3-Car Night Sound Transit Train at Columbia City Station

This is an open thread.

55 Replies to “News Roundup: A Good Choice”

    1. That’s about as surprising as an endorsement from this blog.

      BTW: is anyone else getting other people’s personal information in the name/email field?

      1. I am too. I’m rather concerned with personal emails being revealed to all and sundry.

        — William C.

      2. It’s not always barman, I’ve gotten other’s names and emails, too.

        Haven’t determined the pattern yet.

        Hmm, here’s a clue.

        Al. S. is what’s in it now.

        See if I hang around…

      3. I’m aware of the problem and trying resolve it with the hosting provider. My apologies.

  1. If you wanted to write an article about how passing ST3 and I-732 in conjunction with one another would likely reduce the average taxpayers tax burden I wouldn’t complain.

  2. The KIRO story about the tradeoffs with honor-based riding with fare enforcement versus turnstiles or other methods of collecting fares does a good job of presenting the tradeoffs, but I think it would benefit by including some data on how much fare evasion Metro sees using the more traditional payment method.

    This 2010 report from Metro, pre Rapid Ride, has some numbers. 2.9% of riders paid no fare and 1.9% paid a partial fare which compares favorably with the estimate of 3-5% of ST riders evading fares.


    Also, there’s some cookie weirdness. My name and email was pre-filled with somebody else’s details.

  3. I noticed that ST rolled out a software/UI upgrade for their ticket vending machines that is a big improvement over what they used to have. Unfortunately, at least in Sumner on Tue./Wed., there was still an issue with credit card processing but the look and feel is much better. It offers location based choices on the home screen like Buy Sounder Fare to Seattle rather than hidden in sub-menus. Add value to ORCA and Buy ORCA are featured on the other side of the screen. When I added fare to the my e-purse it offered touch screen choices of dollar amounts so I didn’t have to use the key pad to enter 20 dollars and 00 cents.

    This looks like a good incremental change, hopefully the roll-out hasn’t had too many problems and credit/debit card issues haven’t been widespread.

  4. The Town Hall development (32 story towers) is a classic illustration of how little Seattle asks developers to do for transit. They don’t even ask for wider sidewalks to the nearest Madison BRT stop! Part of the money that they save in not building more parking spaces should be going for transit capital improvements.

    If ST3 passes, a site plan stipulation to provide a pedestrian separation (from traffic) or a least an easement to provide connectivity to any station entrance within a few hundred feet is the least that I think the City should be asking for. Many other major cities are able to work with developers for pedestrian tunnels and/or overcrossings — but it seems to be an unacceptable thing to ask from Seattle developers.

    I get tired of paying for improvements in other parts of town while developers continue to get better transit access while I don’t — and they don’t pay a dime more than I do for it. It’s just not fair.

    1. In general I’m not too fond of the idea that “big business” or “big developers” should pay more. Because, like it or not, those guys will often take their business elsewhere, and that often means moving to places less suitable (e. g. your average suburb). But just as a $15 an hour minimum wage is quite appropriate for a town with 4% unemployment, so too is asking the big boys (and girls — although who are you kidding, it is mostly boys) to buck up. So, yeah, i agree with you. In the current business climate I think it is quite appropriate that big downtown businesses pay a little towards improving the transit infrastructure, since they seem quite comfortable leveraging the education infrastructure that we all paid for.

    2. The only thing worse about South Lake Union than the built-in underground transit disaster is the sight of sworn, publicly trained police officers serving as private guards who block transit to let parked cars get out. You’ve got an influential union, officers. If we the people owe you more money, look us in the face and ask. You deserve better.

      But in present-day Seattle, where both workers and clientele are pouring into town precisely because it’s the kind of place best served by public transit, why isn’t every developer’s first sketch on the plan a solid connection with the transit system?

      I’d forgive Jeff Bezos the delivery drones- I don’t have a slingshot anyhow. Just a link to a girl monkey with a stick refusing delivery. But very fact I’m grateful for streetcar help leaves me more puzzled as to why that underground rush hour I-5 is allowed to exist.

      Jeff, one thing I know about your world and generation is that “Disruption” is a force for beneficial Galactic change. So since it’s obvious that the Evil Empire has seized the basements of your buildings, can’t Elon help you with a Disruptegrator to fight back?

      Nikola Tesla himself probably left a patent lying around somewhere. Some effort heer could make a lot of us turn a blind eye to hyperloops.

      Whose historical roots in the barrel-shaped “Beach Subway” car pushed by a giant fan in NYC, and the century-old citywide Paris mail-tube system that looked like something out of Steam-Punk, could get you historic restoration funds for their South Lake Union reincarnations.

      You’ve also got a vampire book I need to rescue from the hands of Barnes and Noble, so I know we can deal.


  5. Another good reason to scoot the 5th and Madison station up the hill a bit: there are currently 2 surface parking lots on either side of Madison at 8th. Maybe those lots are too small, but could be the perfect spot to site an construct that 8th and Madison Link station and plan for future TOD on top.

  6. I have been looking around in vain for polling around ST3. I’m sure someone must have done it. Anyone know where I can find that?

    1. I was planning to do a small Google Consumer Survey poll on ST3, but the $50 coupon that Google was offering expired before I could do it, sadly.

  7. I could vote against ST3 (I won’t) based on the supreme level of incompetence regarding UW Station escalators. Today took the cake…more than half were inoperable. Plus, my train sounds clunky broken too. What’s up?

    1. Well then, Felsen, you’ve got the floor for your plan to fix the above equipment without ST-3. The mike’s yours.


      1. [Give me that mic]

        Yeah, OK. The most cost effective, well maintained systems are the small ones. Every single subway system in the world encounters problems at some point. Buses have problems, too. But systems that are efficient — systems where people complain because it is too crowded — are way more likely to handle problems than the ones where empty trains run in the middle of the day. Quality over quantity.

        Vote no then vote yes for the next (smaller, more efficient) package.

      2. We’ve talked about what might be proposed next if ST 3 fails. The idea of Everett and Tacoma suddenly deciding their money is best served in Seattle neighborhoods is not going to happen. Instead, a smaller package would mean smaller across the board. Politically, this probably does NOT mean Ballard->UW or the WSTT. Rather, the likely outcome will be a similar deal for West Seattle as ST3, plus a surface-running streetcar to Ballard (with the existing bus lanes used by the D-line converted to streetcar tracks). If you want a real subway system to Ballard and South Lake Union by 2040, ST3 is the only realistic chance.

        Yes, there are some lines in the outer fringes that look questionable. But those are other sub-area’s money, and I’m voting “yes” based on the projects that my subarea’s money is paying for. And even the outer lines may turn out to be more productive than we think. The Issaquah line, for instance, will succeed or fail based on what development exists out there in 2050, not what development exists there today. 15 years ago, a subway line to SLU would have looked questionable also. And, one thing’s for sure – between now and 2050, Puget Sound population will grow, and traffic on the freeways will get worse, and that will boost ridership on all the lines, accordingly.

      3. >> Politically, this probably does NOT mean Ballard->UW or the WSTT. Rather, the likely outcome will be a similar deal for West Seattle as ST3, plus a surface-running streetcar to Ballard (with the existing bus lanes used by the D-line converted to streetcar tracks).

        What??? That is absurd. West Seattle rail is by far the weakest part of a Seattle plan, and everyone knows it. It would be crazy to lead with that. Even the monorail people knew that, which is why they abandoned the West Seattle piece when they screwed up the financing.

        WSTT would provide just about everything that ST3 provides for a lot less money. Folks in West Seattle actually come out ahead! Yeah, maybe if you live close to 15th and Market you are unhappy, but overall, it is a much better value. Oh, and folks who ride our most popular bus (on our most popular corridor) actually get something out of the deal.

        Oh, and are you really surprised that South Lake Union grew? Really? Everyone with half a brain could see this coming from a mile away (just as they see Pioneer Square booming with or without a new basketball/hockey stadium). It sits roughly half way between downtown Seattle and the UW — what did you think would happen? Warehouses forever? Really?

        Yes, Seattle will get bigger. That is why it is important that we build the right subway lines and stop pretending that a stop on the outskirts of South Lake Union (half a mile from Westlake Station) is really “serving” all of South Lake Union any more than the one, single, solitary station in Capitol Hill serves all of First Hill/Capitol Hill/Central Area. We may get bigger, but unless we want to spend an enormous amount of money trying to fix things after the fact (which we haven’t bothered to do with any of our mistakes so far) we should try to get it right this time. ST3 doesn’t get it right. Not even close.

      4. It seems like every single proposal that comes up has West Seattle light rail. It’s almost as if it’s part of Spineifest Destiny. There must be significant political pressure for it.

      5. “What??? That is absurd. West Seattle rail is by far the weakest part of a Seattle plan, and everyone knows it.”

        While that is the consensus of people in this blob, and a point I personally agree with, the local politicians do not agree with it. Yes, I do believe the WSTT is more efficient than what is proposed in terms of riders per dollar spent. But, politicians choose projects based on perceptions of who’s owed what, not what’s most efficient. Sometimes, it’s important to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If you hold out for the perfect plan, you will end up with nothing. While not perfect, ST3 is certainly quite a bit better than doing nothing.

      6. “the likely outcome will be a similar deal for West Seattle as ST3, plus a surface-running streetcar to Ballard”

        “West Seattle rail is by far the weakest part of a Seattle plan, and everyone knows it. It would be crazy to lead with that.”

        That was ST’s pre-proposal around the beginning of the year. It was roundly criticized by all transit fans. But if ST3 fails and ST has to put together a smaller package, it may come back. Because the city officials want West Seattle light rail, and you haven’t explained how you’ll convince them to go with the WSTT instead, which neither the city nor ST have acknowledged as worthwhile or adequate. Your only ways to bypass them are to run an initiative or run for city council.

        Remember the difference between ideals and practicality. Ideally you may be right, but ideals don’t pass bills or get things built. Compromise does.

    2. Don’t know what is going on with the escalators (glad MAX doesn’t have them after discussions here), but the clunky sound may be a flat wheel from an emergeny stop.

      To solve, you put the wheel on a wheel lathe. It means taking the car out of service. It’s probably one of the things they are able to do less often with more cars in regular use. Or, it could have happened earlier that day and if the only problem is a bit of a noise then there is no reason to take the car out of service until it’s time for the regular service of other stuff.

    3. I still wonder why I voted Yes on ST3. Just this morning, I get an email from ST about yet another service interruption on LINK in the rainier valley. I keep thinking to myself, All Tacoma Trains are going to have to go through that mess, which is going to provide unreliable service plus long travel times to Tacoma. Why did I vote yes for this thing? I voted yes for sounder, but even that is fraught with issues. I tried to take the mid-day service north yesterday and it was 20 minutes late. Tried to go home on the 2nd to last train and was greeted with a crowded platform and train that was late as well. Plus there’s still no guarantee for any added service as its all up to how nice of a mood BNSF is in (or how many more coal and oil trains they want to run which gives them an incentive for good PR by allowing ST to add more sounder trains). I just hope in 2030+ they keep some of the I-5 buses like the 594 and 578. I don’t want to have to make the slow, crowded, and unreliable slog through the rainier valley on LINK when going to Seattle.

      1. Its not the only way to get more transit, as a matter of fact I may have voted against my best interest. Its my belief that if ST 3 passes, there’s no way that PT is going to get another tax measure on the ballot and passed in Pierce County. the politics and demographics of the county are such that it would be extremely difficult when we are pushed up over at 10% tax rate to accomplish this. The economy is improving yes, however with inflation, and increased travel times due to congestion, which this plan will have little to address outside of LINK and SOUNDER service, the local connecting feeder service will remain mediocre for years, if current trends continue. Now, if for some reason the economy tanks again well, we’re all just screwed.

      2. And finally I shouldn’t even say that LINK and sounder will do anything to address the congestion, all it really does is provide mitigation where it does not get as bad as quickly as the population grows.

      3. Tacoma voted for the PT increase (I’m not sure if it was a levy; levies are limited to five years so if it was permanent it wouldn’t be a levy) but was outvoted by the rest of the district. So Tacoma could do a Seattle and fund additional service itself if PT was willing. I’m not sure if that’s what Joe meant by “local option”, or whether it would be passable in Tacoma before 2020.

        The article compared PT to Metro but they’re quite different situations. King County is more populous, has more poor people, and more willingness to fund social services. King County’s proposition did fail and the first round of cuts occurred, but it was never in a situation that core routes would have ended at 8pm or be hourly in the daytime.

  8. “How unions representing bus drivers feel about such proposals is unclear. Attempts to reach the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 758, which represents Pierce Transit’s drivers, were unsuccessful.”

    Of every transit related organization in the region, the one both most affected, and whose efforts are the most critical, is the one from which these discussions hear the least. I’d expect some comment on progress in organizing both ride share and cab drivers.

    “The use of ride-hailing services to provide support to public transit agencies comes with questions, including what happens if the companies decide it is not profitable to continue the service.” How about the same thing that happened when nobody could make a profit on buses and streetcars?

    Mark Dublin

  9. Thank you Martin for support of I-732. As a 25 year Sierra Club member I fully fail to understand their and other greenfield opposition, thin though it is.

      1. Some fun history, Joe: Ed Murray used to be a state representative and Chair of the House Transportation Committee. I’ve given him trouble for his role in the monorail, but he stood by ST funding authority when ST had few friends in Olympia.

        –not Mike Orr

      2. What incompetence? Seattle has a troubling history of throwing out its mayors for what seem like minor reasons: Schell, Nickels, and McGinn have all been subject to it. No, we should not throw out a mayor based on how a snowstorm went, or a basketball team left because it couldn’t get enough public subsidy, or a demonstration had problems, or he opposed the deep-bore tunnel. What matters is the day-in and day-out functioning of the city, and the city functioned fine under all of them, and Murray too.

  10. RossB, a great historic fiction story by E.L. Doctorow called “Ragtime”, notes that in the early 1900’s, it was possible to ride across very long distances on end to end chains of separate interurban lines. Recalling the Chicago and North Shore- lifelong sorrow over my birth date.

    No question just about all of it worked very well. Though doubt any companies offered low income fares, meaning average wage earner had to go by wagon. But pretty much like the highway system on the same model, everybody involved decided that big and integrated was better business than small and separated.

    This is why hardly any arterial has a toll booth at the city, county, or state line anymore, and why the Interstate system didn’t face armed citizens fighting for toll-booths. For large uses, given the advantages of large unified systems, if they’re not working right it’s because somebody both individual and multiple isn’t doing their own job right.

    So would like to see your figures as to whether forty years worth of separate elevator systems pencil out better than equivalent region-sized one over same period, with stipulation that the better paid people these systems can attract do their work. Meantime, since Metro does water quality too, research can also get started on coin-per-flush toilet systems covering one block each.


    1. many of those interurban lines were not what we would consider light rail though.

      Oregon Electric Railway is commonly called an interurban, yet the curve radius and route selection is arguably better than the SP main line through the Willamette Valley. By the 1940s they were moving 50+ car freight trains, and today it can be as much as 100.

      The interurban lines from Tacoma to Everett were routed in a similar fashion. Had they had sufficient industry beside them, they would today be freight railroads outside of the Fremont and SLU to downtown Seattle segment.

      In places in the world where light rail cars are allowed to operate on the main lines, a solution can look vastly different. The S70 you are getting in three years operates just fine in interurban service in France, but it does so on SNCF main line track.

      The best solution for Everett would probably be a new main line that could take both Link and Cascades trains. Sadly, the intermixing of longer distance type trains and light weight trains suitable for local service is not allowed in the USA these days.

    2. “in the early 1900’s, it was possible to ride across very long distances on end to end chains of separate interurban lines.”

      And in Russia in the 1990s. The regular intercity trains are like the Coast Starlight. The elektrichhkas (commuter/regional electric rail) go out a hundred miles, and if you take one from Moscow to the end you can transfer to another and so on and eventually get to St Petersburg. The regular train takes 10-12 hours for that; I don’t know how much longer the elektrichkas take. But some people use them because the fares are much lower, and for foreigners there’s no “foreigner’s fare” (much higher than the Russians’ fare) like the intercity trains have.

    3. “The elektrichhkas (commuter/regional electric rail)”

      I just now realized when I wrote this that they’re the same thing: we have separate Sounder and Cascades networks but in Russia the same trains serve both purposes. How widespread is this across countries and cities? In Britain they’re also the same: everything that’s not the Tube or DLR or streetcar is called a mainline train, and sometimes they’re frequent and serve as commuter rail (“Next train to Charing Cross: 10 minutes”), and sometimes they just connect to neighboring cities (London to Brighton), and sometimes they serve as a shuttle (Gatwick to Reading for a long-distance transfer), but they’re all just part of the national network. And in small cities like Glasgow and Belfast, they’re just the local trains that do double-duty as commuter rail. Whereas Germany kind of separates them into S-Bahn and regional trains. Do most cities have a separate commuter rail network? Or do the regional trains just do double-duty as them? Is one way better than the other?

      1. I was once asked by a German why the Seattle politicians were’t in jail, since Sounder equipment that sits around most of the day is such a huge waste of money. “Any place with any sense uses the commuter equipment as intercity equipment during the day.”

  11. Is it just my computer, or is there some meaning behind the fact that “Glenn in Portland” and “glennl@ea*.***” are in the default ‘Name’ and ‘Email’ pre-filled posting attributions? It started very recently, and now I’m wondering if it’s an inside joke of some kind. I always assumed Glenn was a thoughtful real person, though.

    1. we’re working on it, Felsen. It’s some sort of caching issue. Glenn is indeed a real person and I beg his eternal forgiveness for getting him caught up in this issue.

    2. It seems to be grabbing whoever commented most recently. I usually get someone else. Half the time it’s Mark or Ross.

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