64 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Driverless Vehicles Require Sharing and Transit”

  1. How friendly do you want your bus driver to be? Do you expect her to say hi and bye to you, and if she doesn’t, she is being rude? Personally, I don’t expect any interaction, and am not offended if they don’t talk to me. I view it sort of like a ticket taker at a movie theater. Nobody really expects to have a conversation with the person who is ripping your ticket in half. Not even a hi or bye. Now Nordstrom, yes, that’s something else entirely. We expect them to be friendly, outgoing and verbal to us, and if they aren’t, we think they are doing their job poorly. So where should the bus driver fall on that spectrum of customer service? Is a faint, Mona Lisa smile enough for you? Or, like the department store worker, if the bus driver doesn’t greet or talk to you, they are being rude?

  2. Good post and lot’s of food for thought from Lauren. IMHO:
    All this will come to pass, but her timeframe of 15 years for driverless cars being commonplace, or 25 years for near complete transformation is… well… a bit of a Trumpie ™ [statements based on hyperbole and little fact]
    Rail, Freight and Utilities should all be early adopters for the labor savings, and surely carpooling services (including neighborhood ad-hoc shared cars) will all see rapid approval because of the immediate savings from owning fewer cars.
    Lauren requires two provisions for this to happen, which is where I think it breaks down. Government support. Hell, we can’t even get meaningful laws and programs on the books to reverse our spiking CO2 levels for fear of tarnishing the bottom line of oil companies. What’s it going to take for that to happen? High tides flushing out the latest ‘big digs’ of modern day, including our own?
    I’m guessing our grandkids will see this happen, but certainly not me, and probably not my kids either.

    1. Yeah, 2018 seems a bit optimistic when Tesla has had a few Teslas have crashed when driving themselves.

      Safe driving requires an awful lot of subjective opinions.

      “Hmm. That person doesn’t appear to be paying attention and is probably going to walk out into the road in 3 seconds.”

      “That water heater isn’t in that truck very well and will probably fall out soon.”

      Computers are remarkably poor at attempting to determine what will happen in the future based on subjective information.

      1. …however, if humans are really to blame for 90% of the accidents, then who am I to say an occasional hot water heater in my grill is a bad thing?
        Society is full of winners and losers every time there’s a change.

    2. The Bay Area would certainly be concerned about increasing traffic. A fivefold traffic increates isn’t going to happen unless they revive all those old freeway proposals (only a quarter of which were built). But where will the money come from, and what about nimbys and their yards. (And what about the fact that the same people who eschew buses are often nimbys?)

      One approach might be a cap-and-trade system for cars based on road capacity, or some kind of dynamic road-use permits based on congestion. If buses had transit lanes and were exempt from this, it could dramatically change the cost relationship between cars and transit, similar to the effect of gas taxes in other countries. Of course, public acceptance of this would be difficult.

      1. Adding to a bit of this point, we could generate grade separation by cheaper, non physical means. The greater the proportion of autonomous cars, the greater the proportion of cars that will be coded to respect the red bus lane.

    3. >> her timeframe of 15 years for driverless cars being commonplace

      seems pretty realistic to me. I’ve been one of the biggest doubters of automobile automation out there (and have old posts to show that). But I have since changed my mind. It is coming, and will come fairly quickly. All that stands in the way, really, is government reluctance (not the other way around).

      It seems crazy. We have robots that drive better than your average 16 year old, yet we don’t have robots that can put away the dishes. It seems nuts, until you really dig into artificial intelligence. It isn’t what I assumed it was, nor is it anything like what it used to be. Simply put, it is all about big data (which explains why Google is into it). For a long time, artificial intelligence was focused on getting machines to think like humans. To get them to really understand their environment, and react accordingly. But most of these machines don’t work that way. They simply mimic humans. They basically study the tape. Millions and millions of examples of pretty much the same thing, and they know what to do. A car stops because every driver in this situation stopped (when the light turned red), not because they “know” what a red light means. They are just following the herd.

      Which is why they sometimes screw up. A savvy sixteen year old would just keep going if construction forces them onto the opposite side of the road, but an autonomous car just freaks out. It has never seen such a thing, so it just stops. Except that eventually it will see that too. So instead of depending on brilliant programmers trying to mimic the thought processes involved in driving, you simply feed the machine more data. That is a much easier task. (Not that I want to downplay the brilliance that goes into either the programming or the data feed responsible for this).

      >> Rail, Freight and Utilities should all be early adopters for the labor savings,

      Ah, probably not rail. Rail is not labor intensive. Quite the opposite. A couple guys operating a forty car load, and you really don’t care what they are paid. This is the type of automation that is coming, and coming fast. You’ve already seen it.

      Automated checkout lines at the grocery store are quite commonplace now. Except they aren’t fully automated. There is usually one person handling a half dozen or so lines. That is a six-fold reduction in labor costs. Bean counters drool over that sort of thing, and really could care less about improving things any further. Expect to see this type of operation in fast food restaurants very soon. Kiosks and automated cooks, but you will have at least one person making sure everything runs smoothly. It is no different than a modern manufacturing plant (the robots didn’t replace everyone).

      For trucking, this is exactly what they want. The problem is, as of now, they are looking at it as 100% or nothing. You really can’t afford that truck to sit there, in the middle of Arizona, freaking out because a half dozen dead armadillos are in its path (it has never seen such a thing).

      This is where remote control operation comes to the rescue. 99.99% of the time, the truck operates in an automated fashion. But once in a blue moon, the truck freaks out, and comes to a slow stop (with lights flashing). If possible, it pulls over. At the same time, the remote cameras send a signal to a control room, and an operator puts down his book and is thrust into action. Not that different from what a pilot does, really. Except that a pilot only operates one plane, while a remote truck driver could operate dozens of trucks. More likely, you have a dozen operators in charge of thousands of trucks, and most of them are bored each day. I think it is quite likely we will see this very soon, just because there is huge money in it. You’ve made that 90% savings (if not more).

      OK, so you have trucks running around delivering goods without a driver. Then what?

      Well certainly Uber is interested in this thing. Hell, they are one of the main promoters (pay low wages and then replace the workers with machines — if that isn’t the business model of the early 21st century I don’t know what is). Right now, though, government (or at least most governments) regulate taxi-cabs. There really are two issues with Uber: One, they were trying to get away from the regulations that governed wages. Two, they were trying to get around the regulations that governed the number of allowable vehicles.

      It is easy to assume that the two go together, but they don’t. Generally speaking, cities don’t like taxi-cabs endlessly clogging up their streets, waiting for riders. In essence, cities have already dealt with the issue the speaker mentioned. I don’t see this as being any different. In other words, regulators will deal with the issue because they will be forced to deal with the issue. When half the cars downtown are owned by a “car sharing” company, something has to give. At this point, I think folks come around, and deal with it appropriately.

      One of the big things the speaker alluded to, but didn’t discuss, was carpooling. This is something that modern computers do really well. Not that it is simple (it isn’t Facebook) but it is well within the grasp of teams of smart programmers and cheap machines. It isn’t that different than figuring out the fastest way to get from my house to my favorite pub on the other side of town. If you are willing to share the ride, maybe even take a little public transportation, then it can figure out the fastest way. While this isn’t that hard, it is all relatively new. It simply wouldn’t make sense to do forty years ago. This makes it completely different than, say, Uber, which is simply a pizza delivery model for cabs. This is why instant carpooling will catch on, because the technology will make it feasible. Some of it may be publicly subsidized, of course. Fixed route public transportation will have its place, but public transportation that adapts to the needs and desires of the public in real time will play an increasingly important role.

      OK, so now you have trucks operating via a combination of automation and remote control. You have “smart” carpooling, picking up different riders every day (much like an airport service, but better). Uber is thriving, having eliminated its biggest cost (the drivers). What does that mean to transit?

      Well, it means they copy all of that. They copy the trucks, and run the buses a lot more often. They run small buses, since they are cheaper to run. This means that every line is run ever five minutes (it really doesn’t cost much to run a mini-van in the middle of the day if you don’t have to pay the driver). The buses operate like the trucks — autonomous for the most part, but with remote control cameras handling things when times get tough. This covers sticky issues like fare evasion. It also helps with security (the bus driver is no longer part security guard). At worse you become like Walmart, and just don’t care if a certain percentage of your goods are stolen.

      For some areas, it probably means you do away with fixed routes. So the minivan doesn’t run empty through West Magnolia all day long, but picks up people in demand. The areas that have less demand are also the places where parking is trivial.

      Anyway, that’s how I see it. Of course this won’t happen right away. A lot of it will happen in some places, but not others. Most cities can’t pivot that fast and buy a bunch of vehicles to supplement their existing fleet. But some will, and I expect all of these things to be in place (even if not in one place) well before you will be able to take a train to Ballard.

      1. The reason I don’t think automated vehicles will be deployed, in any large scale, in the United States until 2030 come to government inertia and liability. Computers will fail. But Google will be required to spend millions of dollars to pay for a crash caused by them, as opposed to Joe Q Public who is making minimum wage and has minimum liability insurance.

        Also, people will end up baiting these computers. On Nextdoor you have busybodies complaining about people sticking middle fingers next to surveillance cameras in alleys. Now imagine a game of chicken with automated vehicles. Combine that with a “Occupy” attitude and income inequality, and you’ll likely see some revolt over them. Not widespread, but even 1 or 2% of motivated people can muck up the system, and society, pretty badly. The future of automated vehicles will be determined in a place like China, which is heavily state centered. Not in the US.

      2. Yeah, maybe. But don’t discount the value of big money. Uber is testing autonomous cars in Pittsburgh as we speak, and those guys have money. My guess is some cites will allow it, while other cities won’t. One thing to remember is that a lot of cities have universal no fault insurance. In that case Uber is a blessing. Even if they are completely at fault for an accident, it still averages out to their favor.

  3. I took the Sounder Fair Express yesterday. I highly recommend people ride it next Saturday 9/24 and check out the Washington State Fair. It was very convenient, well planned and everything ran smooth. You pay just like any other Sounder train (TVM or ORCA), there are also advance online packages that include discounted train and admission. There are employees from the fair aboard the train selling fair admission and take both cash and card. When the train arrives at Puyallup station, it is met with 5 or 6 Pierce Transit buses for the shuttle direct to the fairground, they travel in unison to the gate (including ‘corking’ the cross streets to stay together). The drop off is right at a special back gate just for Sounder riders and there is zero wait to get in. Takes well under an hour from King Street Station to being inside the fairground. Unfortunately, however yesterday it was highly underutilized (I took the last train to the fair and the last train back), hopefully that had to do with the weather. I really encourage people to go check out the fair, get some scones, see the livestock and exhibits, certainly its more ‘Middle America’ than most of us are used to in Seattle but its a really nice, fun, unique day trip and as I mentioned the train is a really easy and enjoyable way to get there. Plus if people don’t use this special train, it won’t return next year.

    1. Thanks for the report! Good to know that the shuttle buses are a smooth operation; I might go next Saturday.

      I live in Seattle now but grew up in a town of 10,000, and we definitely had a Country Fair that many of my classmates participated in every year. I never really understood it then, but now I see the fair as a live-action cute animals video, with food. (Could use more cats, though.)

    2. I took the 578 ST bus to & from Puyallup to see the fair. I had to walk from the station, but it’s only a few blocks. If you’re going to the fair on a weekday, that’s a pretty good way to go. I saw the quilts & other needle-work, the Hobby Hall, a Nigerian dwarf goat & its kid (the cutest little guy imaginable), and many other things to make me laugh, giggle & gawk. And if Brutus asks me how many scones I had, I’ll answer “Et tu, Brute.”

      1. +1 for your Roman scone count! (or really +2)

        People have been known to get stabby over those things, it is true….

  4. I don’t get an opportunity to ride Link that often, but do they really need to append the word “Station” to the train announcements? It is completely unnecessary in my opinion and I can’t think of any other mature transit system in the US I’ve ridden that does it. Why not just say “Next Stop: Westlake” and be done with it? Also the personified “doors to *my* left” strikes me as bizarre, why not “doors to the right” or “exit on the left” or “exit right.” Was there some reason why they choose to do that?

    1. This has been discussed before.

      Basically, Sound Transit copied Portland.

      When Tri-Met’s light rail system opened, the operators made their own announcements. Thus, they “personified” them with “Doors to My Left” or “Doors to My Right.” Later, Tri-Met installed stop annunciators, and kept the verbiage.

      I think it makes a lot of sense for a train where an operator is present. Sound Transit, apparently did too, and copied it.

      Phoenix uses “exit to left” or “exit to right.” I think this is less clear, because left and right are subjective unless an additional word providing perspective is used.

    2. How else do you define left or right? If a passenger is facing to the rear of the train, everything is reversed for them. You have to say something like left or right to get them to think about that.

    3. I’ve hated the “Station” verbiage ever since Link started. It should just say “WESTLAKE”. Metro’s signs are better.

    4. Why bother with “left” and “right” at all? Why not just have some flashing lights or whatnot on the side of the train where the doors will open? Sometimes less is more. If it’s an ADA thing, then just have the appropriate door beep a few times before it opens.

  5. This was a good presentation on two competing views for how driverless cars will be used in society. My personal view is that the wealthy will end up owning luxury driverless cars (the first model), while the average Joe’s in big cities will mostly use transportation-as-a-service(the second model). Nevertheless, as the talk alluded too, it doesn’t take that many wealthy people subscribing to the first model to drive traffic congestion through the roof, so driverless cars may finally force the issue of congestion pricing, while also increasing the importance for mass transit to have dedicated right-of-ways so it doesn’t get stuck in traffic. Perhaps by 2038, robocars may even increase congestion along I-5 to the point where Link becomes time-competitive with driving (*), all the way from Tacoma to Seattle.

    (*) In theory, driverless cars could use road space more efficiently on the freeway than human-driven cars, but I believe these improvements would be mostly at the margins, and would be unable to keep up with the increased numbers of cars of the road. Especially since all the presentations I’ve seen about robocars tailing each other on the freeway and automated intersections on city streets make a fairy-tale assumption that the robocars have complete control over the road – no manually driven cars, no bikes, not even any pedestrians. Assumptions that in the middle of the big city, will never happen.

    1. There may very likely be a first class service much like the pricey versions of Uber, and that in my opinion is much more preferable for everyone than the wealthy owning their own driverless cars that deadhead around town empty.

    2. I agree completely with the fairy tale notion of bumper to bumper automated cars moving along at the freeway at 60 MPH. That is so far off as to be laughable (might as well talk about flying cars).

      But many of the other improvements aren’t very far away. I’ve been very skeptical about self driving cars for a long time, but it is obvious they are extremely successful. They are probably safer, right now, than the average driver. It isn’t hard to imagine them being commonplace very soon.

      As far as wealthy people clogging up the roads with their vehicles, I think that is unlikely. As much as she sold the idea of a slow slog being suddenly attractive (a justifiable concern) — time is still important. I just got back from visiting some folks in Vallejo. Vallejo is a suburb of San Fransisco, and they have a marvelous ferry you can take into the city. It really is a lot of fun. I could easily see myself riding the thing every morning, and then walking to work. Except that it takes an hour. Even though it is extremely fast and comfortable, an hour is an hour. That is an hour you don’t get to spend with your spouse or kids. Even if you can afford to pay for the extra daycare, do you really want to? I’m sure every rider of that ferry would love to live in San Fransisco if they could, but it is just a lot more expensive. Simply put, there are very few wealthy people who want to sit in a car for an hour each day (and those that do are extremely wealthy and already have chauffeurs).

      I think it is more likely that automated cars become mainstream. Even though the only cars that have automation right now are luxury cars doesn’t mean that automated cars won’t be cheap in the future. Quite the opposite. My understanding is that it is like typical software — very expensive to engineer, but dirt cheap to actually build. This means that creating a fully automated car will be a lot cheaper than adding air bags or even a decent car stereo (something my car lacks).

      Which gets to her main point. Are people willing to share. Ownership has its advantages, and as she rightly pointed out, it is hard for people to think in terms of sharing. Things are definitely trending in that direction (towards sharing) but I’m not sure it is enough. As you said (and she said) there might need to a be nudge from government to make it more commonplace. Whether it is via congestion pricing or a tax on carbon, there needs to be some disincentive to just buying your own car, and having it shuttle stuff around. It won’t take long, with a little pressure, for the ball to roll very fast the other direction. Imagine this:

      “Mom, can’t we just call UberVan to pick me up? Yeah, I know, but no one else has their own car pick them up, it’s like, really embarrassing!”

      “Dude, you drive alone to work. Get with the times, man. It only costs me a couple bucks each morning to ride with a couple other other commuters and I beat you to work every morning. Do the math, bro”.

      “Pick up groceries remotely with a car? Wow, that’s different. Personally I like to shop for my produce. Oh, OK, Cheerios and diapers — I get it. Yeah, I just get that stuff from Amazon”.

      1. When I worked at Harborview there was a woman who commuted from Bremerton. I asked her how she felt about the hour-long ferry ride. She said she loved it; it was her time to relax or sleep. Likewise, in the 80s there was a TV documentary on transportation in the Bay Area, and there was a clip by one woman who commuted by ferry. The reporter asked her if the travel time bothered her, and she said, “Not when I can commute like this!” I’ve never commuted to work by ferry but I’ve taken them a lot of weekends to Vashon and Bainbridge. It’s a pleasant middle of a trip, and it feels like going to a different world where it’s so much quieter in the west Sound. Both of those make the trip worth it.

        However, an autocar is not a ferry. There’s no water view, just other cars and roads and strip malls. No standing on the outside deck. And those four seats facing each other: there’s nowhere else to go while on a ferry you can walk around the whole boat.

      2. >> However, an autocar is not a ferry.

        Agreed. And the number of people who prefer that way of life is actually pretty small. Prices for homes in Vallejo are tiny compared to those in Oakland, let alone San Fransisco. A long commute — no matter how pleasant — is still a long commute. Oh, and the Vallejo ferry serves beer! I’m sure the people who like it, really like it (they serve beer!) but they are still a minority. Most people just want to get there (witness how many people prefer driving through hellacious traffic over a much more pleasant, but slightly more time consuming bus ride).

  6. Easy way to find out, Sam. Metro has been canceling scheduled trips because they’re short on drivers. http://kingcounty.gov/services/jobs-training.aspx. But for prep on customer relations, practice this statement: “You don’t have to pay for your ferret, but don’t let him go down anybody else’s collar. Please have a seat and hold on.”

    Mic, good general answer about the Government: Look at the people who elected them! Also the ones who didn’t vote against them. But unless you mean goodness to a child, words like “Adopters” are almost as bad as “Challenges” when applied to sewage spills.

    But worst of all people who get a prozac gleam in their eye when they say “Disruptors!” (Yay!) are the ones that tickled Congress and President Clinton ’til they giggled so hard they liberated credit default swaps from the obsolete regulations that would’ve spoiled the Crash of 2008 for everybody.

    But one driver to another, Mic, (at least you stayed humanever wonder how many crashes get left out of the calculations because human drivers either got, or stayed, out of them by experience skill and reflex, when a robot would have got both the gasoline tanker and the next President?

    BTW, Sam, you’ll develop the conditioned reflexes both to make candidate’s name irrelevant, and to overcome the very human urge to get them both. Even with a weasel loose in your undershirt.

    And come to think of it, Lauren, being both Sam’s classmate and his follower on the Route 4, you’ll learn by experience the Challenge of a crush load of middle-school age Disruptors. Also ones in supervisors’ uniforms, and also drafting policies.

    But remember, the State of Florida saved us all from Ted Bundy, but all those liberal capital punishment Disruptors could let Ted Kaczinsky go.


    1. Good point brother. White knuckles and adrenaline were the mode when driving the MT194 in the HOV lanes when the GP lanes were stop and go. The chicken in me kept it slow, even though there wasn’t a sole in front, for fear the car next to me decided to dart out. I nailed one eventually, but was mercifully not given a ‘preventable’ charge.
      I’ll let the computer take the rap any day.
      At least this will bring about nationwide no-fault insurance and put some bottom feeders out of business.

  7. Both options for travel will be available in the future because there will be a market for both.

    Unfortunately, we still have many baby-boomer elected officials, engineers and architects who still think it is 1996 when it comes to transit. They design for park-and-ride lots and leave out bigger drop-off and pick-up areas. BART just published the aggregate results of their station access studies and drop-off pick-up is at 19% systemwide (park-and-ride is 29%) with several surbanaban stations reaching above 30%.


    Driverless vehicles – whether a cars or buses – will make this the predominant mode for access to rail. Meanwhile, we have an ST2 stations that are woefully missing good drop-off and pick-up design. ST3 promises thousands of park-and-ride yet omits discussion of driverless interfaces. I chat with professionals in the industry who cannot see this coming. I even get responses on STB that it’s not happening or that it shouldn’t affect our investment strategies.

    I’m hoping that videos like this slowly move the transit culture away from the engrained design concepts from the past to those of the future.

    1. Careful, Al S.

      “Driverless vehicles – whether a cars or buses – will make this the predominant mode for access to rail.”

      Sounds unsettlingly like the media declaring both this year’s Presidential candidates “The Front Runner” before the first party caucus, let alone primary election. Shame they weren’t wrong about the candidates.

      “I chat with professionals in the industry who cannot see this coming. I even get responses on STB that it’s not happening or that it shouldn’t affect our investment strategies.”

      I handed my profession over to road relief at Northgate in July 1995. But like everything else I saw approaching in my lane, the faster a threat was coming, the quicker I’d reflexively avoid it. Like the rest of its “stripe”, driverless vehicles in traffic are not “happening.” This isn’t plate tectonics.

      What’s happening is a concerted campaign by people who can see a fortune rolling toward them to convince a whole population that anybody in their way is roadkill. My own investment strategies lead off with laser-focused sales resistance.

      But while I’m (I pray!) too old to be a Baby Boomer, we’ve got to have a little pity on people who left college convinced they represented Youth Eternal, only to produce this country’s oldest two Presidential candidates.

      Yeah, I know. Maudlin sentimentality is Sooooo 1996! But at least leisure suits had already been gone for 20 years.


      1. I’m looking forward to the change, Mark. Waiting for a neighborhood bus than mostly runs every 30 minutes is a real deterrent to use transit, and I live in SE Seattle! I would happily board a driverless shuttle bus that leaves every 10 or 15 minutes. Of course, ST and Seattle have ignored puttong an adequate location to quickly drop off and pick up people, expecting a 50-foot bus stop area to do everything. Like I said, decision-makers think it’s 1996!

        Multiple bus operators in multiple places are expecting to implement some sort of driverless operation in the next four years. Will our region’s operators stay in the dark ages?

      2. As a business investor, putting money into self-driving makes sense. As a transit agency, it doesn’t, aside from buying vehicles as usual. You don’t have to build anything different to run self-driving buses as opposed to human-driving ones. When the technology is good enough, transit agencies can make the transition as part of their routine bus-replacement purchases.

    2. You know, dedicated a few spaces as drop-off only as opposed to parking basically costs nothing at all. Nothing in ST2 or ST3 or any other transit agency plan will get in the way of revamping for self-driving vehicles, since this costs our infrastructure basically nothing.

      1. I haven’t looked at the 100% station design, but early work had set aside an area for kiss&ride at Roosevelt Station on NE 66th.

  8. I had a thought about speed enforcement, red light cameras, and the plan to lower speeds to 25.

    As we all know, red light cameras make intersections safer. But they are also unpopular. Complaints about it just being a way for the city to make money are common. To me it feels punitive rather than helpful. Most intersections don’t have it, but then ones which do give you very large fines. Most people learn to remember the few intersections that have it, and consider it a dumb mistake if the accidentally trip one.

    We know that reducing the speed limit won’t do much without enforcement. I doubt more traffic cops would be popular or even make much of a difference. Speed cameras, might be able to help, but how do we not make them as useless and unpopular as the red light cameras?

    One obvious change it to have more cameras and smaller fines. That way the fines any individual fine isn’t that big of a deal, so driving is lower stress, but if you consistently drive illegally, the fines will cost a lot.

    My fun idea is to combine red light and speed cameras at intersections. As far as speed cameras go, intersections are a logical place to put them. Intersections have more collisions, pedestrians, etc, so they are important places keep speeds down. Combining them with red light cameras allows for better red light cameras.

    Even before they are combined in a meaningful way, just having both at intersections is a major discouragement to attempting to beat read lights. Not only will you get a red light ticket if you fail, but you will get a speeding ticket if you go too fast. By combining the functions of the two types of cameras, you could make the red light cameras much better.

    By combining their sensors, you could make better ticket schemes. I might have a three part scheme. 1) speeding while the light is green. 2) being in the intersection while the light is red. 3) entering the intersection while the light is red.

    On green. No fine till five over. Fine starts at $5 and adds $2 for every additional mile over. Being in the intersection while red. $5 fine. This is whether the driver was trying to beat the light or got stuck and is now blocking the box. $2 for every mile over the speed limit. That will make speeding to beat the light more expensive than regular speeding. For entering on red. If you come to a full stop, no fine. If you fail to come to a full stop, $2 for every mph. $5 for right turners and $10 for people altogether running the light.

    This strategy would, reduce box blocking, reduce speeding to beat red lights, reduce right turn on red hitting peds, reduce overall speed where it matters most, and not be as objectionable as traditional red light cameras.

    1. When I was driving in Canberra, Austrailia last year, they had highway speed cameras that timed your driving time between fixed points on the highway to determine an average speed over say a 10-20 KM distance. This prevented drivers from merely slowing down at the speed traps (camera or police). You are ticketed based on average speed.

    2. I’ll chime in that red light cameras are not always safer. Some cities have been caught shortening the yellow time at the same time they installed the cameras. Obviously shorter yellow make the road less safe, and it also means more tickets.

      One of many reasons that all traffic tickets should go into a state fund and returned to cities based only on population.

  9. How was the heavy load yesterday?

    At 1:30pm I took Link southbound from Capitol Hill to SODO and the 131 to Coscto. At 3pm I returned taking the bus to Madison Street. All of them were emptier than usual for a Saturday. I went to the library and took Link from University Street to Capitol Hill. This time the train was completely full at University Street but didn’t leave anybody behind. At Westlake there were a few standing spaces.

  10. For ordinary citizen, three questions about driverless cars. “Why do we need them?” and “Who says we do? And “Why?”

    If answer to last two is “Because the world’s richest and most undertaxed people and corporations don’t feel like paying commercial drivers living wages” answer to first is, “We don’t.”

    And also: “Compare driverless cars and privately owned flying spy cameras?” Answer: “Both have potential for major violation of people’s rights and safety. Both come in behind massive corporate PR and lobbying campaigns to convince people that you can’t fight what’s already been decided. And neither one has had any public discussion whether to allow it at all.”

    Big ball of Talk in your court, Ted.


    1. Exactly. Public adoption of this is not coming within ten years. Maybe another generation, and it’s possible that traffic choked countries like India, China, and Singapore see this before the Western countries do.

      1. Read my links I posted above. Calwatch. It’s happening today — in several US cities and Finland. Projects are also underway in several Europrn countries including Holland, Swirzerland and Finland.

  11. Now that Metro/SDOT have finally gotten the so-called “real-time” arrival signs (the orange LED ones) mostly working, I find I have another gripe with them. The ones near UW Station scroll so slowly that I find I give up on them, and just pull out OneBusAway. Even though the signs only have three lines, they’re displayed for what seems like 20 seconds. Given that the UW Station stops are served by something like 15 routes during peak, some of which run very frequently so show up multiple times on the signs, it can take a few minutes to scroll through to the beginning. Each set of three routes really should only be displayed for a few seconds.

    Even better, though, would be something more like the OneBusAway signs downtown, although last time I was downtown they seemed to be defunct.

  12. I didn’t get any responses to the last open thread, but I’m hoping someone can help with my ORCA question

    I recently lost an ORCA card that had autoload enabled. The card only had a $5 balance, so it wasn’t worth paying to replace it. I already bought a new card. I just want to cancel the autoload so that nobody can get unlimited free rides on my dime.

    If I I log onto my ORCA account and say “cancel autoload” for the card, the site says I have to tap the card within 60 days or else autoload will stay active. So since the card is lost I can’t cancel autoload. I suppose if someone stole my card, them tapping it to use it would deactivate it unless it was after 60 days or >$5 fare, but that’s not ideal.

    If I claim the card is lost on the website, the site demands I pay $5 to declare it as lost (and then they will send me a replacement card) I don’t want to pay money to have my card deactivated.

    So how do I deactivate and/or cancel the autoload for my ORCA card? This system is insane.

    1. The system is set up that no matter what you do, you pay $5 for a lost card. $5 to transfer the balance, $5 to ignore it and get another card. I don’t know if they charge it for worn out or broken cards but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    2. If this was a comedy, you’ed try canceling the credit card, but that would for some reason not work either. It a little bit reminds me of how I was unable to get a new drivers licence mailed to a different address than the one on the licence. I asked the lady at the DOL, and her expression froze. There is no way for me to do that she said.

    3. That’s an interesting idea. Change the autoload card to a credit card which is inactive, or a Visa/MC gift card (periodically Office Max, Office Depot, and Staples will have promos that sell a $200 VISA or AMEX gift card, which normally costs $6.95, for negative $3.05 after rebate). Add the gift card to your ORCA, spend the $200 on it a few days later (most sites will charge $1 initially to verify it is a good card), and then forget about it.

    4. Do a cancel and refuse the next charge from ORCA on your credit card stating that you had canceled the autopayment. Pretty sure they can’t charge to stop auto-payment from a MC or Visa card – it should violate their agreement.

  13. I am not concerned over the technology being safe or efficient. Those are no brainers to me. I feel as each technology comes in my brain does less. If you drive a stickshift car with no power steering, and no power brakes you will most likely be forced to pay attention to the road. Your concentration and motor skills are challenged. Before cell phones and smart phones, more tasks were done manually with no electronic reminder every 5 minutes of my life. My math and memorizing skills used to be needed more often. I think that made me sharper and more attentive. I am not against any technology. I just hope that each time my personal skills are taken out of a daily task, I have new and equally challenging things to do. As a blue collar worker, taking the manual labor out everything and replacing it with a higher tech job may not be satisfying for people like myself. I can do them, but I do not enjoy them. I guess we will just find out.

  14. James, you’re more right than you know. In my experience, it’s not just a matter of concentration. I’m not sure whether anybody uses the term “Get the feel of this machine” anymore. But driving a vehicle with a manual transmission and unpowered steering and brakes, a truth comes home.

    Our concentration and comprehension, and thinking itself, are matters of touch, and muscle, pushing and pulling against resistance. Sense of smell is also very old and important. Have been told that its nerves will always grow back from an injury. With cars? “Is that bearing burning out?” “How long did they leave Big Louie in da trunk!?”

    Do they still say “Feel of the road?” First bus I drove for Metro, first day of training, was a 1953 GMC. Which I thought would send me home in two minutes. But first right turn said different. Working the steering wheel and the rolling wheels together, within a minute or two I had the feeling that the coach was under better control than anything I drove since

    Closest second best was the 1400 series, Metro’s first MAN “artic”, with somewhat stiffer power steering than succeeding Metro equipment since. From then on, the looser the steering, the worse the handling.

    Someone asks you to describe something. Your hands go into action before you say anything. “It’s about this wide, this long, and it’s shaped like this.” Pilots often used to begin on gliders. Captain Sullenberger, who landed in the Hudson, won “airmanship” awards on jetliners his whole career. Which started with sailplanes.

    Absolute worst automation-related move for cars is to think a human driver can suddenly go to “manual” if the program goes down. Whatever eyes and brain say, even with hands on the wheel, ’til the muscles get on page you’ve got no control at all. Might be best not to even call, or design, an automobile-sized driverless vehicle as a “car.” From the tires up, make it the best robot possible.

    What machines did you run, James?


    1. I hear that Tesla updated their cars so that they pull over if they think hands aren’t on the wheel.

    2. I am currently a mechanic for a Seattle based truck fleet. I operate heavy machinery and equipment along with laptops an small diag equipment. I also drive a tow truck sometimes. It is harder to automate my field so I believe I have won’t worry too soon. Having a job I enjoy is important. I could be making more but I would not be happy.

  15. Since this is an open thread, why to KC Metro buses come in so many colors? Or, to rephrase, why some green and some purple?

    1. When Metro went to multicolor busses years ago, they had three color schemes, green,aqua and kinda dark blue. These were all on top of yellow base. Then Rapid Rides came out. All red and yellow. Now brand new Trolleys are bright purple, stll with yellow. I believe Trolleys will be purple for some time. Someone told me it is Husky Purple. Not sure. The teason for the original three colors I am not sure.But the green and aqua look very similar so most people cannot tell them apart.

      1. Oh forgot. Older trolleys fall unnder the old 3 color scheme. Anything older was white. And if you are old enough 70’s had red and silver.

      1. Good article. Teal blue and green . Not aqua. Oh well. Then Rapid ride red and more recent, Trolley purple. Wonder what after that? Thank you.

  16. My standard response to self-driving car sharing (at least Uber style) is this:

    Do you really want to be stuck in a small box with a complete stranger for 40 minutes? When you share a human-driven cab, you have a driver right there who will stop the car if your cab-partner starts misbehaving. A computer can’t see that.

    The first rape in a self-driving car, and it will happen, and car-sharing is basically dead.

    1. They’ll have surveillance cams, payment by phone apps and probably remote locking doors. Any attempted crime is going to be fairly visible.

      1. Meaningless, as there will always people who don’t care about, or want to be caught (i.e. the mentally ill).

Comments are closed.