Seattle University Streetcar Running First Hill Route

This is an open thread.

49 Replies to “News Roundup: Line-by-Line”

  1. Can anyone comment on the “fire in the station/evacuate” message playing at the Westlake station yesterday afternoon. I entered the station around 3:30pm, the message was on constant repeat, buses and trains running as normal, dropping people off & loading. No transit representatives around…. Perplexing.

    1. Would be even more perplexing if nobody picked up one of the emergency phones on the wall and called control. Or if they smelled smoke, heard screaming, or sensed danger any other way, went upstairs and outside and called 911.

      That way, in addition to possibly saving a lot of people’s lives if the danger was real, there’s also be a time-stamped record to verify that the message was there, and somebody called it in. Unless somebody did notice, kept their head, checked for noise and smoke, and quietly called somebody else who turned it off.

      For failures, this was a big one and a bad one. Ironic but not funny that only reason Harborview Emergency didn’t crash from stampede casualties is that a fire alarm and evacuation order went off, and nobody noticed. Also, like with any false alarm, equal danger of everybody ignoring a real one.

      Either way, anybody else want to forward this comment to to their Sound Transit and King County representatives? Anybody who saw the incident first-hand, there’s a Sound Transit Board meeting this afternoon at 1:30. Probably not on agenda for public comment, but chance to call somebody in authority

      And let them know you were there, and have record of place, time and date, and also called it in as it was happening. I’d make the trip myself if I’d seen the incident first-hand.

      Mark Dublin

    2. It was playing in every DSTT station when I went through at around 1530ish. No idea what was going on.

  2. How unreal/amazing would it be if the Trump administration supplied $7 billion in grants for those projects?

    That’d do more to speed up ST3 than anything else.

    1. Considering this official’s performance record in his own trade, and his handling of his first week or so in office, much speedier to space shelters along major tectonic fault lines and harness plate tectonics for construction and performance.

      And on the schedule board at every shelter, make sure numbers are eons and not hours. Along with the Metro slogan: “We’ll Get You There!”


    2. You’d have to subtract the amount ST estimated in its budget. ST3’s overall grant estimate is 10%, so it would depend on whether they come in higher or lower than that. There are also other things we can do locally to speed up the timeline regardless of grants or the economy. The timeline assumes the EIS and permitting process will be as long and expensive as it was in ST1 and 2. East Link was the worst with some fifteen alternatives in Bellevue and city-council obstruction. But for future projects if the stakeholders agree on one alternative to study besides ST’s preferred one and the do-nothing one, then that could cut a year off the EIS process. And if cities expidite the permitting and don’t put in roadblocks, that would streamline that process too. And there’s a year of float in all the project timelines. So if all of those go well things could open 1-3 years early and cost less.

  3. Driverless trains (real link here) are why we should fight hard for a completely grade-separated path for the Seattle Subway.

    “During the morning rush, trains are scheduled as close as 2 minutes 13 seconds apart. In some cases, they arrive every 1 minute 15 seconds.”

    This is amazingly useful, and shaves far more time off a trip than any speed improvement you can think of. All while saving millions of dollars a year on driver costs. It’s a huge improvement.

    1. Isn’t the current plan to get fully grade-separated?

      I don’t understand why a line needs to be fully grade-separated to be driverless. With all the advancements in driverless technology (LIDAR, software, etc.), I don’t think the at-grade crossings in places like RV and Bel-Red would prevent a conversion to driverless trains.

      Frankly, automated safety controls are probably more robust than depending on a driver’s visibility & reflexes on a dark and a rainy day.

      1. AJ is right. You can have driverless trains with grade crossings given how driverless technology has progressed in recent years.

        I would assert that the key question is how fast driverless can be allowed to go. Since Link trains have steel wheels, they need more stopping distance than cars or trucks do. A train would need to be able to go at least 20 or 25 mph through at-grade intersections or the benefit would be questionable. That wouldn’t condemn the entire MLK corridor to the lower speeds for trains though, because the trains are below those speeds coming into and out of stations already; they could go faster if the some street crossings between stations are eliminated and the track is appropriately fenced. In SODO, the Holgate crossing is the only one not near a station where trains are not already moving slowly.

        A different scenario would be or drivers to be used only at the segments with grade crossings — and would leave the trains as driverless for the rest of the trip. For example, a driver could be used between BAR and IDS, and the train would be driverless for the rest of the trip.

    2. “Rogoff said Sound Transit has money to expand service but not to retrofit with expensive automation.

      And he doesn’t want driverless trains on only one part of the system.

      “We want our trains to be interoperable, we want every train to be able to run on every segment of the rail network,” Rogoff said.”

      Sounds like the capital expense to convert all lines to driverless trains would be a great centerpiece of a ST4 funding package.

    3. Another calculation for you, Matt: Since a fully-automated line has to be grade-separated it whole length, it can’t have any grade crossings at all. Meaning terminating the line and having passengers transfer to feeder at the point where density doesn’t yet pay for automated conditions.

      Though good counter-argument is that feeder lines, which can be either light rail or bus, can run on reserved surface right way already sub-structured for heaviest rail it’ll need in the future. With undercuts already in place, as well as footings for elevated structure.

      Could use trains designed for both automated and manual operation. Drivers in cabs whole trip. Automated section, 2 and a half minute headways, computer drives.And driver’s job is watching cameras for trouble- especially from passengers. On segments where there are still grade-crossings, driver drives.

      SF Muni Metro runs high-platform under Market Street- anybody know if train-control or drivers handle this part?- and literally streetcar through neighborhoods. Every staircase on the train has steps that change height. Doubt anybody else does this. Or 180′ trains and stop signs either. So for us- high platform every station, heavy or light-rail mode. We’ve got architects who can make them sightly.

      If we want to do the extending- railhead mode- whatever they called it in the old “Westerns”- automate ’til you see the battery-powered artic stagecoaches. But if we’d rather run subway and light-rail same run, use the construction savings to pay drivers where conditions demand.

      Mark Dublin

      1. I disagree, Mark. A driverless line could have some grade crossings, but the maximum speed may be required to be lowered. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of speed. A line could also have segments with drivers and segments without drivers.

      2. ST could also install a set of cameras and a control center that simulates being in a train cab. Then, someone could “drive” the train remotely in a control center for the at-grade sections, and then let it be driverless for the rest of the line.

      3. AI S.
        How would the train communicate with the control center? I wouldn’t trust the general Internet. Anyone who games at all has been fragged due to lag. Imagine you’re driving the train, then frames start dropping, then it just freezes for a second. What do you do? Slow down try to slow? You don’t even know if the train will get the break command. Keep going? What if there is an obstruction that you can’t see?

        Does anyone know about communication systems more reliable than the general Internet which could be used here?

      4. At least a couple of the “driverless bus” concepts are doing it this way already. If the bus can’t figure out what it needs to do an operator takes control of it.

        With a train, you already have a wired communication system, and communication from the train to the line side system isn’t too bad.

      5. Oh, see Positive Train Control for an example of train to line side communications. Some places are using the leftover bandwidth to provide WiFi on their trains. Sadly, in most places in the USA this happens over a very limited capacity cell modem.

    4. Something that I have harped on before but which warrants more harping is that high frequency trains mean shorter trains. And shorter trains mean shorter stations. Link’s stations are much larger than Skytrain stations and are concomitantly more expensive.

  4. If Rob Johnson is “on the right side of history”, I don’t think the self-righteousness inherent in that language, nor his parallel to Trumpism, is good politics. There are a lot of people that are slightly opposed to HALA upzones, or opposed to some aspects of upzones, that could be convinced of the overall benefit. Calling the whole group backwards forces everyone to take a side, and makes the “anti”s a lot more entrenched in their positions.

    1. Remember, though. Donald did say it was going to be a BEAUTIFUL wall. And that whoever was on the excluded side was going to have to pay for it. So since the pro-density side is going to get the bill, we densitizers can turn it into a splendid park-like structure that includes lovely affordable apartments right in the wall!

      Meantime, though, clear and present danger: That the President’s most vocal advocate at every ST Board Comment period will convince our Chief Exec that Rob is in fact the worst fat blood-sucking gangster on the Board. Resulting in Rob’s getting stuffed on board a Bear bomber at JBLM and appointed Putin’s new Commissar of Trolleybuses and Housing Density in Crimea.

      Joe, you’ve got to save us!


    2. I used to think that way, and have had gentle, indulgent, attempting-to-nudge conversations with moderate housing restrictionists, but I wonder if this is true. Once people buy the big lie of the NIMBYs, they can sometimes be nudged back toward partial sanity. But lots of people with generally progressive and liberal values haven’t really given land use and zoning issues much thought at all. I think the frank, forceful, YIMBY rhetoric of Johnson models here may actually be better politics for this population, insofar as it might inoculate them against the big lie that restricting housing supply is consistent with liberal, progressive and environmental values.

      In other words, the form of engagement you prefer is probably better politics for people who’ve bought into the big lie, but not unreservedly. That’s important. But we also need a form of discourse that exposes the big lie for the cover for reactionaries and rent-seeking that it is, so that new people to the debate will be less vulnerable to it. These two imperatives cut against each other, and it’s hard to say which is more urgent, but except for Johnson pretty much all pro-housing supply electeds tend to focus on the first kind of discourse exclusively. In terms of vulnerability and exposure, Johnson’s in the right district for his rhetoric; recall that the “restrict-the-housing-supply” incumbent tanked badly and failed to survive the primary, behind two strong urbanists.

    3. There’s only two choices, yes or no. Being a little bit no has the same effect as being slam-hard no: it denies people housing choices and the ability to live close to work and in areas where it’s possible to be carfree without a big struggle. We shouldn’t be bombastic and dismissive of their concerns if they’re just slightly negative, but I don’t see Johnson doing that. Instead I see NIMBYs piling up on him at an earlier public meeting, not open to the thought that people who aren’t current homeowners or don’t yet live in the neighborhood matter.

  5. I rode the Capitol Hill streetcar last week. It happened to be the most direct way of getting from where I was to where I wanted to be. I was surprised to discover – contrary to the conventional wisdom – that the ride was much faster than walking. I arrived at my destination several minutes early. It was a pleasant experience.

    If the streetcar went up to the north end of Broadway, I’d be likely to visit the north end of Broadway more often.

      1. It was raining, so I wasn’t going to walk regardless. When is rush hour for the streetcar? This particular trip was at 6 pm.

  6. Seattle Subway isn’t keeping up with technology. Driverless trains don’t require full grade separation anymore. If Uber/Google/Tesla/Apple/whoever can build a driverless car that can navigate a city on surface roads, then a driverless LRV on rails can be built too. It is actually a much easier problem, and the economics would favor conversion of mass transit to driverless before they would favor the conversion of cars to driverless.

    Bottom line? Central Link could be converted to driverless just as readily as any proposed “new” line. Grade separation isn’t required, and mimicking VanBC’s Skytrain isn’t required either. That system is rapidly becoming sort of a technological dinosaur.

    1. Jim,

      I expect that the radars on a self-driving train could big-hole it (with the track brakes) at least two seconds more quickly than ANY human driver,

      The biggest problem is the doors. You’d need double doors to prevent runners forcing the train doors open. Human drivers watch the mirrors and don’t start.

      Now I guess you could have an interlock that would prevent movement when any door was held open; maybe the trains have that today. But people are going to game an automated system in ways they won’t when the depend on a human noticing and acting in their interest.

      1. @Jim,

        A 2 mph crash!! Oh the humanity!! The horror!!

        I am sure that now that a Google has this one data point they will give up on the very concept of the self driving car. You know, just like the Wright brothers gave up on the airplane after their first crash. And just like Edison gave up on the lightbulb the first time one burned out on him.

        Because, you know, that is what humans do, they give up.

        But seriously now, surely you realize that this is still a development effort? And that a self driving LRV is a much simpler problem? And that each of these incidents results in improvements? That truely self driving cars are at least a couple of years away?

      2. Well, let’s see,

        People aren’t allowed on airport runways, and certainly aren’t flying around by themselves.
        I haven’t heard of light bulb drones…

        Most any robotic device of any substantial size is separated from humans, given the way humans make mistakes.

        So, are Google cars completely driverless now?

        Modern avionics can fly a plane from runway to runway without human intervention.

        Would you get on a plane with no pilots?

        There you go!

        Let’s have all of Google’s software engineers take the first commercial pilotless flight.
        In fact, if they’re that confident in software, maybe all their trips should be that way.

        Great Idea…

        Software will fix everything, you betcha.

        I can only assume those who believe that have never worked in the industry.

        Wait until the first pedestrian involved accident with a Google car.

        Any software engineer that has the hubris to believe that their software is perfect…
        Well, I guess there are, since I’ve worked with a few, and picked up the pieces afterwards, too.

        Just make sure their name is in the lawsuit from the first fatality.

        We can always ask Toyota. What was their fatality count? 89? Just a stack overflow.

      3. For reasons or aesthetics, we are likely to continue to see pilots on airplanes, but software is still taking over. Certainly when you read about air accident investigations, autopilots make fewer mistakes than human pilots. I’ll wait until I see some pilotless aircraft fly around empty without accidents before I board one, but at that point, I will. And other people will too especially when they have fewer accidents.

      4. @Jim,

        I was talking to the mother of my neighbor the other day at a celebratory event. This lady recently moved here permanately from England to help with family duties. She is early 60’s, very well spoken, and highly educated. Part of her family duties involve getting an American driver’s license to help shuttle the grandkids around, and she is absoulutly scared to death of this.

        Now you might think she is scared to drive here because we drive on the other side of the road, but this doesn’t bother her in the least. What has her petrified is the concept of driving an automatic transmission car. She has never done it before, doesn’t trust a car to shift for her, and doesn’t know how a person can drive when they don’t know exactly what the car is doing at all times.

        I don think she will have much luck turning the tide against the automatic transmission car, and I don’t think you will have much luck turning the tide against software and the engineers who write it. Software is here to stay and will play an ever increasing role in our lives.

        You can hate on Google engineers all you want, but someday you’ll be dependent on them (or on their compatriots at Other companies).

        The self driving car is coming. Get used to that idea or hide under a rock somewhere.

      5. I don’t have a problem with software, spent 25 years writing it.

        I have trouble with programmer’s egos.

        Talked with someone who had contacts in the insurance industry.

        Actuaries are already working on driverless cars.
        It’s not a question of when, but how many deaths.

        So be the first one on your block to step out in front of that car.

        The problem isn’t new cars, and the added complexity. I fix everything on my new vehicles.

        What’s different now is ‘ghosts in the machine’.

        Blind faith in software solutions is quite naive.

        And there’s not enough humility coming from software industry.

        Too much time spent blaming the user, or something else.

      6. @Jim,

        I don’t think your annoyance at programmer’s egos is gong to affect the development nor deployment of driverless car tech in any meaningful manner.

        And actuarial type analysis is a component of all transportation development. It’s not limited to driverless cars,

        But the fact that actuaries are getting involved does indicate that driverless car tech is nearing deployment.

      7. Insert here rude, sarcastic comment about great technical advances that will lead to driverless buses, but we still won’t have accurate real time arrival for them in snow storms because we still can’t figure out where they are or how fast they are going.

      8. There’s a huge difference between a technology that chooses between five gears and has been around for fifty years, vs technology that tells the car when to start and stop in traffic and what to do about moving objects around it and is just now moving out of the testing stage. Automatic transmissions may be unusual in England but this sounds like hysteria. People going the other way have more legitimate fears: they have to do more things at the right time, and keep the car from stalling when they’re stopped at a light going up a hill. But fear of automatic transmission? It sounds like she just needs to be in an automatic car a couple times and it will go away. She could also look up the breakdown rate: I haven’t heard of automatic cars having dangerous beakdowns in the middle of the road en mass in the fifty years I’ve been around them, and if they did people wouldn’t be buying them.

  7. Safer calculation, Lazarus. Why don’t we take a plot of land about the size of a small suburb and make a movie lot out of it. Except have life-like robots wander the streets with ears plugged and eyes iPadded. And then turn loose as many automated cars as area that size would really feature.

    Considering the profits on the line, no conceivable doubt that private industry will pay for the whole thing. Especially when comparing test cost to the liabilities they’ll incur first time their car’s computer discovers it was made by Samsung. In front of, or approaching perpendicular to, a non-simulated loaded school bus.

    But most important part of the experiment: You get to be simulated-director of risk management of Uber, Lyfft, Tesla, the whole world’s car industry, KC Metro, and Sound Transit. Except ever dummy that goes road-kill (man, will the crows ever be ticked!) you have to pay back your whole salary in real money when you get out of “jail.” Because Western State is already “full”.


  8. Judging by Gothenburg in Western Sweden, and Oslo, Norway, Cleveland has a point about not wanting free-steered buses going through plazas.

    But like both those cities, Cleveland has an “out”. Since they’ve had light rail from the time when it was called “PCC” streetcars, they could put a line right through the park.

    Main reason people are more comfortable with railcars than buses in plaza spaces is that the outside edge of the car is always same distance from the rails, and can’t vary side to side. Could be lifetime familiarity, but the Oslo waterfront plaza has no warning signs, and Gothenburg very few.

    Really coming to loathe, though, US public officials using threat of terrorism to back up decisions like this. Especially when somebody suicidal and insurance-indifferent can get up enough speed to drive a double-bottomed tanker truck over a curb- and a lot of people- ’till he hits the switch.

    Though considering infrastructure maintenance deferred to pay for bogus pork-barrel crap called “anti-terrorist”, what cell needs to waste a cherry bomb? Just watch FOX news in Vegas, put your mai-tai aside, ask the pardon of the girl on your lap and tweet:

    “Choke to death in a burning subway car in your own Capital, Infidel Dogs! And the strength of the mighty hand of vengeance is at this very minute cracking another rail on BART… though ISIS is curious as to why you would name your doomed train line after a cartoon character? Who is in actuality very funny. God likes that school bus driver too.”

    I’ll tell the mayor what, though. What he might want to do is scatter shrubs and trees in concrete planters through the park, while raising “berms” and striking creations in large sharp rock. And lay streetcar tracks in an attractive winding path through them. If he plays his cards right, he can get an anti-terrorism grant to pay for it.


  9. Yikes. Boise seems to have about the same level of bus service now as it did when I was i high school in the 80s. Two routes running until 10pm seems to be the only addition.

Comments are closed.