanchester, wolf-howl, credits. In the World of Twitter, I’m now down as a famous right-wing author.

    If Social Media had existed in 1993, I would have been arrested like all those other terrorists who tell the police everything they’re going to do.


    1. In the documentary above, you will notice that there were a lot of open low level plstfotms with exposed third rail. In those days it was simply understood that you don’t step on something that is energized at 600 volts.

      Even TNERJ understood you couldn’t operate that way any more.

      The thing I remember about their opinion on heavy rail systems, but Los Angeles in particular, was the fact LA was proposing a system to use four different incompatible types of rail transit. Two of those didn’t happen. I think they were automated airport people mover type trains on one line and a monorail on another.

      10 years later, a German acquaintance asked me the same thing about the Portland streetcar: why would you intentionally build complete incompatibility when you really don’t have to?

      1. The automated airport people mover is probably still going to get built in LA (at the airport, natch).

        The Portland situation is funny; the Streetcar can actually run on MAX tracks but not vice versa.

  12. Neither really understand the predicament Seattle tunnel Bertha, scheduled to restart and/yet forecast disaster to prevent. That worst case scenario, another transit design work my own most sincere participation eventually becomes commonplace. There is no alternative but better transit toward the end to cross-county commuting, oh so modern we people/motorist prefer like it won’t produce our worse disaster.

    You don’t get it, professionals supposedly understand transportation systems, either bureaucratic entitlement or personal interest corruption driving costs up, denying alternative designs as ‘permissably’ more productive yet unconsidered.
    Automobile-related business interests faith in this completely self-driving car robocar IDEA isn’t an insult to the intellect, the majority anyway.

    1. Automobile-related business interest faith in self-driving car robocar IDEAS
      indeed an insult to the majority intellects anyway, as if it ever weren’t, dolls.

      1. Automobile-related business interest faith in self-driving
        autonomous “Robocar” schemes insult actual engineering
        perspectives, your butt-holeness. Delicious!

  13. Automobile-related business interest faith in self-driving Autonomous Robocar
    schemes insult actual engineering perspectives, currently inhabiting hillside Sealth.
    Strengthen building foundations now!

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