This is an open thread.

53 Replies to “News Roundup: A Little Differently”

  1. Anyone else having compatibility issues? The web site works fine for me on mobile versions of Safari and on a windows version of Microsoft Edge, but desktop versions of Safari for MacOS and a desktop version of Google Chrome produce quite a lot of “Too Many Redirects” errors. This is particularly an issue when going from the home page to a page display with comments.

    1. I’m having this problem with Chrome on MacOS. I’ve been getting into each post from facebook links.

    2. I was having that problem, but it seems to be fine now. Interestingly, I had the same problem with The New Republic site earlier this morning (too many redirects). Using Chrome on a Mac.

    3. It’s been happening for four days. Sometimes I can’t get into one article, then I can, then it switches to another article. Sometimes I can’t get into any of the articles. It’s always a “Too many redirects” error, as if a periodic ad is redirecting to itself. I email STB when it happens and Frank does something and it works for half a day but then it happens again. I’ve tried Firefox, Chromium, and Elinks on two computers. Earlier this week I listened to the podcast, then refreshed to see any new comments and got the error.

    4. Thanks all, I’m aware of it and working on fixing it. It’s been slow going. Thanks for your patience.

    5. Yes, I’m having consistent issues with not being able to load articles on my desktop (using MS Edge). Works fine on my tablet. I’ve been able to access though using my desktop by accessing the articles via your twister feed.

      My correct handle comes up when I comment. That appears to be resolved.

      1. Pretty sure it’s not fully funded. Received the federal grant, and local funding is in the mayor’s budget. In any event, that link contains perhaps the most Seattle quote ever: “I personally won’t use it unless I personally have to.”

    1. This is something I’m very excited about. Trams, when actually planned correctly, are a major transportation benefit to cities.

      I would love to see a line up and down 1st and 4th and then cross lines. Looking at major cities with street trams (not “light rail”), they are far better off. Most of Europe knows how to plan and implement trams. Trams encourage density far better than light rail, which have long distances between stops.

      One example of outstanding tram service that I’m a little biased towards is in Dresden, Germany. A majority of the residents don’t need or own a car in a city of 530,000. The latest data I could find from 2009 I the tram system carried 145.7 million passengers. The system has over 80 miles of track and If you’ve ever been to Dresden, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. If you have time, some good reads and data: http://www.polisnetwork.eu/uploads/ModuleXtender/PublicEvents/66/The_development_of_the_Dresden_tram_into_the_backbone_of_public_transport-Hans-J-rgen_Cred–Dresdner_Verkehrsbetriebe_AG.pdf
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trams_in_Dresden
      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fc/Streckennetzplan_Stra%C3%9Fenbahn_Dresden_2012.svg

      Another awesome use of the tram lines that was in place for the Pheaton production at Volkswagen in Dresden. http://81.47.175.201/livingrail/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=705:cargo-tram-dresden-urban-freight-transport-on-tramways&catid=40:logistics&Itemid=130
      Wouldn’t this be awesome to have here for a number of our businesses where goods / parts need to be transported?

  2. MIT researchers are working on a combination of cell phone data with images taken from various locations. It turns out places that are attractive to people have more visitors.

    Maybe one day Google street view could automatically provide better feedback about what is good and bad about certain urban plans than human planners are able to do?

    1. The point about safety preferences between young men and women explains the difference in my friend’s preferences for neighborhoods to visit versus mine almost hilariously well.

  3. I read the article on removing I-5 earlier in the week and thought I was reading an Onion article at first. Turns out it was a serious article written by some feel good person who has less than zero knowledge or experience of transportation theory or planning, yet thinks he has the idea of the century.

    Ignoring the fact that the feds and WSDOT would never allow I-5 to just vanish, the one thing he actually gets right, there’s a bunch of reasons that removing I-5, despite it being a scar on our city, would be terrible, here’s three:

    Commuters/Drivers to Downtown/SLU: with his plan, you are dumping of drivers at the fringes of downtown and asking them to take our tiny surface streets for miles before reaching their destinations. With approximately 250,000 jobs and growing in the Downtown/SLU area, we’d choke to death on surface street gridlock, especially once the viaduct goes down and 99 has no downtown exits any more.

    Freight: I would expect freight to spend 30 to 60 minutes extra getting to their destination(s). Expect costs in Downtown/SLU to go up.

    Through traffic: This is where it gets good. He then claims that 405 is “I-405 is in pretty solid shape, unlike I-5, and growing in size.” If you’ve driven on 405 during the day, it’s almost always gridlocked. If you haven’t driven on 405, I ask you to pull up a traffic map during the day, go ahead. It may be in “solid shape” physically, but not capacity. Sure, we could expand it to carry what I would guess to be between 40,000 to 50,000 through traffic vehicles. We’re already spending tens of billions of dollars to add a lane to 405, which is having exactly zero effect. Throw another 50,000 vehicles per day and you’ve got a very expensive, all day parking lot (Chipotle could make a killing with delivery drones!).

    I have no idea where this guy got his brilliant idea, but my guess is it’s a subtle ploy to push people towards lidding I-5.

    1. Yeah, sounds like an Overton Windon exercise.

      At some point we’re going to actually rebuild the thing, and as crazy as the exit/merge patterns are near downtown, there might be some proposals to reconfigure some stuff, and those proposals will almost certainly require more land. And we shouldn’t give up more land for them. Start compromising from that position and soon you’re giving up blocks left and right, and incorporating more surrounding blocks into the freeway-edge malaise.

    2. It will take an Overton Window to do something like this. This is just a starting point. When the state starts suggesting alternatives for overhauling I-5, we can offer some other alternatives.

      Cities that don’t have freeways through their center have 6+-lane boulevards going from the center to the freeway; e.g., Vancouver’s Kingsway and Granville Street, London’s Edgeware Road, etc. So eliminating the I-5 segment would be similar to the surface alternative for the viaduct replacement. That would be less obtrusive than the freeway but it wouldn’t be the sweetness and light of restoring all-narrow streets. The last time Seattle didn’t have I-5 the region’s population was less than half of what it is now, everybody fit on 99 (presumably), and the trip patterns did not go through Seattle or through the center as much.

      1. Have you tried to get into downtown Vancouver on 99 in the afternoon? It takes like 30 to 45 minutes to go the less than 5 miles from the Oak Street Bridge to Granville Bridge.

        It’s 6 lanes, no suicide lane. Northbound, you can park in the afternoon in the outside lane, so down to two lanes north. People turn at almost every major intersection, so that takes out the inside lane, so effectively one lane.

        Granville is a very nasty, polluting car sewer, through a dense neighborhood, and the only way to get into downtown Vancouver, without taking a major detour. I don’t know how that’s any better than I-5. At least I-5 is grade separated.

        In my mind, I-5 happened, good or bad, and our City has adjusted to accommodate it. It’s a small, but useful scar on our City and let’s thank our lucky stars it’s the only one (I don’t think 90 or 520 have the impact that I-5 does regarding land use).

      2. “t takes like 30 to 45 minutes to go the less than 5 miles from the Oak Street Bridge to Granville Bridge.”

        That’s not different from I-5 actually. The bottlenecks come and go and they appear in different places but it’s often something like that. I went up to Mukilteo a couple Friday afternoons ago, and I-5 was a zippy 15 miles per hour for a significant chunk of it, and the HOV lane was going exactly the same speed as the other lanes.

    3. It’s only a blog post, and I thought it was a good thought experiment.

      The freight needs of the port of Seattle aside, a mature transportation network should render a 1950s style urban freeway unnecessary. Of course removing it now would be an unmistakable disaster, but that’s not the suggestion. Any removal of I5 would be decades in the future after ST3++ investments in alternative transportation infrastructure (including investment in roads)

      There are many examples of removing urban freeways successfully. Removing I5 would be difficult and can’t happen in isolation, but don’t dismiss it out of hand.

    4. The most successful cities in the world don’t have freeways slashed through them… oh such horrid failures as Vancouver, Paris, London off the immediate top of my head.

      Obviously it will never happen, but it would only be a positive for Seattle. Traffic would filter into the center city from the outskirts instead of being dumped in huge volumes in multiple locations in the center of town that the street network can’t handle. Downtown and close-in Seattle streets reach their carrying capacity most hours of the day thanks to I-5 being a fire hose dumping cars downtown.

      1. You cannot compare those cities to Seattle, especially in the 60s, when freeway-mania was in full swing. Seattle in the 60s was a sleepy city with no viable transportation. Paris and London had world class transportation, so didn’t need to put up with the American car first mindset of the time. I don’t know much about the history of Vancouver, but I suspect that since the City’s job centers were more spread out, they didn’t feel the need to build a freeway through downtown?

        At the same time, you could point to LA and NYC as the most successful cities with freeways slashed through them, so I don’t know if that’s a valid argument.

        And regarding the firehouse statement, I’d rather the firehose spewing cars be concentrated downtown, rather than expanding out to clog streets from the Ship Canal to SODO.

        Freeways may not go away in ours or the next to or three generations of lifetimes, but I foresee a lot more lidding and burying of freeways, to reclaim the space.

      2. From what I can tell as an American observing, Canada did not have as much of the freeway mania as the US had, or the precise agencies and military-industrial complex and modern zoning fads to push it through. Canadians wanted a transcontinental freeway and got it, but they also had other equally important priorities besides a freeway exit and a picket fence and an all-white school district. There wasn’t this push to escape cities and turn metropolitan area inside out. Vancouver was a typical west coast city growing in car-oriented sprawl until the 1960s when the government made a sharp turn and started preferring density and highrises in the core.

    5. “The most successful cities in the world don’t have freeways slashed through them”

      Other cities aren’t in the middle of an isthmus so people and roads can go every direction. Seattle is blocked west and east so it pushes people into a bottleneck, and that makes it harder to remove I-5 because so many people have to get through that corridor.

      Converting 405 to the mainline would be easier if the part south of Southcenter were further east so it didn’t look so much like a detour and the turn wasn’t as sharp. The railroad goes south via Auburn and made it into the main city between Seattle and Tacoma but for some reason I-5 didn’t and made for the rise of Federal Way.

      1. 167 can be the mainline if you don’t want the sharp turn in Renton The 405 HOT lanes aren’t continuing on 405 but keep heading north/south on 167 at the 405-167 interchange.

        The the most congested interchange in the state highway system, I believe

      2. “The most successful cities in the world don’t have freeways slashed through them”

        That’s a ridiculous statement. Chicago has a freeway alignment that is very similar to ours. New York is full of freeways. Brooklyn (the most populous borough at 2.6 million people) has several. So does Queen and the Bronx. Even Manhattan (a fairly small and very densely populated island) has a freeway crossing it (I-95) along with some very wide expressways on the edges (which are similar to freeways). San Fransisco has freeways (and of course so do Oakland and Berkley, which are all essentially part of the same city). L. A. is a great big freeway (put a hundred down and buy a car). Speaking of which, San Jose has freeways. Just about every American city looks similar to Seattle, and most Canadian ones do too. Montreal has freeways in town, although they did manage to bury some of it (so did Boston, you may have heard of that project). If you visit downtown Toronto and walk about a mile and half east, it looks like this: https://goo.gl/maps/A9so6NDzk892.

        Vancouver is unusual in that the freeway doesn’t get into the heart of the city, they basically lucked out. They skirted the heart of the city while extending the Trans-Canada highway towards West Vancouver. But as I said, they are unusual and as Mike said, we have plenty of demand on either end. North Vancouver has some very dense places, but the whole region (North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, etc.) is less than the number of people in Kent (not to mention Federal Way, Auburn, etc.) The South Sound may sprawl like crazy, but there are lots of people there (and they drive).

      3. San Francisco’s freeway covers only one quarter of the city, and once you get west of the bridge the downtown part is in SOMA which was then an industrial area. It doesn’t go between downtown highrises. Manhattan’s freeway is in an even smaller corner. There were plans for freeways throughout Manhattan and San Francisco but they were rejected. I don’t know enough about Brooklyn or The Bronx to say how central their freeways are. San Jose’s one freeway is north of downtown, and it was built through what was probably quarter-acre houses and orchards. San Jose has a few expressways which are like sub-freeways but they’re essentially local roads. (The Oakland freeway interchange is massive; it looks like a bomb hit the city, and pity the person who has to walk past it.)

      4. San Francisco is much like Seattle in that the geography places certain constraints on freeway corridors (among other forms of transportation).

    6. I like the idea of removing I-5 through downtown Seattle, but I am also resigned to the fact that it will never happen. Realistically, getting a lid built, and an east/west pedestrian crossing somewhere between Denny and Lakeview, as part of the inevitable I-5 rebuild, should be the best goal.

      Speaking of which, it will be interesting to see what they do when the I-5 ship canal bridge needs a rebuild. They can’t just tear up half of Wallingford to build a new freeway alongside the old one, then shift traffic, like they did for the 520 bridge. There’s going to be a lot years with a lot of pain – but at least Link will exists as a bypass.

      1. I think each WSDOT director hopes that issue doesn’t come up in their tenure.

        I think it’s going to be a $5-10 billion replacement where they’ll have to do some in situ replacement. I-5 is just too high on either side to build temporary bridges. Luckily, I-5 is so important, the feds will likely pay for a good chunk of it; although they didn’t seem to come through when the Columbia River Crossing fiasco was happening.

      2. So if Link’s buildout is necessary for the years of I-5 construction, shouldn’t the state logically want to help fund it?

    7. Also, relevant to the discussion, KUOW posted this image on an article a couple days ago:

      http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kuow/files/styles/x_large/public/201610/140626120854_0001.jpg
      Article: http://kuow.org/post/why-were-stuck-traffic-answer-november-1966

      This is the best example I’ve seen of what Seattle freeway mania could have been. Thank god we stuck with I-5 only. Can you imagine a freeway tearing up 8th Ave NW or down MLK way (although MLK is more or less an expressway)? It’s interesting to see what did get built: West Seattle Freeway, High Line Expressway (AKA SR-518) a very small stretch of the Northwest Expressway (AKA 15th Ave around Dravis). South of Boeing Field, there would have been three parallel freeways within a mile of each other!

  4. The same interests that put I-5 through Downtown Seattle have probably long since decided they don’t need it anymore. Not meaning they’ll take it out, just that they won’t pay for upkeep, let alone improvement. Good time for people of Seattle to decide what to do with the corridor, and how to pay for it.

    Problem with trolley mechanism understandable. A lot of working parts, and forces, have to be adjusted to each other. Starting with the poles of 2016 having to work with the wire of 1976. Amazing that trolleybus power collection system works at all, let alone needing no major changes since the days when first buses had solid rubber tires.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/43315334@N07/28151901956/in/dateposted-public/

    But crew members getting electric shocks from lack of training is King County prosecutor’s jurisdiction. Live current has had same mechanisms, consequences, and protective measures since God invented lightning. And rubber. Word to Accounting, KC Metro. If your budget won’t protect your workers, it won’t cover your defense for negligent homicide either.

    And to Operations, with a cc to Local 587: Your passengers are paying for that battery pack to keep their appointments, and also to protect their jobs from late-reports. Quick check to be sure poles are secured in down position, and proceed in service to convenient place to re-wire. Of course notify coordinator. And write incident report. But lose not one second in service waiting for permission. Any discipline, grieve.

    Mark Dublin

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    1. What are you talking about (just curious)? I didn’t see any mention of BRT.

      Martin linked to an article about Portland cutting back its bus service, but no mention of BRT. This is the route that both the article and Jarrett Walker call “Rapid Bus” (http://humantransit.org/2016/08/portlands-division-transit-project-a-new-kind-of-rapid-or-mainline-bus.html). It isn’t BRT anymore than a streetcar is light rail. There was no planned right of way improvement. As Walker put it, “the new plan is basically just stop consolidation with some aesthetic and fare collection/boarding improvements”.

      Too bad they are having cutbacks. Hopefully someday they will be able to fund it properly. It reminds me of when Sound Transit ran short of money and couldn’t add the station in First Hill (light rail creep). Hopefully they add that back in soon.

      1. @asdf2 — I suppose, but the decision making that went into it (as described by Walker) was very interesting. They went from focusing on the one area where they could get right of way to going on a major stop consolidation on the main corridor instead. Not as fast, but probably a lot more useful. I don’t know if we have anything quite like it. Parts of Aurora are similar, but wide enough to grab plenty of right of way, and it turns into an expressway anyway. Same with 15th. I really can’t think of a trade-off that is similar, let alone when we’ve made one.

      2. The corridors we are talking about in SE Portland are rather resistant to any sort of BRT installation.

        For BRT, you really need dedicated lanes.

        You could do this without major expense along highway 99 in Seattle, Shoreline and Lynnwood.

        Portland’s southeast Division Street looks like this:
        https://www.google.com/maps/@45.5048113,-122.6324595,3a,75y,262.37h,79.2t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s99tg-3JyC1RomPcDf5edDQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en
        until you get east of 60th Ave., then you at least have a left turn lane to work with.

        Many southeast Portland streets are similar, though Division is particularly crammed as it is now a busy through street. If you look at the older sections of the sidewalk in this part of town, you will find that they were cast 1910 to 1914. Our eastside streets haven’t changed too much since the horse era, and many of them retain the rings on the curbs for tying up your horse – though many of those have disappeared in the last 10 years or so.

        Many more of Seattle streets seem to have been rebuilt at some point with motor traffic and higher speeds in mind. We seem to have done this to a much more limited extent here.

        At some point, someone is going to have to realize that we need a subway or elevated line.

        I think the Google street view image illustrates why the Mt. Hood Freeway project through southeast Portland would have eliminated something lke 10% of Portland’s housing stock. It is a pretty dense area considering that single family homes dominate.

      3. @RossB,

        The First Hill Station wasn’t axed because of funding shortage. It was axed because they deemed it impossible to bore tunnels through the ground under First Hill. I don’t know if they were right, but sometimes you just have to take the engineers’ advice when they say something isn’t safe.

      4. Oh, and you’re right that it isn’t BRT. And neither are RapidRide or SWIFT BRT. I haven’t seen anybody outside the No campaign claiming SWIFT + E Line are somehow comparable to Link to Everett.

        I get it that what ST is proposing for I-405 isn’t BRT either. But all of them could be given better treatments, like, say, not having the SWIFT bus stop while the sheriff’s department checks fares, or deciding that the bus lane won’t become an SOV lane or a parking lane outside of peak, and during peak in the lower-ridership direction.

        I don’t believe you have the superpowers to install true BRT here. I don’t believe anybody does. And that, in a nutshell, is why I want light rail, not something sold as “BRT”, to connect the major destinations of the region. I want mobility!

  5. Regarding removal of the I-5, it’s certainly a provoking idea, but for something else to think about. Instead of outright removal, how about downsizing? Complete reconstruction is going to be extremely expensive, and cause huge disruption. Instead build a tunnel (stay with me) from the I-90 junction to the 520 junction to carry through traffic. This removes all through traffic. Now remove all the decking from the existing I-5 route, and re-purpose it the remaining footprint to carry traffic that is city bound. It might be necessary to fill some of the trenches where the express routes sit, and so forth, but it certainly worth some thinking about.

    Granted any suggestion of a new tunnel probably makes people think of Bertha, but I’d suggest two smaller boring machines instead of a worlds-largest-ever boring machine. Additional the geology should be a less of a concern on this route (though I am no geologist).

    Crazy?

    1. Two Bethas, all or nothing. Thats 8 total lanes, replace the surface with a 6 lane surface street and bam, you’ve increased total capacity.

    2. A cut-and-cover tunnel would be digging down rather than Bertha mining. Usually cut-and-cover is disfavored because it disrupts businesses on the street, but in this case only the freeway and it’s no-man’s-land is above it, and the freeway would have to be closed anyway to rebuild the viaducts (it’s not really on the ground). So they could build a cut-and-cover tunnel and a boulevard on top of it and whatever kind of buildings or parks around that.

      1. I doubt Sound Transit would appreciate the cut and cover approach due to their very expensive new tunnel just under I-5 at Olive Way.

      2. Well, if WSDOT pays to cut-and-cover I-5, maybe they’ll also pay to relocate the Link tunnel to somewhere it can have another useful station – whether at First Hill or at Summit.

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