55 Replies to “Podcast #24: World’s Smallest Violin”

  1. What can we the Seattle Transit Blog’s participants do, including how much money to contribute, so that we never again have to look at an ad in the precise format of a posting? I only hope nobody at KC Metro risk division is on the line to the sponsor right now!

    Only exception could be an old New York Subways “Miss Turnstiles” poster, with that cute model with freckles, I think her name is Olivia, except new crown title of “Miss Proof of Payment!” The way she looks at the camera says: “Be sure to tap, just not too many times!” Doesn’t it?


  2. Yay, my questions made it to the mailbag. A couple of follow-ups, if you please.

    – On the 41, I meant “is the 41 riding in the tunnel full-time because that’s what the downtown-to-Northgate service will look like when Northgate Link opens, always in the tunnel?” I miss the 6th / Atlantic stop, super convenient for after baseball games.

    – On political investment in making bus-based transit better: First off, that’s fair, I suppose I haven’t given SDOT their full due in how they’ve handled improvements. But what I also did was look at things like Madison and Roosevelt BRTs. The grand vision feels to me to have been watered down a great deal. And, as you said, there seems to be minimal appetite for changing road lane use from general purpose to transit-only, especially outside of the downtown/SLU middle. (Like the “RapidRide 40” corridor that will still be in mixed traffic for most of its run akin to what the RapidRide D is today.)

    And it just seems that if you live in a place like the CD or Crown Hill or Lake City or Georgetown that will not see a rail station anywhere from now to 2040 to forever, bus-based transit is all you have and there’s not the focus on improving it as much as there is on “must build the rails.” Or maybe there is and it isn’t as loudly advertised…I’d love for it to be a case of me having blinders.

    1. I am right there with you. the promise of future rail transit in a handful of areas does nothing to those of us whose peak commute times continue to increase because SDOT or the mayor is too chicken to assign space to its most efficient use.

      1. As well they should be. Proposals to give exclusive use of traffic lanes to transit were floated nearly 100 years ago (during the 1920s). During the 1970s, San Francisco built a raised reservation on part of line N-Judah. The resulting public outcry killed plans for similar reservations elsewhere, and turned that city’s much-touted “transit first” policy into an empty slogan.

        Consider the long-standing public-opinion “disconnect” between freeways and transit. Opposition to freeways (remarkably success in Seattle, Vancouver BC, Portland, San Francisco – and yes, even Los Angeles) does not automatically generate support for transit improvements. Portland advocates worked for five years following cancellation of the Mount Hood Freeway to build local support for alternative use of the funds: the Banfield Transitway project, which included the first light-rail line.

        I have lived long enough to see traffic congestion slowly choke the life out of surface transit in far too many places; I’ve seen this “even” in Japan. I know from professional experience what transit consumers want most: reliability, as in schedule adherence. One would think that the choice is clear: provide preferential lanes, reserved lanes and signal priority for surface transit. But some local residents and business interests give only lukewarm support to such ideas. Others are opposed, and tenaciously. There’s more: some people believe that high-cost solutions (e.g. fully-separated alignments for transit) are better than anything that might impinge upon the supply of traffic-lane space – or curbside parking – for autos. Even if the latter costs less – or “much less.” I doubt that this conundrum will be resolved during “my” lifetime.

  3. It’s not just the Convention Center that’s kicking buses out of the tunnel. In 2019 ST will install a non-revenue turn track at Convention Place, and for some reason it’s incompatible with operating buses in the tunnel. We asked ST to redesign the turn track because apparently it’s incompatible with a center platform too but ST wasn’t interested. So the buses were going to have to leave the tunnel in three years even without the Convention Center deal. The Convention Center just accelerates it a year or two maybe.

    However, I think ST said that in ST3 it will completely redesign International District Station into a transfer station for both tunnels, and that project could include retrofitting a center platform for the existing lines. I don’t know whether that supercedes the turn track or how it relates to it.

    You can take coffee on the bus. Metro allows drinks as long as they’re covered.

    1. Mike, we should give you a slot at the end of the recording to correct all of our errors, like “stat boy” on “Pardon the Interruption”

    2. Buses will get kicked out of the tunnel because their presence constrains rail capacity. This is already apparent during peak hours, and will probably reach unacceptable levels sooner than later.

      The fundamental problem is that two different safety standards are applied to rail and road vehicles. Very simply, road vehicles operate beyond the “safety limit.” In other words, the spacing between vehicles may be less than the “safe stopping distance” from the maximum permitted speed. But, with (very) few exceptions, rail transit vehicles are not permitted to operate beyond the “safety limit” – with respect to other rail vehicles, or road vehicles that happen to share the same alignment.

      In the DSTT, Link trains are not permitted to enter stations if any buses (traveling in the same direction) are present. The “vice versa” also applies: buses are not permitted to enter stations if a train is present. This makes sense – a four-car train would occupy the entire platform length. (I believe this also applies to each intermediate tunnel segment, but am not certain.)

      Ever been aboard a Link train, stopped between stations, and heard the canned explanation that the “delay” is because of “traffic”? Well, “the voice” isn’t talking about “cross traffic,” as at street intersections.

      The capacity constraint resulting from the current shared operation could – in theory – be mitigated given approval to operate Link trains beyond the “safety limit.” Good luck with that.

  4. Reading the commercial link on the STB-sponsored ad, I did lighten up on the whole thing. That line of national symbols are really amazing. Would make a great “wrap” for a LINK train, wouldn’t it? Just not on the windows.

    Because the first train out of UW really did mark the beginning an era of both transit and regional life where any rush hour train will likely carry passengers who speak more than one of them. In addition to English. I think that a good many first line transit people in LA and San Diego have picked up Spanish.

    Have read that learning multiple languages improves intelligence. Good indication is how vocal resistance to learning them has opposite effect. Would have more sympathy for English-only demands if legislative language, or its users, could pass a fourth grade grammar test.

    But above all, I take back worry about KC Metro buying a policy from them. I hope the ink’s already dry. Because in addition to handling all our passenger assistance translation, and training our first line operating people, I think this firm’s general courtroom style will result in most claims against transit settled swiftly out of court.

    Still willing to contribute to STB so it doesn’t need any ads except for Miss Proof of Payment, which really does have transit-related roots. But other than that…I hope Mr. Khan got this one for free.


  5. Re: Additional extensions in ST3 (Ballard/UW, etc.)

    We were told directly by a reliable source that additional funding could mean extensions of lines.

    We were asked not to refer to that source, so I won’t but the question does lead to a fork in the road.

    a). They were lying to us to get us to shut up.
    b) They were telling the truth and ia boatload of federal funding (or in an odd other world, state funding) could mean additional expansion.

    I’m inclined to think it’s B. Based on both the spurce and the flexibilty of the ST measures outside of the funding/funding sources.

    1. My understanding – additional funding means 1) faster construction of existing lines, 2) ensure construction of conditional projects, which are generally extra stations rather than extensions, and 3) faster paying off of bonds to open up funding for the next package. Also might make room for some gold-plating of existing projects (e.g. tunnels under West Seattle Junction or Ballard)

      So additional funding will mean more expansion, but indirectly. Martin & Frank’s opinion is simply that the STB will want to go back to the voters for any additional expansions to ensure they have the proper mandate. The issues isn’t financial, it’s political.

      If we do get a boatload of Federal money, that simply means a “ST4” vote will be in say, 2024 rather than 2030

    2. ST3 has some “provisional” projects that can can go ahead without further ado if additional money is found during the 25-year period. `However, those are few and small. The 99 station in Everett is provisonal. I don’t remember if Boeing Access Road station is. And ST has wide latitude to define station amenities and access improvements, so a pedestrian bridge or a bus transfer station on the street can be considered part of the station. But it’s unclear whether ST can fund things beyond that, such as a Ballard-UW extension, an Everett Station-Everett CC extension, or a Tacoma Dome-Tacoma Mall extension. Kyle says yes, I think some ST boardmembers or staff in board meetings said they didn’t think so. It’s a legal issue that comes down to the legislative restrictions on ST. Seattle Subway tried to get ST to put several provisional lines into ST3 so there’d be no question or hesitation on them, but ST didn’t think it was a good idea. I don’t fully remember the reason, maybe that some of the public would perceive them as promises and disparage ST if they weren’t done. But another vote is not the end of the world, especially if it’s a much smaller vote. A 3.1 in the mid 2020s could pass and perhaps even improve the chances for ST4, because it would show ST is willing to go small when it finds some extra money rather than always being a big hog because bureaucratic cancer. A vote after 2023 would be when Lynnwood and Overlake are open and presumably popular, and a year later ST3 Federal Way opens.

      1. 2024 may also be a good opportunity to adjust the existing ST3 project scopes, such as putting a kibosh on the Pain diversion & offer Snohomish something better?

      2. Let’s just say the Snohomish County political trust is not going to back Sound Transit without light rail to Paine Field…

        So unless some of you want to run for Snohomish County political office or run for Sound Transit Board, sorry.

        Hey, I got my misgivings about ST3. But it’s the best option for more high capacity transit left.

      3. In ten years Snohomish and Issaquah may have different priorities. But that may be just wishful thinking. There may be different people on the ST board by then.

  6. Yes, please! Some sort of transit really should be part of Mt. Rainier National Park.

    I know about the park service shuttle from Ashford Gate to Paradise, but that doesn’t answer “How the dickens do you get to Ashford Gate to take this bus?”

    That huge parking lot at Sunrise is an affront to the natural beauty of what National Parks are supposed to be about.

    1. +1. In Vanvouver I’ve taken a bus to Whistler. In Switzerland I’m told there’s transit to the mountains and recreation areas. It probably hasn’t happened here because “everybody drives”. But really, why shouldn’t a backpacker be able to take transit from a Seattle youth hostel to the recreation areas. When I was in the UK with a friend from Belgium and two Britrailpasses, we went to Inverness tor a few days and then he went to Kyle of Lochalch and camped there somewhere.

    2. TriMet is launching bus service to Multnomah Falls, which has a parking lot that is always full.

      Service to Paradise seems like the best option for parks in the region – other nat’l parks are too remote or don’t seem regularly crowded to me.

      1. Nit: Joint effort of TriMet, Oregon State Parks, Oregon Department of Transportation and National Forest Service.

      2. Also worth noting Enviroissues is part of this effort. We up here in the Puget Sound know Enviroissues staff have been incredibly helpful with staffing ST3 outreach efforts ;-).

        But I do have a goal next year of riding that route.

  7. I’m a little disappointed with some of your comments (starting at 11:00 in the podcast) regarding suburban growth patterns (and your apparent negative attitude towards the suburbs). There are pros and cons to both lifestyle choices and very logical/practical reasons for choosing one over the other. As per this blog’s About statement, a blog that claims to cover the transit issues of the entire Puget Sound region needs to remember that its not just about the city (e.g. Seattle). Your endorsement of ST3 seems very pro-city\urban with little regard to the great number of suburban population which will be getting shafted in ST3 for the next quarter century.

    1. Shafted? The ST3 projects are what the suburbs said repeatedly are their highest priorities. The program was raised from 15 years to 25 years mainly because of three thing: Seattle’s demand for more lines, Snohomish’s demand for the Everett extension and Paine Field detour, and the regional need for a second downtown tunnel to support the growing population. What alternative do you think would serve the suburbs better? Saying the suburbs are shafted requires a definition of what a non-shafting network would be.

      Also, there is a reason behind the “negative attitude”. Low-density development patterns require more energy to heat and cool and hydrate, require more public subsidies (long sewer lines and more roads), and have a larger impact on climate change and the earth’s resources. Those are negative externalities: suburbanites enjoy the benefits while Seattlites subsidize them with taxes. I grew up in the suburbs and still have ties there so I’m more positive and compromising on them than some others might be. We have some ideas on how the suburbs could make some incremental changes to lessen these externalities and even lessen suburbanites’ annoyances — without turning them into inner-city areas — whenever anybody wants to listen.

    2. “john:”

      Deciding where to live – “city” or “suburbs” – involves much more than implied by the phrase “lifestyle choice.” For many people, the salient issue is affordability, which reflects supply and demand.

      Consider demand. Just how many people would choose to live in Seattle “if” 1.) the city could accommodate all who wanted to live there, and 2.) doing so would not change any of Seattle’s current characteristics? 1 million? 2 million? Who knows? (An “educated guess” for San Francisco: about 2 million – without considering potential migration from other states.) But a majority of Seattle residents would not accept large-scale replacement of existing single-family homes with apartments and condos. (I grew up in L.A., and watched this take place in parts of the city from the early ’70s.) The suburbs will therefore receive the majority of the region’s population growth. One hopes that current suburbanites will want to listen to ideas, alluded to by Mike Orr, to reduce negative externalities and mitigate “annoyances” without creating an outer swath of “inner-city” areas.

  8. Re: If Martin or Frank were dictators of STB & were given a bunch of extra money, what would you do:

    You said that you wouldn’t be in support of building Ballard-UW because then Ballard would have “too many” stations. Would you be in support of building Ballard-UW and then truncating the SLU/Uptown line at Smith Cove? That still gets Seattle a 2nd downtown tunnel and service to SLU without overbuilding service to Ballard?

    Then the three Seattle lines would be:
    Everett-West Seattle
    Tacoma-Smith Cove

    1. >>>Ballard would have “too many” stations

      I didnt understand that remark. Wouldnt Ballard have but one station? Sure, Ballardites would be able to travel two ways rather than one but that does not increase the number of stations.

      The already served area that would receive an extra station would be the UD – if they put a new station near I5 eight blocks over from the Brooklyn station.

      The UD is about to upzone to high rises. It is the only area in North Seattle with the current and projected future population density to justify an extra station.

      I see the line being more about the UD than about Ballard.

      1. Agree, but I think “too many” stations is really shorthand for too much investment for a particular neighborhood. If it’s a stations serving two distinct lines, one elevated & one underground, it’s effectively the expense of building two stations.

        I’m more excited by the idea of a (ST4?) Ballard-UW line that continues on to the East side towards Kirkland/Bellevue – that would generate far more trip pairs. Having two lines from Ballard that both go downtown would be a duplicative investment.

        And good point about U District going to growth far more than Ballard in the future. I’d imagine we’ll get a UW-Bellevue connection over/under Lake Washington before Ballard-UW, as much as that will upset Seattle-centric urbanists.

      2. Think corridors. The argument is that Ballard would have two corridors while Lake City and Greenwood/Aurora have zero. It was especially potent when the West Seattle line was uncertain. People think it’s logical that every quarter of the city should have high-capacity transit, so two lines in the northwest quarter and zero in the southwest quarter seemed excessive to some. (Although there are countervailing factors: Ballard has more density and more willingness to use transit, and the entire 45th corridor is like that.)

      3. “Having two lines from Ballard that both go downtown would be a duplicative investment.”

        There was no proposal for that, unless you mean Ballard Link and the Ballard-Fremont-Westlake streetcar. But those are different levels of service and partly different transit markets: one serves Fremont and SLU while the other doesn’t. (This was clearer in the earlier proposals when the Link line did not swerve through SLU.)

        The Link proposals were/are for a Ballard-downtown line and a Ballard-UW line. Beyond that there opinions differ on whether they should be combined into one line, or whether the Ballard line should continue north to eventually Greenwood/Northgate/Lake City, or whether the Ballard-UW line should cross the lake to Kirkland or Redmond. But the two corrdors — Ballard-downtown and Ballard-UW — are common to all of them.

      4. >>Having two lines from Ballard that both go downtown would be a duplicative investment.

        I see. The UD-Ballard line would necessitate another route downtown? This is the part I was missing.

        If so, the downtown connection should be on the other end rather than Ballard. It should wiggle down from Brooklyn and have a stop in Eastlake or North Capital Hill before destinations south.

        I like your trans-lake proposal just fine. It is more realistic within the ST voting frame work. I am skeptical the Eastside stops would ever be more than park and rides. Those guys hate density and leaving car culture more than North End/Queen Anne NIMBYs. But if it would get the Eastside vote for an ST4 then I am 100% for it (even if I am dead before the vote).

      5. “The UD-Ballard line would necessitate another route downtown? This is the part I was missing.”

        I don’t think anyone is advocating for a third north-south segment. ST has chosen Northgate-UW-downtown and Ballard-downtown. Some people think Ballard-downtown should be replaced by a Ballard-UW line, which would also serve Ballard-UW-downtown trips competitively. (The reverse is not true: UW-Ballard-downtown would be longest due to the angles and locations.) ST’s own study showed that a Ballard-UW tunnel would both cost less and have more ridership than the Ballard-downtown line. But ST is afraid it would overload the UW-downtown segment, and it has been neglectful in designing UW Station for a future transfer platform or spur. There’s also the McGinn’s and Murray’s vision of west side north-south service (Ballard to downtown and West Seattle), the belief that a lot of people want to go directly to downtown, and the need for a second downtown tunnel to meet the rising population demand (both for long-distance trips and for circulation between SLU and Pioneer Square). All these factors and McGinn’s and Murray’s position on the ST board led to the current proposal.

    2. I don’t think there is ever going to be a practical problem with “too much” service but I would prefer to spread the benefits out a little more evenly.

      I’d support pretty much any permutation of what I consider to be good projects. However, the Ballard/UW plus West Seattle combination is likely to be considerably more expensive than what is actually in ST3, particulary if coupled with a crossing to Redmond. So my opportunity to vote on such a package implies either new legislation or a 30+ yr timeline.

      1. Ah, I meant a Ballard spur that goes downtown, funded by truncating the SLU extension at Smith Cove, rather than going all the way to Ballard. So we would still get a 2nd tunnel, but I now see it wouldn’t address the UW-Westlake capacity issues Mike references.

        I was suggesting that Ballard-UW would get the East Link line, but I guess ST is projecting that East Link will need to run all the way to Lynnwood to give Lynnwood enough capacity? A Ballard-UW-Eastside would solve this problem by creating an entire new line, but as you point out ST3 simply doesn’t have the funding capacity to include a 2nd Lake Washington project.

      2. ST’s original operating plan had East Link trains going to Lynnwood peak hours and Northgate off-peak. Later it extended all trains to Lynnwood full time believing the capacity would be needed.

        I’m skeptical of a second Lake Washington crossing 520 is where the people aren’t, a new bridge or tunnel would be extremely expensive, and ST’s study showed few riders. Conceptually I think it would be game-changer to open a direct corridor between the northern Eastside and northwest Seattle. That would be much faster than taking a bus or even driving, as anyone who has driven from Montlake to I-5 to the 45th exit to Ballard or Fremont in traffic can attest.

      3. This editor keeps dropping words. I’m skeptical of a second Lake Washington crossing because it would be extremely expensive. But a direct line from Ballard to Kirkland or maybe Redmond would tie together the northern Eastside and northwest Seattle in a way that’s never been feasable before and create new trip patterns.

  9. Seattle transit aficionados overwhelmingly desire more transit in city than ST can provide.

    State law prevents Seattle from building lines independent of ST.

    Why not take a page out of Eyman’s book? Why not an initiative coinciding with the 2020 Presidential election allowing Seattle to do its own lines?

    Would the rest of the state care if Seattle wanted to tax itself more?

    1. I think SDOT & Seattle voters are better off focusing on improving the bus infrastructure within Seattle, especially along corridors not served by ST. A full implementation of the HCT bus corridors in the long term plan would do more to improve transit within Seattle than another rail line.

    2. After 2016 we’ll have to start thinking about 2020. That may include investing in Metro’s long-range plan, a small HCT project (e.g., the Ballard-UW line or “Metro 8” line), accelerating ST’s corridor studies, a gondola, or other things. I don’t know whether an initiative can do what you suggest: there are limits on initiatives’ authority. And it’s definitely not certain that the rest of the state’s voters would allow Seattle to tax itself. Joe says there’s one non-Puget Sound legislator who wants to repeal ST3’s tax authority, because not only do they not want any more taxes, they don’t want anyone else to be able to vote for more taxes either.

      1. “Avgeek Joe:”

        We transit supporters should be wary of opponents like Tim Eyman and Jesse Young – but should not overestimate them, either.

        Tim Eyman floats all sorts of “trial balloons,” but quickly “jumps ship” if he can’t get donations to finance signature gathering. (Some years back, he proposed an initiative to abolish all of the state’s Labor and Industries code, aka Title 296 WAC.) Early in February, Eyman announced I-1421, which would roll back the state motor vehicle excise tax. Early in June – four months later – he announced that he had abandoned I-1421. At the same time, he announced another initiative, I-869. We’ll see if this one is still around come early October.

        Meanwhile, in July, the state Public Disclosure Commission voted to refer a complaint against Eyman to the state Attorney General. This was the second such action within the past year. For Eyman’s dismal record, see “Tim Eyman’s Failure Chart,” https://www.permanentdefense.org/research/failurechart/

        As for Rep. Jesse Young (appointed 2014), he attracted 38 percent of votes cast in the August primary. Challenger Larry Seaquist attracted 37 percent. The low turnout complicates forecasting, but Young’s re-election is not assured.

      2. I would rather we take the view of better to secure our wins than take massive chances.

        A re-vote on ST3 would happen in 2020, if at all.

        By then, it would be a totally new ball game. New Sound Transit Boardmembers, new Sound Transit Staff, new Transportation Choices staff, the list goes on.

        I say if at all because of the credible threats made to take away the authority.

        Some of you folks right now must be wondering, gee why didn’t I support electing transit boards?

  10. Re: diversity. I’m not going to out myself, but I am not the typical commenter – aka white guy with Asperger’s. :).

  11. In regards to diversity of viewpoints: I’m a Millennial woman with a family who doesn’t work in software, and I’m seriously considering writing a Page 2 editorial in favor of ST3 covering the benefits for my demographic. Would publish much closer to the vote, though. So… that’s something!

  12. Re: coffee cart @ the park & ride. Perhaps it isn’t the for profit coffee cart model. What about thinking that the park & ride is like the rest stop on the interstate, where a charity sets up a coffee urn for tips (advertise at the park & ride that you need your own cup w/ lid) and pilots what the demand would be?

    1. I think the best idea is to vend coffee on the transit. Maybe get some voluntary revenue going for these transit agencies on these long-haul routes and reduce the tax burden on taxpayers at the same time…

    2. As the person with the original question, who has been annoyed to the point of internal screaming at the lack of ANYTHING within walking distance of Mountlake Terrace TC, Ash Way TC, and especially Canyon Park TC, ESPECIALLY when I am waiting 20+ minutes in the driving rain or beating sun for a transfer… yes charity coffee please. Have the local sports team fundraise for their tournament. They can make a few bucks!

      Also, to Joe’s point, an actual vending machine at the TC would also do wonders. I know there are ones in Japan that will vend hot drinks in the winter, which sounds perfect. Too bad I already know why they aren’t present (no ‘eyes on the streets’, teenage punks destroy them and spew garbage everywhere).

      Lastly I guess I have to agree with Frank – I wish all P&Rs would die in a fire. I hate everything about them, even as I am forced to use them. They are not the best way to induce more people to use and enjoy transit in this city.

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