14 Replies to “Podcast #22: Useful Econometrics”

  1. FYI The bus from Lynnwood to Seattle runs every 30 minutes on Sundays, not every hour as was stated in the blog.

    1. They were talking about a Lynnwood neighborhood to Lynnwood TC. CT route 116 is indeed hourly on Sundays ( a vast improvement over a year ago, to be sure).

  2. Maybe Sound Transit will move more aggressively on charging for parking if ST3 passes in November and they don’t have to worry about those suburban voters.

    1. I think some people on the ST board and staff would like to, but it’s hard to say how that sentiment will survive the light of day.

  3. Some of us are having a running disagreement about the all-3-car-trains-all-the-time possibilities in the near term.

    My dream is to have all-3-car-trains-all-the-time from the day Angle Lake Station opens until some time at least a month later when the data is in to support running only 2-car trains for long stretches of the day.

    With a 62-car-fleet and a 15% spare ratio for maintenance, 52 cars is the max that could be run at one time. It might be even lower for reasons ST hasn’t spelled out. That’s enough to run 17 3-car trains at peak, if they don’t need a standby train.

    ST’s announced plan is to go from 17 to 19 peak trains when trains start going to Angle Lake Station. But, really, the loop will grow by six minutes, not twelvish, unless they are expecting significantly worse congestion in the downtown tunnel. But as Lindblom’s article talked about earlier this week, they’re actually planning for improved DSTT operations. That 19th train might just represent the most trains that could fit, allowing for seven peak-only 3-car trains.

    Various people, given the choice between shifting from 6-minute-headway with 18 or 19 trains to 6-7 minute headway with 17 3-car trains, are unwilling to budge on that 6-minute perfection, even if they want 3-car trains all day.

    I remain convinced that if riders got used to all 3-car trains, especially with doorway markings on the ground at stations and no 550 bus bay in the way after Metro’s September service change, the decreased dwell time would make the vast majority of train and bus riders in the tunnel happier, and people would choose roomier trains coming every 6-8 minutes over tight, difficult-to-get-your-bicycle-or-wheelchair-on trains coming every 5-8-or-more minutes.

    The improved smoothness would easily decrease total wait+travel time. Do it long enough to see how many riders will be induced by the capacity, and whether anyone will complain about having to wait an average of 15 seconds longer for the next train.

    1. New York City subway operates with only 2% spares:
      https://www.transit.dot.gov/ntd/transit-agency-profiles/mta-new-york-city-transit-nyct

      In the meantime, Chicago Transit Authority runs closer to 19% spares:
      https://www.transit.dot.gov/ntd/transit-agency-profiles/chicago-transit-authority-cta

      as does BART:
      https://www.transit.dot.gov/ntd/transit-agency-profiles/san-francisco-bay-area-rapid-transit-district-bart

      Phoenix runs closer to 45%:
      https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/90209.pdf

      Maybe it would be good to find out what the driving force is behind that 15% and see if that can be reduced at all. Considering that peak period is only needed a few hours a day, perhaps there is some way of freeing up a few more cars during those peak hours?

      At the same time, it appear that a large number of agencies require at least 15% spares, and most of them usually more, so I wouldn’t be too optimistic about getting more equipment that way.

  4. Basic income (37:03). Frank: “A lot of these are symptoms of the larger issue of issue of income stagnation. The fact that median incomes haven’t gone up in the last fifteen years actually causes a lot of problems. There’s a whole school of thought, it has actually gotten a lot of attention recently, the idea of a guaranteed minimum income, that the government would cut a check for everyone every year, kind of like what they do in Alaska. Basically that there’s not going to be many jobs in the future because robots are going to take over the jobs, we’ll all be very rich so we can just give everybody a check. I kind of wonder if this is ultimately going to be the solution to all this [poor people’s transit fares and highway tolls[.” Martin (joking): “If nobody has a job there’s not going to be congestion anymore.” Frank: “If people are getting a check then they can use it to pay for a train or not. You seem skeptical.” Martin (joking again), “A basic income so that we can toll our highways.” Frank: “Yes, I think a basic income unlocks a lot of possibilities for charging money for things… We;’re not reaching into your pocket to steal your money, we’re giving you the choice of how you want to spend this money. Then we can do all sorts of things like we can charge for health care or whatever.” Martin: “I think people are going to bitch about money regardless. I think [basic income] is an interesting idea and if it’s workable I think it would be great. I think people tend to internalize these things and start to count on them and take them for granted, and all of a sudden that’s the basic thing I need to live,. if you mess with my basic income then you’re sending me to starvation. So I don’t think that will help the particular cause of charging for parking.” Frank: “This [basic income] is going to be a bigger issue.” Martin: “Many Seattlites get an increadible subsidy from Seattle by being able to store their car for free on the public right of way, so when there’s a threat of taking it away their response is, ‘Oh well, that wasn’t really mine in the first place’, that becomes your property, that little patch in the front of your house, in the same way that people would be entitled to this basic income… and it’s now yours, and if the government tries to take it away that’s confiscation .”

    You’re mixing two different models. The Alaska Permanent Fund is not basic income, it’s a dividend. Alaskans own the oil so they get a dividend of its market value. BC’s carbon tax is like that, the public owns the right to clean air and climate security, so the tax polluters pay is refunded to the public. Washington’s carbon-tax initiative is similar except the money goes to displace part of the sales tax (so for the public it’s not really spending money but an indirect benefit). Other countries have sovereign-wealth funds, which in theory are savings for the future (for a recession, infrastructure, social benefits, etc).

    Basic minimum income is the idea that everyone gets a check based on average expenses, not resource-wealth. The check is for your minimum living expenses: shelter, food, utilities, etc — similar to a minimum wage but not tied to employment. This would replace benefits for the poor but it would be for everybody. In theory this would give everyone basic security, and they would then get a job if they wanted more money or there were social pressure to do so, or they could start their own business and have a fallback in case it fails. It depends on what the level is, whether it would cover all necessities or not. Seattle’s rents are so high that you’d need $65,000 a year to cover it with the recommended “third of your income”, but it’s hard to imagine basic income being so high, especailly since housing costs are vastly different in other parts of the country. I don’t know of any country that has basic income. Switzerland had a referendum on it this year and it failed. But I still think it’s a good idea. However, it’s not going to pay for parking. It will be used up by housing, food, utilities, and medical care, and it may not even fully cover that. So there won’t be extra for parking or transit fares.

    There is a third model. My current favorite book is, “The Nordic Theory of Everything: in Search of a Better Life” by Any Partanen. It has been noted that Sandinavians and Finns have the highest quality of life, or “personal security”, and the best opportunity to better themselves regardless of how rich their parents are. Partanen is a Finn who moved to the US and wrote about it from a Finnish perspective: how their high social benefits and free education are good for everyone, even the rich who pay the most taxes. Or as some say, “If you want to live the American Dream in the 21st century, move to Finland,” This is another way to get to a similar result as basic income, a more proven way.

    1. There’s so much more I could say about this.

      Financial insecurity is the root cause of a lot of our social problems: crime, homelessness, addiction, school dropouts. Other industrialized countries have these but not nearly as much. There has been much comment about the rise of violence and single parents in black neighborhoods in the 1960s, with conservatives saying they should get married and rediscover morals. But the problem was the lack of employment and low-wage jobs, which causes stress throughout people’s lives, and the violence and gangs and teen parents are symptoms of that stress. Now since the 00’s the same loss of jobs is happening in the white working class and lower middle class, and lo and behold the same kinds of problems are happening there. Partanen says Finland had similar problems e.g.. with its education gap, but it found that effective programs such as free universal education solved that problem, and the national education level went from similar to the US to among the top in the world.

      Another factor is how expensive things are in the US. We pay twice as much for healthcare and cable TV/Internet as the rest of the industrialized world. That’s because of middlemen extracting rents, and they’re for-profit companies. We put our healthcare and utilities in the hands of for-profit companies, and then wonder why they cost so much. These would affect social benefits and basic income too unless we also tackle the problem of middlemen and monopolies. (Which I’m told are not “monopolies” if it’s more than one company, but something like polysopy. Or we can just call it oligarchy and bought politicians.)

  5. I just want to say that it’s a good thing that crowding is now one of the top complaints about Link. Of all the problems one could be complaining about, the fact that it’s basically more popular than expected is a pretty good one.

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