Sound Transit flag

This is an open thread.

50 Replies to “News Roundup: Indispensable”

  1. Those two ST3 bullet points being next to each other are key. House Democrats caved on this issue and refused to defend the transit projects that voters approved. Rather than settling the issue, it emboldened Republicans to go further, because the GOP now knows Dems are vulnerable on this, are defensive, and thus willing to cave.

    Transit seems to have no defenders in Olympia right now. It’s chilling: voters spoke loud and clear that they want this. But Democrats sell transit *and our climate* down the river because they’re scared. It’s not hard to cut the car tabs and replace it with new revenue.

    The fact that Dems didn’t even push that shows how much work we have to do to elect even a single Democrat to the legislature who supports transit. Because, right now, we clearly don’t have any.

    1. It is appalling. A cheap-and-Seattle Times-led outrage campaign and with hardly a hint of resistance, they fold like a cheap suit. Of Course Republicans are going hard after Sound Transit more now–they probably didn’t realize how little resistance there would be initially, given the ST III electoral result. The degree of contempt the Republicans are showing for 55% of of the ST III voters doesn’t surprise me at all, but I expected a little more from the Democratic side. Silly me.

      I like Farrell, and appreciate she couldn’t have single-handedly prevented this, but at this point I’m not sure anyone who thinks about taxes and transit issues in the way the state party evidently does (substantively and strategically) has any business being supported by transit advocates and environmentalists in Seattle.

    2. Exhibit B or C or D why I want transit boards to be elected. To be a farm team for state legislature. To have the guts to talk back to right wing radio and defend Sound Transit in the public square. To prove to all we could beat back an attempt via direct democracy to defund Sound Transit much more than $2 Billion.

      1. An elected board would have recommended a 10B reduction, or not pushed ST3 at all. You know this Joe.

    3. Being old enough to watch it happen, Robert, I think that as human beings, a lot of Democrats have spent so many years being pounded that they only run for office out of duty to their constituents.

      Luckily, I’m meeting very large numbers of very young people with all the right qualities, in addition to youth’s best recommendation. Which is that before you’re about 25, Nature and mends a lot of bones you break. And regrows things you cut off. Got to learn logging while you’re still under the Juvenile Code.

      Speaking of which, I think one terrific “They Won’t See It Coming!” for the Democrats would be push to put the voting age at sixteen. When vast majority of the world’s population thinks you’re an adult. Bet voters and other parents would be glad to give WASL a rest, in favor of making running for office a graduation requirement.

      Student doesn’t have to win, just make his or her opponent spend a given ton-weight of campaign money. Exactly the kind of practice needed to “get” Citizens United.

      A neighborhood oriented campaign is perfect for pre-college kids. Who haven’t yet developed any public habits for voters to hate. Except by a 17 year old girl with a 17 year old boy candidate who’s in love with her.

      But here’s greatest “wedge” (ending in “ie” or not.) Only legal way to become an adult at Nature’s intended time: Kill six people. Right? So conviction of a crime that serious will postpone voting past 18 in any case. But:

      If he or she is found innocent, they should, by law, get registered to vote on their way out of the courthouse. Because The Law has sworn under oath that this person is indeed an adult. And by way of an apology for a wrongful accusation, a union-scale PUBLIC service job that doesn’t yet need a CDL.

      Governor Lowry once told a gathering I was at that if he had all the high-school kids in his district working on his campaign, he could win any election in the State. Meaning we’d best get moving before the Alt-Right does.


    4. Not one Democrat in the House thought this was a defensible position. It’s bizarre nobody on the sidelines gets the political reality.

      Maybe dozens of experienced legislators who talk to thousands of residents in their districts actually know something about this?

      1. All I’m saying is that cutting the car tabs without replacing the lost revenue is an anti-transit position to take, and Democrats should have avoided doing so. The political reality here is that Democrats caved to the Republicans and in doing so opened the door to a much worse result. This is an object lesson in how Democrats fail at Negotiations 101 and we all suffer for it.

      2. Dan:

        1) Not one Democrat is a phrase begging for attribution or citation. You keep taking a pseudo-authoritative tone in these discussions that echoes a full-time Olympia beat reporter. Whence your intimate knowledge of the mind of every single Democrat in the house on this issue?
        2) Define “defensible.” Are you seriously arguing that, say, the 43rd is at risk of turning Republican?
        3) There is a difference between understanding a politicians’ rationale and giving them a free pass for that rationale. No one is failing to understand that there are irate voters. There was also, as Robert points out, an opportunity to stand up for transit and for all of us who bothered to use the publicly available calculator before casting a vote. That opportunity was lost.
        4) Maybe dozens of experienced legislators… You hold a group of politicians at the lowest level of state government in a generally failing party in bizarrely high regard. They’re not philosopher kings. And they’re not all experienced. Nicole Macri of the 43rd is in fact a freshman. But I guess all of us on the “sidelines” of democracy will just keep quiet when our elected representatives make decisions that offend our values and disregard our votes because some of them have…experience and stuff?

    5. “the GOP now knows Dems are vulnerable on this, are defensive, and thus willing to cave.”

      I think you mean vulnerable to this. That means they can be persuaded by Republicans to change their mind. Vulnerable on this means the Dems think that sticking with the existing policy will hurt their reelection chances, which is an assessment they make themselves regardless of what the Republicans say. The issue turns on what caused Democrats to change their mind (from “transit is more essential than low car tabs” to the opposite). The answer to that reveals the underlying factor and thus which transit-fan strategies might work best . I suspect the reason the Dems changed their mind was the perception that voters would turn them out of office if they didn’t lower car tabs, based on constituent calls and polling and media reports, rather than from being convinced by Republican fiscal and values arguments. So the strategy then is to somehow show them that there are at least as many people who want ST3 to proceed as-is.

      Another thing, O’Ban’s article says ST can just dip into its 20% reserves. Those reserves are for unanticipated contingencies. It’s like spending the state’s rainy day fund because you’re sure there will be no recession. What if we had done that before the 2008 crash? The ST3 projects have not been engineered yet, no exploratory holes have been dug, and we don’t know what the future economy or commodity availability or labor will be like. If ST were to spend its reserves on its own at this time, observers would say it’s being reckless and will undoubtedly have cost overruns and will have to ask for more money later. But if the state forces ST to use up its reserves, that’s not just as reckless? Will legislators and the Times and Dori Monson then refrain from calling ST “wasteful, spendthrift, incompetent” if there is a cost overrun and it has to ask for more money because the reserves are depleted? Don’t be silly.

      1. Steve O’Ban is anti-transit and wants to blow up ST3. He knows he has a chance to do so because there’s not a single Democrat in the legislature willing to stand up for transit. They could have cut car tabs while replacing the lost revenue and keeping ST3 whole. That would be a win-win proposal that would have built support for the Democratic position.

        Instead, they caved. Now nobody supports their position. Anti-tax folks think the Dems didn’t go far enough, pro-transit folks think they went too far. So now Dems have no base of support on this and are vulnerable to GOP efforts to further weaken ST3 – which is precisely what O’Ban is doing. It is a cause and effect.

      2. Here’s another thought. Perhaps the Republican State Senate anticipated this when they passes the bill that allowed ST3 to be voted on in the first place. They probably figured, if it passes, people will after-the-fact blame Sound Transit for the car tabs, and if it fails, that’s good for the anti-tax people, anyway.

    6. I think any bill that cuts money should include a provision that allows people in the ST area to vote for a new tax. Allow us to replace the old car tab tax with a new one. The new one would be higher for some cars, but lower for others (because it would follow the new, more equitable valuation process while keeping the same funding). You wouldn’t be able to argue that ST mislead anyone, or that people don’t know what they are getting into. The entire ballot initiative would be about either cutting money for ST, or taxing at a rate that enables the previous proposal to be fully funded. My guess is that it would pass by the same numbers as before.

  2. Re the Reach “issue” – has anyone bothered to ask WSF about the numbers for smash and grabs on the ferries? I’d bet it is near zero/year as so many folks snooze in their cars all round the auto deck. Nobody would be foolish enough… or would they? Compared to the “Would the owner of…” announcements, this is a solution awaiting a problem. Pro-tip: NO need to set your alarm warm on a ferry here.

    1. Back when they had ticket books a relative of mine had his stolen out of the car. He left the car unlocked to keep the car alarm from going off thinking nobody would be so brazen as to go through his car in front of so many witnesses while he was upstairs.

      I’ve left my sunroof cracked open only to find somebody had used it as an ashtray and tossed their spent cigarette through the opening even though smoking isn’t allowed.

    2. You can’t choose between locking and setting the anti-theft/alarm (that I know of). Since the cars are keyless, that means someone could just hop in, then lock you out with the interior controls. I admit it’s an extremely unlikely scenario, but they could also drive off without you once the ferry docks. I wouldn’t want to be the customer leaving my rental car unlocked and able to be driven away, even if it’s relatively contained on a ferry.

  3. Our Audi had a motion sensor feature as well. We had to disable it every time we took it on WSF. It’s a separate feature from the anti-theft system and something that a car-sharer is not likely to know about unless they read every page of the manual. Seems to be a feature on European cars or European models of domestic cars.

  4. OK. Real problem with bicycles and streetcar tracks is that over the last fifty years or so in this country, these modes have lost the long familiarity they had for decades previously. Bicyclists actually lobbied for the pavement that automobiles could run on, and streetcars could run in.

    Scandinavian and Finnish (they’re only Scandinavian in the ethnically Swedish west of the country) experience shows that streetcars are probably most comfortable “fit” with walkers and cyclists of all wheeled vehicles.

    However, the real key to their success is over a hundred unbroken years of coexistence. Cab ride through downtown Gothenburg, where the whole Swedish Armed Forces and Securitas couldn’t ticket all the jaywalkers if it’s ever a crime. 11AM.

    Young woman pushing a stroller at a good clip about to cross tracks from the left. Not looking up. Chief instructor puts his hand on the back of the one a trainee was about to pull back the controller with.

    “Just tap the bell and keep rolling. We always do this, no exceptions. People are used to it.” She still didn’t look at us, but slacked off her pace just enough for the car to roll by without slowing. Grooved rail. Wire overhead. Vibrating pavement shows where the streetcar us. Bell a little more precise.

    Gothenburg has very little warning signage, the Oslo waterfront plaza has hardly any at all. Though the tracks across the flagstone pavement sit in stones raised up about shoe-sole thickness, laid to follow the outermost side-panels of a streetcar. No guessing about outer envelope of the vehicle.

    This built-in certainty is definitely what makes streetcars better for plaza scenes that buses. Grooved metal rail holds a wheel in line with a lot less intrusive structure than average busway guide.

    But here’s my own dead-serious thinking on the five or ten years it will take Seattle’s human passenger public, which completely includes both walkers and bicyclists who also ride streetcars, to get used to their restoration.

    In addition to mandatory training for bicyclists- who in this respect Europe treats same as car drivers, handle all injury-related litigation like this.

    “Conservative” title should require enough accounting to know how much legal expense socialized medicine prevents. While liberals can learn that common sense will finally leave them as electable as their bikes will also be grooved-rail proof.

    So regardless of “fault”, anyone hurt by our streetcars or their tracks should be sent at public expense to Gothenburg. Where in addition to some very budget-friendly personal repairs, physical therapy will include a few weeks of wheels-on street-rail-proximity instruction by the bicycle community. Which includes the police.

    And our present streetcar purchase makes it possible that Vastraffik will be willing to trade all the above benefits for some SR-70’s to replace Bredas’ steelwheeled evil twins. Oslo, which should also know better, bought some too. Could be in return for the pizza next to the kebab stall in the “Real Nordic Food!” court in Stockholm.

    Because above all, transit really has to think of intensive public experience and familiarity as the most effective and agreeable grade separation that technology can deliver. And also giving much necessary training to the hands on both controller handles and handlebars.

    Mark Dublin

      1. Sorry I spoke so confidently on so little information, Gordon. Would be interesting to get some history about bikes and streetcars in close proximity. I wonder if there was a previous time which had fewer of these problems than now.

        No question anything mechanical can be either better or worse designed. It may be that changes in the design of either tracks or streetcars themselves, or both together worsened bicycle safety conditions.

        I think that best safety measure is to, as much as possible, build pavement and rail components into track-way specifically designed for joint use. And like much else about tram wheels, feet, and pedals I don’t think private car tires belong in same lanes as any of the three.

        This isn’t a political or an ideological matter. It’s a matter of getting machines to coordinate with each other.


      2. I dunno, I tend to agree with Mark’s initial take. Grew up riding on streets with (mostly defunct) freight tracks in Chicago and never had a problem. How hard is it take responsibility for your own safety and cross tracks at a sharp angle? I’m all for separating uses where it makes sense and is feasible, but it’s not the end of the world if they’re not.

        I’ve gone over the handlebars biking into a curb (don’t ask), but I didn’t turn around and argue that curbs shouldn’t exist.

      3. I have no particular opinion on whether or not the city should be liable, but there is absolutely zero reason for any urban rail line not to use rubber flange fillers.

    1. When I was a kid, we were taught to walk our bikes across railroad tracks for a number of reasons. I guess that’s not a common practice anymore. These accidents wouldn’t happen if people still used some sense about crossing tracks that others have already proven “dangerous.”

      1. These aren’t railroad tracks, which are usually crossed at a perpendicular angle. They are street car tracks that are in-lane. So rather than a momentary hazard, it’s more constant (though a track hazard can appear unexpectedly at a turn). Seattle’s hills likely pose more of a danger than flatter cities (it’s easier to get up speed on a downhill, and then when your front wheel catches, you’re already more prone to get thrown forward). People riding bikes in US cities (vs. Europe or even kids’ bikes) also often opt for a weight-forward ‘racing’ design with narrower tires (and often feel a need to go faster because there’s a longer distance to cover with a lack of direct routes). A high crash rate has been documented in other cities on routes where bikes and streetcars share space.

        I don’t have a strong opinion on rubber gaskets, but I would be concerned about a false sense of security, how they perform if they aren’t meticulously maintained, and if they do perform well enough for parallel riding applications rather than perpendicular crossing that’s been in the examples here. Wet rails are also slippery regardless of whether a wheel gets caught.

  5. The Crosscut article isn’t clear – what’s the current constraint on Monorail maximum hourly capacity. Is it the size of the cars & frequency ,or is it the ticketing booth that is currently the limiting factor?

    If it’s the later, then monorail throughput can be improved with some good, targeted investments. If it’s the former, then the max capacity probably is what it is.

    1. The trains take a really long time to reverse direction at each end. Westlske Station also has to change walkway configuration from near side to far side boarding due to there not being two platforms there.

      There is a lot of unused capacity there. Boarding on one side and detraining on the other as used at Seattle Center station could make turn around time closer to 2-3 minutes rather than the existing 7 or so.

      However, there apparently aren’t enough people taking the monorail to justify the investment in increased frequency.

      1. It isn’t about there being enough people, it is about the way the monorail is viewed by the city. It took a letter writing campaign (from this very blog) to even get them to consider using ORCA cards. That is nuts. Even the streetcar — which hardly anyone rides and is way less effective as public transport — has accepted ORCA cards from the get go.

        I think a lot of our public officials view the monorail as a tourist attraction, like the Space Needle. It needs work, but fixing it up could be one of the most cost effective ways of improving public transportation in the area. Not only for trips to the Seattle Center, but for the very densely populated (for Seattle) lower Queen Anne (AKA Uptown) area. It was this that got me excited about the subject and lead to the letter writing campaign. I started asking questions (e. g. why doesn’t the monorail accept ORCA cards) and several people said they use the monorail to get to their apartment in lower Queen Anne. A few more questions about the management of the thing, and we found out that the contract was up for renewal. That lead to last second appeal to the city council, and they have agreed to at least study the idea.

        But so far it has lead to nothing. The private contractor (who operates it) is resistant to change. I get that. They have a successful business and don’t want to mess with it. But public transportation should not be treated like a luxury. It is an essential part of any city. I have no problem with subcontracting out the operations, but the folks who run it have to operate it so that it integrates well with other public transportation, and operates to its capacity. That means ORCA card support and faster boarding. It will also mean some public investment (adding elevators, moving the tracks so the trains can both run at the same time, etc.). But compared to other transit projects, this has got to be one of the best values in the city.

    2. No, the article wasn’t clear as to where the actual bottlenecks are. But it was clear about the potential for improvement. Quoting from the article:

      1) If the Westlake station platform was redone and the gauntlet removed you could maybe double the Monorail’s capacity from 6,000 to 10,000 or 12,000 per hour, according to the Monorail’s director of marketing Megan Ching.

      2) Better elevators, better stairway-to-tunnel connection and reduced ticket booth gridlock could speed loading and unloading significantly, Ditty says.

      So it isn’t clear how many people per hour could pay for their tickets if there was ORCA support. I think 12,000 per hour seems quite reasonable, though. You either pay via an ORCA card, or stand in line and buy a ticket. Theoretically, you could buy the ticket ahead of time (or buy a book of tickets). Either way, they are separate lines, and most would pay with ORCA, meaning only the occasional tourist would wait in line (just as they do today to get on light rail). Even one line with people simply handing someone a ticket or tapping their ORCA card is pretty fast. But the key thing is that you can have multiple gates (turnstiles) as you do in very busy subway systems. Typically that means 30 people per minute. With ten turnstiles, that is 300 per minute, or 18,000 per hour (more than the capacity of an improved monorail).

      In general, this sounds very good for basketball. Not everyone will be riding the monorail to the game. There will be plenty of people that walk (since it is an urban neighborhood) or arrive via buses from the north. Express buses from the 520 corridor are also reasonable. If the necessary improvements are made, it is probably faster to get from a basketball game to a monorail car than it is to get from Husky Stadium to a light rail car. Link has higher capacity (16,000 versus 12,000) but way more people leave Husky Stadium.

      I originally supported the SoDo location, but the more I’ve read, the more I think Seattle Center is a better location. We just need to fix up the old monorail as we fix up the old Coliseum

  6. A lot on my mind…

    a) Why no mention or discussion of the terrorist attacks on Trimet MAX?

    b) I’d rather see Dems say, “Fix the MVET schedule and work with us to make all transit boards elected. Because Senator O’Ban if you’re going to wham down the throats of a majority of transit advocates an elected ST Board – you can also get an elected Pierce Transit Board. I wonder what Senator O’Ban’s reaction would be to that.

    c) As far as I’m concerned, I think Jessyn Farrell will be the hawk of Transit Hawks running for Mayor. Although Mayor McGinn is clearly challenging her.

    d) I am happy to make a deal on MVET. Provided it’s done in the name of grace and to turn the temperature down. Provided we stop the vitriol towards a wonderful transit agency rank & file with many great employees – many.

    1. +1 on a). I thought of mentioning it on the weekend open thread and decided to see if it would get attentions on the next news round-up, but no.

      I don’t know how to stop white supremacists (like the MAX killer) from being further emboldened, but we must.

      1. Could have happened anywhere. Saturday Market, South or North Park Blocks, Waterfront Park, Pioneer Courthouse Square, etc.

        Probably will happen anywhere this weekend. To counteract the March for Truth as well as Rose Festival events a group from Los Angeles is sending us a bunch of their goons to put on a March for Lies counter protest.

        The good news is the March for Racism and Xenophobia event sponsors had enough decency to cancel their event.

      2. Step 1 is to convince people to get out and vote, which would remove quite a few of the white supremacists that masquerade as politicians. The recent Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering will help, although the extent remains to be seen.

        By voting out white supremacists from positions of power, you lessen the chance of these lone wolf mental cases being emboldened by some politician spouting off racist garbage on national TV.

        White supremacists will unfortunately always be around. All we can hope for is for them to move far away from civilization and become recluses. Always seething, but not enough to do anything but aggressively nod in agreement to whatever conservative trash radio they expose themselves to.

  7. Thanks for attention to Portland, Joe.

    As an important part of public education, serious training should start pre-Kindergarten and practiced every day. And either put on the WASL or using up all its time. Learning habits and techniques of constant awareness. And what to use them for. Aboard transit, self-defense is a group thing, the more coordinated the better.

    “See Something, Call It In As Trained, Three People Block Somebody From Attack, Five People Grab Somebody Dangerous, and Everybody Know First Aid and Start Using It. And Remember Everything For Your Report.” Long message except when memorized.

    My own first thought: Passengers immediately got into action to save people. Without either advanced preparation or orders. We’ve already got our country’s REAL Homeland Security taken care of. All we need is to emphasize and practice what we already do automatically, and a lot of endemic and politically perpetuated fear will just go away.


  8. And incidentally. Main thing the 9-11 attacks proved was that in this country, we the people don’t terrorize easy. The New York City Fire Department voluntarily and capably committed suicide saving people.

    Our air-traffic controllers got a whole sky-full of planes landed without a dented wing. Success may also have owed to orders they couldn’t get from a certain less capable decision-maker..

    Same spirit after the Boston Marathon bombing. Which should enable us to get more angry than scared over sixteen years’ repetition of the word “terrorism” to push us into scare us into a police state no terrorist is afraid of, though our friends are starting to worry for us.

    Hey, former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s boss. How ’bout you get us a Secretary of Energy that can remember the name of the agency you put him in charge of?

    Otherwise some terrorist could cave in a rotten tunnel roof over a whole train of radioactive tank cars at Hanford because they think we can’t do anything about it.

    Good thing your base is keeping Somali girls in line by ripping off their scarves.


  9. The 128th Street Chokepoint solution bothers me. That’s a big hole in SnoCo’s bike network, and the article makes no mention of plans to stop it. Community Transit mentions the trail as just something to be mitigated in their technical memorandum (not sure if this is really considered an EIS) from last year.

    The Interurban trail has a gap at 128th, where the trail just dumps you on a sidewalk if you’re headed south, and hopefully the rider figures out to follow the sidewalk east to rejoin the trail at 3rd Ave SE. Northbound isn’t really any better, but at least you’ve been dumped onto a less busy street going that way.

    Additionally, Airport/128th has a bike lane (unprotected, but at least it’s there) all the way between Casino Rd and 8th Ave W, where it just ends with no other real connections to the bike network. Why aren’t they discussing plans to fix this?

  10. Am I the only one who’s stopped reading The Urbanist because of the amount of total bullshit they publish, or does one have to be a socialist to be an urbanist nowadays?

    1. A link or two will make it easier to answer these questions. Public works like transit operations don’t lend themselves to ideology.


      1. Actually, there is an ideology that’s strong and evident. And I agree with Peter. Maybe it’s only noticeable if you don’t agree with that ideology?

      2. What is its ideology? Where is the total bullshit? What’s the difference between socialist urbanism and non-socialist urbanism?

        The biggest factor in the American red/blue dichotomy is cities vs exurbs and rural areas, with suburbs in the middle. Even conservative cities are more moderate than their surrounding areas. The apparent reason for this is that people who live in cities see people with different colors and values every day, experience the impacts of inequality and poverty every day. experience congestion, etc. That makes them feel like we should all work together to solve these problems, and that “working together” is what democratic governments are for.

    2. The quality of what they publish is clearly variable, and they clearly lean left-urbanist rather than market urbanist (which I sometimes agree with and sometimes don’t) but that doesn’t make it bullshit, any more than (say) market urbanism is bullshit because it leans the other way. I find it useful to read advocates of both approaches to help sort out their strengths and weaknesses.

    1. There was a short announcement on the radio but it didn’t say much either. It said it will solve the problem of Mercer Island SOV access to the HOV lanes. It didn’t say whether it would provide that access (and how it would get around federal law), or add new entrance ramps (surely beyond ST’s budget and requiring WSDOT’s approval), or another mitigation pork barrel fund for other downtown amenities, or something else.

      1. MI spent 6.5 hours last night arguing about it, so I doubt they got SOV access to the HOV ramps or lanes. And that really isn’t ST’s to grant anyhow, that is Federal.

        I’m guessing they got some sort of parking and maybe a little window dressing….MI people love their parking.

        All this is TBV of course. Haven’t seen a sched for the announcement.

  11. Anyone know who is working on transit issues for Durkan’s campaign? Is she going to have the Murray team supporting her (although would that mean Kubly could stay on?)

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