• What conclusions can we draw from the ST3 precinct map? (1:50)
  • Real-time arrival info for Link remains elusive (16:20)
  • Open gangways and ST’s culture (26:30)
  • Assorted thoughts on 2016 and Seattle Transit (39:30)
  • How you can make a difference in the age of Trump (51:40)
  • Farewell Tim Burgess (1:01:30)

Correction from the podcast:

  • The next 45th District Senate election (for the seat currently held by Dino Rossi) occurs in 2017, not 2018.

41 Replies to “Podcast #31: Year in Review”

  1. U-Link’s real-time signs seem more accurate to me. I use both Capoitil Hill and UW Starions several times a week, and the first several months they were wildly inaccurate and clearly showed scheduled times because they were evenly spaced. 80% of the time they within 3 minutes of the actual times but not exact. A few months ago they became more exact and started saying things like “10 min, 14 min, 24 min” or “13 min, 23, 23 min” and they were actually correct most of the time.

    That revealed a new set of problems. There should never be a 13-minute or 18-minute wait for the next train when headways are supposed to be 10 minutes, but the sign says it and it’s right. This reveals there are operational problems some 10% of the time.

    Link is the light rail where the trains run but the escalators don’t. Yesterday at UW Station, both down escalators from the surface were out of commission, and when I got to Capitol Hill Station the south up escalator was also closed. This is starting to give me doubts about ST’s operational ability, even though as I noted the trains are much more reliable. We need an investigative report on why the escalators are closed so much, what ST is doing to fix therm, and how we can be assured that the three dozen future stations won’t all have the same problem.A breakdown once every three months is expectable, but a breakdown three days a week is totally unacceptable. The DSTT escalators don’t close that often, nor the escalators in other subways, nor the ones in department stores. When a DSTT escalator is closed, it remains closed for three months until they get a grant to fix it; it’s not closed one day and open the next and a different escalator closes the third day.

    You’re right on about the kind of agency ST is, and the most effective political strategy in the next four years. Activists need to focus on close Senate seats, and that’s what the opposition is doing. These are also examples of why I support STB so much: both of you are centrist and pragmatic rather than ideological, and Martin has a way of articulating positions I didn’t know I had, or articulating them better than I can.

    1. Oh goodness don’t even get me started on the escalators. I’m guessing a paint chip is enough to make them “out of order.” And do they really need to get a grant to repair each one? They should really lump it into the cost of station maintenance if it happens so frequently. And unless an escalator is literally sliding off its rail, let us use it as stairs.

      The slowest elevators in the world found at each (non-U-Link) station don’t help matters.

      1. The grants are for the DSTT escalators which were built in the 1980s and apparently don’t have a replacement budget. ST has an ongoing replacement budget for its trains; I don’t know if it extends to the station escalators. But these escalators are brand new so they should be under warranty. So I don’t understand why it has taken so long to fix them and why they keep breaking down. I do see people working on them sometimes.

    2. When are we going to stop referring to the signs at UW Station as real-time arrival signs? Nobody cares when the trains arrive there. They want to know when they depart.

      1. I pick my wife up from that light rail stop when she has a late flight home. So I care about the real-time arrival data!

    3. I have a slightly different experience with the Capitol Hill real-time arrival signs. I’ll often get to the platform and see something like 14, 24, 34 minutes. I get annoyed because there should not be a 14 minute wait. Then, 4 minutes later, a train shows up. I find the screen frequently skips the next train.

    1. But 2016 saw STB’s first Buzzfeed-style clickbait headline. It’s hard to find optimism in a year where historically the most serious transit and land use blog in the region started sliding downhill like that.

      1. You throw away all of STB’s great articles because of one headline you didn’t like? And it wasn’t clickbait, it was a joke. And “sliding downhill” implies a persistent decrease in quality. Do you consider the headlines after that one to be lower average quality than the ones before? I haven’t noticed that. In contrast, the Seattle Times did go downhill when the joint agreement with the P-I ended; it started having typos and incomplete sentences that never occurred before. Not just in one article but repeatedly. That’s downhill. Not one joke headline that was never going to get a meaningful number of extra clicks anyway. (Because only transit fans read transit blogs; tabloid readers are unlikely to come across a link accidentally.)

  2. Martin, hate to get this out of a Deal with the чёрт, (“Chort”) but I could finally get my Route 7 extension to Ellensburg out of this. Desperately resisting finding that link again with the blue trolleybus with the blonde tour guide pointing out heroic memorials all the way down Snoqualmie Pass past the ski areas.

    Fox News just revealed that the liberal establishment has been using illegal immigrants to cover up all the splendid Russian victories in the Kascadya War.

    Have it on good authority that since large percentage of Crimean population considers themselves Russian, maybe latest whatever Russian is for “Deal” will convince them to teach me how to really drive a trans-mountain trolleybus. Which will almost prepare me for the 24 Divisadero in San Francisco.

    ‘Tis an ill wind…like from here on we’ll ever be breathing any other kind!


    1. соглашение (soglashenie, agreement)
      It’s what you want.

      Троллейбус № 7, “Центр – Рейнирская Долина – Элленсбург (Еленабург)”, водитель Марк Дублин
      Trolleybus #7, “Tsentr – Reynirskaya Dolina – Ellensburg (Yelenaburg)”, voditel’ (driver) Mark Dublin

      1. Mainline trains haver long wires too. The ekektrichkas in Russia go out a hundred miles from the cities, and I understand there’s a chain of them from Moscow to St Petersburg. The Netherlands’
        railroads are all electrified I’ve heard, and I saw an old wired train in a movie from India (Salaam Bombay). So the unusual part is not the wires but the bus.

        John Bailo would approve of the Ellensburg line if it ran at 120 miles per hour with a tunnel through the mountains.

  3. Here I was hoping when you guys started off with “we’ve got some musical numbers for you” that we would wind up with a STB equivalent of the Star Wars Holiday Spectacular.

  4. Thanks, Mikhail, I mean Mike! Got carried away there, when podcast started with some conjecture over possible arrangements between two Chiefs of State who both live in the real world of the year 2017.

    The details of which Americans are about to find out for the first time, and turn sheet white. Leading me to speculate on how the United States can still meet the Russians on their own strongest public transit ground and prevail.


    If we extend the Route 7 to Ellensburg – EastLINK forces us to start wiring eastbound from 62nd and Prentice through Renton- the 107 mile distance would let us double the Russian’s wire-length.

    In addition to prestige, this route could theoretically power all of its coaches going up-grade with the power regenerated by the ones going down. Sort of a low-maintenance Queen Anne Counterbalance..

    Problem of slowing to five miles an hour for special work would’ve been a problem a few years ago, but the Swedes have solved this for us:


    Maybe we can also use it for DSTT-2. But absolute greatest thing will be when we ask the Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives for their support. Any bets?
    Meantime, found a countermeasure to efforts to displace English as the language of the trolleybus world.

    Copy, Paste, and Fight Back!



    1. Did you say prestige? If you can convince His Trumpness that it would be the envy of the world, then it would make America great again. But the envy of the world really has to be high-speed rail, a pokey trolleybus isn’t that impressive, and the competitor now is China. Can I have my Seattle – Chicago – New Your HSR now, please.

      As for displacing English, I’m still partial to Esperanto and Lingua Franca Nova.

      Aŭtobuso n-ro Sep, “Centro – Rajnira Valo – Elensburgo”, veturigisto Marko Dublin.

      1. La Trajno ….
        Estas estanta tenita pro trafiko antaŭe.

        La Trajno …..
        Transloĝiĝos baldaŭ.

        Ni pardonpetas pro la malfruo.

        The Train…
        Is being held due to traffic ahead.

        The Train…
        Will be moving shortly.

        We apologize for the delay.

        You’ve made my year, Mike! I first heard about Esperanto when I was six, when my mom told me her dad was a big proponent of it. The 19th century featured many attempts to forever prevent war by various means.

        Which all worked as well as the idea that whoever got the most submarines and machine guns first would prevent the First World War by winning it. Making the Esperanto flag look like the banner of Legal Marijuana won’t work either.

        Probably not coincidence that inventor, who probably knew my grandfather, came from same historically really weird Polish Russian border as Crimea. Nor that Denver had a trolley bus route half a block from the house. First ride, Brill. Second, Pullman or Marmon, forget which.

        Which would explain who really invented that bus line. And since reports are that brakes of most of those Russian buses are in same repair as BART and DC Metro, mountain speeds from crest to coast are probably about 120 mph. Good thing I’ve got seniority over Operator Bailo!

        So: New Presidential Alliance makes it mandatory to cut and paste the translator. Because as English-Russia-English key-click just revealed: “We’re Threaded!” Expedia tickets to Yalta on their way to the Coalition.


      2. Samideano.

        “estas estanta tenita”? My brain hurts. How about:

        La trajno haltas ĉar aŭtobuso genuas.
        The train stops because a bus is kneeling.

        Metropoliteno is an Esperanto novel about a man who helped build the Moscow and Berlin subways in the 1930s.

      3. Look up LFN, you may find it interesting.

        Bonus if you translate the passage in Dr Zhivago where a train stops in the countryside for no apparent reason, then starts again after a while without explanation, because trains did that during the Russian Revolution.

  5. 10 Years of Seattle Transit Blog….

    Let’s see what I want for the gala….

    1) A podcast from the sexy light rail

    2) Sea Gals versus Babes of Transit in a dance-off

    3) Transit geeks playing football against Seattle Seahawks

    4) Blue Thunder

    5) Seattle Transit Blog swag

    6) Burning in effigy the ten worst trolls of transit – Todd E Hermite and Alex Tsimerman

    7) The campaign announcement speech of a candidacy for the Sound Transit Board

    8) A book launch

    9) Chrome trains!

    10) A “Love Trumps Hate” rally all on transit from West Seattle to SeaTac – yes, on the ferry and the sexy light rail. I don’t care if you’re heterosexual like me or LBGTQ, I swear the best response to all these haters bashing transit is LOVE. No, seriously the best rebuttal. Love your best friend, hug your fav Mayor, thank your Sound Transit boardmember, coo gaga at your favourite transit planner angel from the Heavens, I don’t care but spread LOVE.

    I want all these HATERS who hurl HATE to see how their HATE will not and cannot destroy the awesomeness of transit. I want Todd E Hermite to be stuck in the gridlock he loves so much with transit fans loving our HEROES in Sound Transit! I want the Washington Policy Center unable to take their damn Single Occupancy Vehicles out of their parking lot until they accept our gift of a preloaded ORCA card and a free ride on the sexy light rail just 10 minutes away by FOOT and less by King County Metro.

    F–k these haters and hit these haters right where it hurts. Right where it hurts. These haters fear love. These haters fear change. These haters fear moxie. So thrust the good in the haters faces.

    Seattle doesn’t need May Day protests. Seattle needs to stand up for what makes Seattle great. No apologies. No excuses. No anger. No hate. Just love and bold colors.


    1. PS Uh, I don’t think the Washington Policy Center are haters. S–t.

      But I think you know where I’m going with this. I think you know why I’m fired up. I think you know why I am tired of us being so damn pessimistic about an elected Sound Transit Board.

      I believe transit advocates are GREAT. I believe we are INHERENTLY GOOD. We aren’t the ones who should be afraid or ignorant. We are the ones who with hope and moxie got ST3 through. Now let’s make transit great for all. ALL.


    2. No no need to waste precious lighter fluid- though electronic cigarettes don’t need it, do they?- and create air pollution- which smells worse from e-cigarettes. Hate cloves and patchouli.

      Because our approaching President’s new buddy, whose intelligence our man respects, has just appointed Alex Secretary of Transportation for the “Oblast”. Sort of like a region back home.

      Tell the ST Board to give him a a really good grade and a strong letter of recommendation for several years’ internship in Seattle, Joe. Could get us a Federal (doesn’t matter what country, does it?) for my line to Ellensburg.

      I’ll show you how to use the dynamic when the airbrakes burn out, Joe. Promise.


  6. What you guys said about ST’s culture really rang true. ST seems to see itself as a general contractor for cities and politicians, rather than an agency with agency of its own, and a mandate to make life better for riders.

    I feel like ST has the mindset of agencies like those in Denver, Minneapolis, Phoenix, or San Diego. These cities have wide roads, mostly very low densities, and rider populations that don’t add up to a powerful political force. If someone stole all these agencies’ LRVs overnight, their cities would still function; of course, traffic would get worse, people without cars would be cut off, there would be a forced spike in bus ridership and carpooling, but their economy wouldn’t collapse.

    By contrast, it’s hard to even construct this thought experiment for New York, Boston or Chicago; taking away their trains would have an impact comparable to a natural disaster. Their transit agencies are indespensible and their riders are a forced to be reckoned with.

    Seattle is much closer to the latter than the former. Today, if you shut down ST rail services, the mess would be terrible, but I don’t think it would strangle the city. Once Link reaches Lynnwood and Bellevue, bus service is redeployed to provide transfer service, and the latent demand from that capacity improvement is realized, ST will be indispensible. ST should think of itself as more like a younger MBTA than a higer-ridership Denver RTD.

    1. I disagree. I don’t want ST to be a benevolent agency telling the cities what is good for them any more than I want Robert Moses walking in that door.

      Sound Transit exists to tackle projects the 3 counties can do on their down, and to operate service on behalf of Metro, CT, PT, and SDOT (and Everett Transit?). In that sense, I think ST correctly operates as an extension of those agencies, not yet another governmental agency that may or may not be working in parallel. We already see the heartache that comes when WSDOT and the local agencies are not on the same page.

      I’d much rather have SDOT and Metro driving the strategic thinking (service structure, capital planning, etc.) and have that flow into Sound Transit. I do think ST will evolve into a more operational agency, especially to ensure operations between the local transit agencies is complementary and transfers are seamless – but it should be able to do that using the existing governance structure, the Board just needs to care more about operations than capital planning, which should happen as more lines open & Link becomes more indispensable, as Mike says.

      1. “Sound Transit exists to tackle projects the 3 counties can do on their down, and to operate service on behalf of Metro, CT, PT, and SDOT (and Everett Transit?).”

        The first part is right, after you change “can” to “can’t”. The second part is inaccurate: ST has chosen to outsource bus operations, the same way Community Transit has. I assume it’s to avoid the added headaches of running it themselves. Also, many of the ST Express services are interim until rail replaces them.

      2. Yes, I meant can’t thanks.

        For the second half, let me say instead “ST funds service on behalf of …” – yes, then then outsource operations back to Metro, but importantly ST is funding said service on behalf of the ST service territory.

      3. Yes, I meant can’t thanks.

        For the second half, let me say instead “ST funds service on behalf of …” – yes, ST then outsources operations back to Metro, but importantly ST is funding said service on behalf of the ST service territory.

      4. Actually, if you turn it around it’s right. Pierce Transit operates the 57x and 59x on behalf of ST, and also a coupler other routes because PT is the cheapest. CT outsources its operations to First Transit, a private bus operator., So ST contracts the 51x routes to CT, and CT contracts them to FT. Everett Transit doesn’t run anything except its own few routes. (It also pays CT to run the Everett part of Swift, since Everett is outside the CT service area. This is also why the 202/202 have limited stops in Everett.) Metro operates all the other ST Express routes and Link for ST, and the streetcars for SDOT. (ST funded the construction of the First Hill Streetcar but SDOT owns it.) BNSF operates Sounder. I understand ST itself operates Tacoma Link.

    2. Look at the deliverables:

      Metro: Service. The bus driver and the route. Makes sense that someone there would try things that augment service.
      ST: Hardware. Right of way, stations, trains, track. Matter of fact, doesn’t ST contract operators from Metro?

      It strikes me that both deliverables form the yin and yang of public transit. Each agency’s focus on their deliverable parallel what got them in hot water in the first place. Outcries about Metro center on the service not on the bus itself. ST nearly died on construction and accounting.

      Fyi- Frank mentioned 8 years until the next new thing. IIRC, North Link opens in 5 years. (Fingers crossed)

  7. I seem to remember from a long time ago, maybe before it was actually Sound Transit, that plan was for the agency to be a general contractor, and not run its own trains. Problem with King County Metro is that transportation is only one agency of several.

    With any work of this order, I’d really have somebody in charge with their whole concentration on the transit system. Which every hour has considerable distraction of its own.

    Worst thing about endemic low-wage understaffed workforce is not its social injustice, but the shortage and overwork of all employees, which makes it impossible to remedy any injustice by virtue of the fact it can’t get its own job done right.

    Which, incidentally, is every worker’s most powerful spirit of defiance and resistance. People who do this are hated and feared by their overseers, and generally replaced by even fewer mediocrities and worse.

    Sometimes agencies like this deliberately and proudly staff important positions with people who have never in their lives done the job.

    Wish Congress would make that a more impeachable than disgusting adulterous sex involving a repulsive male President and a girl half his age as an impeachable offense.

    Because in Arkansas, girl’s father, brothers, cousins, and their shotguns can usually muster enough votes, and buckshot, to have made Albert Gore the President. Which Albert Gore was unable to do without that assist.

    As the online Russian dictionary interprets the term, “We’re Threaded.” Desired English word….don’t start 2017 with that particular mental picture from above impeachable attempt.

    Happy New Year anyhow.


  8. Initial apologies for just now listening to the podcast. This season tends to be quite busy!

    I’m glad that you discussed the ST culture issues, but you didn’t propose some effective solutions. I have a concept solution in mind.

    In order to change the culture at ST, they need to create a user experience (UX) culture. They need a UX office, a UX deputy director or officer, UX workshops for board members and senior staff and local city councils and similar initiatives. The problems with real-time arrival, lack of escalators, escalator/elevator maintenance, general signage, security, terrible drop-off/pick-up, missing pedestrian/bicycle connectivity and nearby bus stop signing or operations — and on and on — are symptoms of an overall lack of ST making the rider or user experience important.

    I used to think that focusing on station access is enough. I’m realizing more an more it isn’t. Access is one part of user experience.

    Rather than STB and others push for things piecemeal, I think we would do better to push for a targeted organizational change: A set of staff and a program to enhance transit rider user experience as their primary mission. We have tech companies who already focus on this in their organizations; it’s time we modernize our approach to transit operations and capital projects with this focused emphasis.

    1. Yes, I think having someone who owns the end-to-end rider experience would be helpful. Part of it also may be a lack of rider touch points within the agency. The operators all work for Metro, so rider feedback may not be getting funneled back up in the way it would for an agency that hires its own operators.

      1. Yes, I could see things not making into the system.

        Another problem is that when complaints do get entered in the system, they get doled out to different departments and people. Complaints about escalator maintenance and missing escalators go to different departments. Complaints about real-time arrival and bad stationary signage go to different departments. Complaints about access may be forwarded internally, or sent off to a local government which summarily ignores them. There just isn’t a person or group that can be an effective rider experience advocate in the agency.

        I’m not a management specialist to have a specific change in mind, but something structural does indeed need to be done.

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