2016 is the 25th year of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Holiday Train. This year, CTA added an Elves’ Workshop Train so more riders can experience the tradition. There is also a Holiday Bus.

32 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Holiday Train”

  1. Sound Transit, take notes…. if I ran Sound Transit I swear I’d make Christmas & New Year’s Day from 12:01 AM until at least 12:01 PM fare-free, have a Transit Geek Fest in March, have a Pro Shop and make damn sure Paratransit was running on Christmas.

    Oh and sexy light rail from Seattle via Paine Field to Everett. We all know who to thank for that…

    1. One of my regrets in my Washington DC trip is finding out after I got back that DC’s Metro has a gift shop, and I never got to go to it.

  2. Does LINK have any flatcars? Or gondola cars (for dirt and rubble, not skiers?) Because I’ve always wondered about its use in major emergencies, like after a ‘quake.

    Also still think every train should have at least one car with minimal seating, like only aisle-facing folding benches, for passengers with bicycles or heavy luggage loads.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I remember it well. Ran from NE 49th and 30th NE at the NE corner of the Village out along the Northern Pacific branch several miles, perhaps as far as Kenmore, until at least World’s Fair time IIRC. Passenger locomotive for steam heat at one end and a switch engine on the other end with 1930s-era coaches. My dad had his business along Union Bay Place in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and I desperately want to ride on it, but it was not to be.

  3. Question: If the FTA gets abolished, does that mean we as a region can ignore paratransit mandates and “buy America” rules? ( Since we aren’t getting any federal funding anyway)?

    1. I wouldn’t count on it. Washington courts have been among the most demanding in the nation when defending paratransit, and have based their decisions mostly on Washington law rather than federal law. as for the buy American provisions, Trump’s tariffs are likely to eat up any savings —that’s the whole point.

    2. I don’t recall exactly where this is, but I’ve read about a number of smaller communities that couldn’t afford both regular bus service and paratransit. With the law being what it was, paratransit won out, and the 99% of the population that didn’t quality for paratransit got zero service.

    3. You’d think he’d keep “Buy America” because it’s the same as tariffs and making America great again.

      Paratransit is based on the ADA so he’d have to get Congress to repeal that law, otherwise people would sue and the court rulings would have the samer effect as regulations.Unless he can get the Supreme Court to declare the ADA unconstitutional, which the libertarians would probably support.

      1. Could you imagine the blowback from disability rights organizations if the ADA was declared unconstitutional? I don’t want to think about it.

      2. The ADA has both reasonable and unreasonable provisions. Requiring the entrances of public buildings to have wheelchair ramps is reasonable, as is designating a small number of parking spaces in a parking lot as reserved for the handicapped. In the transportation world, requiring that sidewalks be navigable by wheelchairs is not only reasonable and cheap, but also benefits able-bodied people with bikes, strollers, or suitcases.

        But, requiring every transit agency to provide door-to-door service for the disabled at a cost to taxpayers $38/trip served for just one person, is not reasonable. It effectively places a huge tax on transit agencies, resulting in larger agencies providing less service and some smaller jurisdictions not having any service.

        I do wonder about the constitutionality of the ADA. The federal government is supposed to have the authority to regulate “interstate commerce”, but not commerce within a state. Requiring a local bus agency to provide paratransit smells to be like “commerce within a state”.

        Ideally, Republican legislators who represent small communities who can’t afford a basic bus system because of paratransit would raise a stink. After all, this is a perfect example of a “big government” interference, which has real costs, which they claim to oppose. In reality, though, this never happens. Part of this is because images of the disabled arouse the emotions of the rest of the population and no politician wants to come across to the public as doing battle with a grandma in her cain and wheelchair (although, I guess, if you’re Donald Trump, mocking a disabled reporter is ok). But, equally part is that these are communities where nobody really gives a shit about public transit in general and nobody is willing to spend any political capital to improve it or allow it to happen.

      3. If transit agencies get federal funding and purchase equipment from other states, then that would be considered interstate commerce. Over-reach I would say for sure.

      4. “Could you imagine the blowback from disability rights organizations if the ADA was declared unconstitutional?”

        Could you imagine the blowback if Republicans slash Social Security, turn Medicare inti a voucher program, eliminate Medicaid, and slash housing vouchers. Yet those are more likely than eliminating the FTA because Republicans have been pushing those for years and some of them want to do it right away.

      5. Question that’s been on my mind since recent Presidential campaign started: Can anybody give me one single reason why official in question will do, or not do anything he’s ever said in his life? To antiparaphrase reason he just got elected: America Doesn’t Want to Know.

        Well, a minority of America. The ones who think the United States of America, slavery and the genocide of our continent’s original inhabitants excepted, has ever stopped being great. The former head of the KGB acts like he’s betting on it, but nobody that stupid would ever have gotten that position in the first place.

        “Force of nature” used to be a compliment, even when grudging. But category includes everything from dread disease to last tsunami that hit Indonesia. Transit’s best approach to our commencing Administration be exactly the same as for a Force 9 ‘quake in the middle of a smallpox epidemic.

        Mark Dublin

      6. The president is an unknown but he took the recmmendations of his vice prez for cabinet appointments, and the vice prez is religious right and recommended the whole range of conservative agenda items for his cabinet choices. When people with strong beliefs meet somebody who could go any direction, it’s likely they’ll pull him their direction. So he’ll likely go along with them on anything he’s not strongly against. And since we don’t know what if anything he’s strongly against. he may not oppose anything, except in random bursts of contrariness. Maybe the roulette wheel will hover favorably over the FTA slot.

      7. Pence did get some sort of transit package passed by his legislature, and there is no way Trump is going to reduce transit service to any of his properties.

        Transit might very well wind up ok.

        The subsidized but partially privatized Hoosier State has had increasing ridership, so that may serve as a model on how to make Amtrak more popular with less investment.

    4. I’ve seen small cities’ transit websites that list the routes available, then say only disabled and elderly people can use them. It’s better than not having transit at all but it leaves everybody else with no alternative to cars.

  4. On many holidays, San Francisco brings out the Blackpool historic streetcars. It’s a tradition for some streetcar buffs to ride on these days! The details about the cars are here:


    I would love it if Seattle could have an outdoor streetcar or more for special days. The streetcar lines might even get more riders! I am curious if there are others would would embrace getting a partial or fully outdoor car or two as part of the First Avenue streetcar project.

    Cable cars are also decorated for Christmas!

  5. asdf2, there’s a principle that applies equally to transit and Government machinery. If you have to use force on a machine, there’s already something the matter with it.

    If any manufacturer in the United States of America still built the front two vehicles here, we wouldn’t need force of law to avoid ending up with the one by the wall.


    Or its uglier, heavier, mechanically worse piece of crap of a little brother. And be glad to get it.


    When our country’s economy concentrated on making the world’s best transit machines, instead of the world’s worst financial instruments (would anybody us a Sub-Prime Mortgage for rectal surgery on a donkey?) US transit companies bought PCC railcars voluntarily.

    Our industries’ lost trade-skill of reading a balance sheet also used to put organized skilled labor in a company’s credit column. Don’t like being forced to “Buy American?” Put back the America that made America’s products Americans’ justifiably first choice.

    And from personal experience with both, I put “paratransit” and “mandates” in same negative category. Idea that an air-cav prefix lets delivery trucks with seats outperform line-haul transit, taxicab, and ride-sharing…see “financial instruments” above. How about we the voters cut out the middle-man, and mandate ourselves to design and pay for the things we need?

    What if the abolition of the FTA is followed by the abolition of whatever forces abolish it? Meantime, we’re a rich region with a lot of international trade. Like with the whole United States of America, all the Greater Puget Sound Region’s problems are pretty much self-inflicted.


    1. Worldwide, there has been a considerable amount of consolidation. The entire UK has no manufacturer of rolling stock based there. A few companies have factories and that’s it.

      The piece of crap by the wall is made by a company that was sold to Hitachi. My best guess is they will no longer produce crap.

      Bombardier has purchased quite a number of other companies to become what it is now.

      If Buy America couldn’t retain domestic ownership of rolling stock companies, I’m not sure what would, other than a better market for rolling stock.

      1. Glenn, if you’re telling me what I think you are…..wait a minute, will Hitachi still be able to give us the lowest bid on our DSTT-2 fleet? And level with the Local. Will our mechanics lose all that overtime for stuffing the transmissions back inside the trailers?

        And all that supervisors’ time poking the mode-change mechanism with a broom handle to get it into Electric? And at University and 42nd northbound at rush hour, add the bolts the factory missed so the power pedal will stop falling off?

        But from an international perspective, it’d be worth a month in Oslo and Gothenburg for the mass celebrations when they get the reparations fleets awarded them for years of crypto-Axis atrocities on rusted wheels.

        Can’t use The Hague. No judge from any country with decent street rail could ever be impartial.

        But before we furl the Red White and Blue, let’s see an honest tally of number of 70-year-old Hitachi and Bombardier streetcars versus PCC’s respectfully pushing cows off the tracks in village India.

        Because, seriously, for the simplicity and toughness built into the beauty of those cars, it would be as hard for the modern transit world to match it as it will be good for us to relearn the skills.
        Market-wise, our Globe’s global operating conditions will be hot, dirty, and abusive for decades. Brute indestructability always in short supply. No need to leave this whole market to the Russians.


      2. Not sure about the DSTT-2 fleet, but Hitschi is fulfilling the contractual obligations on the Miami subway fleet that were previously undertaken by a Manufacturer of Ill Repute.

      3. Oh, yeah: among the stuff Bombardier owns, it includes the assets of Budd and Pullman Standard. Also much of the stuff once owned by Canada’s UTDC. Pullman Standard was one of the companies that built the PCC.

        So, if you asked them to build you a PCC, they probably have the plans on the shelf someplace. It won’t meet a bunch of the current safety stuff, but they could probably do it.

        I definitely would not furl the flag yet though. Minority builders like Brookville Equipment (Dallas streetcars, rebuilt PCC for Philadelphia), Gomaco (various replica historic streetcars) and TiG/m (a few replica streetcars powered by batteries used at a few resorts but aiming for larger systems) are around.

  6. For several years in the 1970’s, I lived at Marblemount, at the head of the Skagit Valley, where Highway 20 starts to climb the Cascades. Before leaving for a year in VISTA, as transit manager of a social services agency in Idaho.

    It’s a tricky point of Constitutional law to handle, since so many of our Freedom-loving Founders owned slaves, or were saving up to buy them. But I think it’s a safe argument that neither the Bill of Rights or common decency fall under the Commerce Clause.

    The US Constitution was written in The Age of Reason. Meaning save the litigation money for whatever cab fare citizens need to remain healthy and productive. To save taxpayers the cost of leaving them sick, helpless, and dependent.

    Skeptical that for small-scale transit, accommodating the physically disabled edges out passengers who aren’t. My agency had, as I recall, two small school buses with wheelchair lifts, and regular passenger seats.

    On one of them, we designed, and had a local machine shop build, a securement for a paraplegic woman. Safely within budget and regulations. Most likely line haul transit for a sparsely service area legitimately costs more than $38 per ride.

    For this problem, for a lot of our own State, history points a solution. East of the Mountains, for years, many localities took care of their public expenses by having industries where young people could start earning a family wage at age 16.

    So, let’s do this for rural transit. Sit down with some local people who have both successful businesses and large receipts from the Democratic party. And convince them that their political instincts are now best served by shifting their contribution money toward relocating facilities to districts that most need regime change.

    Which will not only help stabilize the housing market in Seattle, but also finally get buses, cabs, and ride-share to at least a whole rural county. Now, one serious obstacle: how many young employees will make you shoot them before they relocate.

    Not a problem. Using latest in both architecture and holography, put your company HQ in a densitized skyscraper which is actually a permanent emissions-free year-round Burning Man. Standing on top of your transit center.

    OK: not a Tweet on Twitter ’til you turn it on!


    1. Service for the disabled is mandated as an accomadation for the regular service so if there is no regular service there is no need for accomadation.

      A building with no stairs does not require an elevator.

  7. The first I ever heard of the CTA’s Santa Train was when I randomly caught it home from work in the winter of ’07/’08. By that time, of course, those in the know we’re tracking the special trains on Twitter, along with appearances of Tamale Man and many other things that would have once been serendipitous in city life. On a scale of 1-to-totally-magical, I’d rate the Santa Train “Pretty Damn Magical”, with a side of surreal. Chicago is not a perfect city in every way, but its holiday spirit is unimpeachable.

  8. Would like to thank King County Metro because of their stupid holiday routine on a day that’s not even a holiday the holiday was yesterday not today missed the bus because it was earlier than usual of course I left work at the same time like I’m supposed to and because there’s fewer buses running instead of you know patient waiting for a bus that would be a few minutes later I have to wait over half an hour for the next one so I’m just going to walk instead but don’t know what I’m getting home late and to top it off because of this stupid stupid stupid holiday schedule on a non-holiday the whole day was yesterday I have to leave early tonight to make sure I’m there on time why is what you’re doing this because Metro workers demand a holiday or they don’t get one laziness is the reason

    1. Well, Matt, at least you’ve just made my morning by revealing three developments I thought I’d never live to see.

      1. King County Metro Transit has become a worker-owned collective, ruled by drivers whose Holiday (and Non-) work station is on the couch at home, gobbling Cheetos and running an App they invented that makes individual passengers miss buses. Man, is the President Elect ever ticked at you for virally out-twittifying his whole declaration of nuclear war. Advise you stay away from pizza parlors for awhile.

      2. Their mates and families have slashed the tires and put a “Free Car!” sign on their Tesla/Rolls Royces parked in the drive of Hugh Hefner’s mansion, which they just seized in the name of The People. Some things, even the relatives of the lazy don’t leave to chance. Who says America has lost all its Family Values?

      3. My high school hero, Jack Kerouac, either isn’t dead or has one disciple left besides me. Though I never mastered his signature writing technique of feeding a huge yellow roll of telegraph paper into a 1940’s Remington typewriter (he really used to be a telegrapher) while eating benzedrine inhalers, ensconced in the back seat of Neal Cassady’s stolen 1952 Hudson roaring toward The Coast.

      Seriously, man, for the reputation of my old profession, I apologize for the treatment you got. So best I can do is forward this correspondence to the people responsible.


      cc: Melani Pedroza, Acting Clerk of the Council
      King County Courthouse
      516 Third Avenue, Room 1200
      Seattle, WA 98104
      (206) 477-1020
      (206) 296-1024 TDD

  9. I was in Rainier Valley yesterday and noticed that all the SHA-redevelopment apartment buildings along MLK are four stories. That’s a of two more stories of housing that could have been built, and it’s unbecoming of six stories that could have been built, and it’s unbecoming of a city. (What, our apartments should be as short as Renton and Issaquah?) There are no single-family neighbors to complain about their views, so why is the zoning so restrictive? There is a six-stoery building at Othello Station and one under construction. But is the rest of MLK still limited to four stories? Or did the city just wait too long to rezone it and missed the chance to influence the SHA’s development plans? Are we making the same mistake in Yesler Terrace which has not been built yet?

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