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This is an open thread.

36 Replies to “News Roundup: A Faster Trip”

  1. My understanding was that the DSTT will have to be closed at some point to install turnback tracks at International District Station for East Link trains. If so, is there any news on when this will happen, how long will the closure go on for, and how Link riders will be accommodated during the closure?

      1. Thanks for the info!

        If they can maintain sufficient frequency over the single track segment, that sounds preferable to the old plan for complete DSTT shutdown for an entire week plus 10 weekends.

  2. I like the electrification idea, but maybe he needs more activists to get the idea off the ground?

    I also wonder if starting with a smaller, higher use corridor (like Seattle to Tacoma) might be easier to achieve and have a bigger starting impact?

    1. The best place to start might be the last place it was taken out, Stevens Pass. Right now the gating factor in how many trains BNSF can push through the tunnel is the time it takes to ventilate the tunnel.

      1. If feel like if BN cared that much about trans-Cascade capacity, they’d first be interested in crown-cutting the Stampede Pass tunnel, which doesn’t seem to be happening.

      2. BNSF was very interested in crown-cutting the Stampede Pass tunnel but the partnership funding from WSDOT never materialized. Part of the reason is Auburn complaining about more freight traffic. During harvest season it’s great for BNSF to run grain cars over stampede. I think they also run empty coal cars back east but the grade doesn’t allow for full coal trains? It’s also more work to keep clear of snow than Stevens.

    2. Electrifying the freight corridors is one of those things that sounds great on paper, then say “never mind” when you look at the price tag. It would cost billions and nobody has the money to pay for it.

      1. I think warren buffet has mentioned that he acquired bnsf partly in anticipation of a national power transmission grid upgrade and the opportunities the rr corridors offer. Could go well with freight electrification.

      2. $11bn, and whats the environmental benefit? Freight trains are already an incredibly friendly way to move stuff around when you look at the carbon output vs work done. Container ships even better.

        Spend some coin on getting people out of gasoline powered cars by building a transit system comparable to what most Asian cities have and I think its money much better spent – good for the planet and taking a train to work sure beats owning, maintaining, driving, traffic, parking a car 5 days a week. And yes I practice what I’m preaching, I live in South Hill and commute via bus and Sounder into and back out of Seattle every day, and use the car on the weekend.

        Anyways, this is America, and money gets spent on what benefits businesses and not the working classes.

      3. “We had a privately-built electrified freight corridor over the Cascades through Snoqualmie Pass and onward to eastern Washington. It’s now a trail.”

        More’s the pity, since that route, the Milwaukee Road – the last one of the four transcontinental railroads that made it to Seattle – had the most direct route and easiest grades between Seattle and Idaho. Its struggles, at least in this state, were more due to missing all of the population centers (except Ellensburg) in the state than anything else – it didn’t even directly enter Spokane although a shared branch line extended to Spokane from Marengo, east of Ritzville (that line is still in use from Spokane to Tri-Cities, I believe, and would still provide a very direct routing from Seattle if the Milwaukee was still operational). As Oran says, it’s now the John Wayne Pioneer Trail state park from Cedar Falls all the way to the Idaho border. People of my father’s generation might remember that the Milwaukee for many years ran ski trains from Seattle and Tacoma to Hyak, which they developed. For hiking and winter sports I often wish that service was still there!

        The Great Northern through Stevens Pass was electrified through the mountains for many years; the dam in Tumwater Canyon on US2 west of Leavenworth provided it power (the original route of the GN went through the town of Leavenworth and up the Tumwater Canyon where the highway is now).

      4. Container ships have a last 10-mile problem. Sure it’s most efficient in that segment, but why not eliminate that segment. Sure, tea comes from China, but why do jeans have to? Why don’t we make out jeans here and they make their jeans there? This whole globalization-for-cost-cutting thing was only possible because of cheap oil, so it’s as wasteful as urban freeways and sprawl.

        As for electrification, that’s one of the key things we’ll need for higher speeds and Asia-like service. So if the railroads want to do it now, don’t discourage them.

  3. Could Self-Driving Cars Spell the End of Ownership?

    Twenty-five years from now, the only people still owning cars will be hobbyists, hot-rodders and flat-earth dissenters.

    Dunno, sounds a bit like the prediction traffic jams would come to an end because we’d all be using flying cars. Autonomous vehicles will surely make inroads but given that new cars can be expected to last at least 200,000 miles it’s going to take a long time to phase out existing inventory. Japan, because of its aging population, is facing a critical shortage of truck drivers. Given that countries’ ability to pivot quickly with new technology I’d expect autonomous trucks to be common place on their roadways before they are in widespread use anywhere else.

    1. Depends on the area. Urban areas, yes – at least for ordinary people. (Although, the rich will still end up owning their driverless cars, regardless, so they can have all the personalized bells and whistles that won’t be available in a shared fleet vehicle).

      In rural areas, however, I’m not expecting autonomous cars to have any significant impact in car ownership rates at all. Waiting 20-30 minutes for an autonomous Uber to reach your driveway every time you want to leave your house gets old fast.

      Even waiting 5-10 minutes for a robocar to pull up to your driveway for every trip (which is probably the best you can expect to get in a suburban environment, as it is not economical to have a robot car sitting in front of every block, all day long) is still annoying enough to drive many into owning their own car.

      Of course, all of the above depends on the assumption that the cost of a trip in a shared autonomous car would be comparable with the costs of a personal car. At the moment, Car2Go rates (which is the closest thing we have to autonomous cars today, since there is no paid driver) are significantly higher than this.

      Tax policies, also, favor personally owned cars over shared fleet cars, at least under present policies. Today, trips in Car2Go/ReachNow are taxed at around 17% (sales tax + car rental tax), even though all of the taxes associated with car ownership (sales tax on buying the car, gas tax, car tabs, etc.) are already priced in to the pre-tax cost of the rental. The cost of insurance is also taxed at the same 17% rate as the rest of the rental fee, even though auto insurance that you buy for your own car is not taxed.

  4. For the horde– what transit (as opposed to housing) questions would you ask the mayoral candidates?

    1. 1. Obviously, something regarding the governance structure for ST.

      2. How do you balance/prioritize the needs for operational efficiency with equity and access concerns?

      3. Would you consider any additional Seattle-only transit ballot measures that would supplement the ongoing Seattle Moves initiative?

      4. Do you believe that a state or city infrastructure bank is a wise idea? If so, would you expend the political capital to ensure its creation in Council or Olympia?

      5. Are the current plans to handle One City Center adequate in your eyes? What areas would you advocate for improving?

      I’m sure there are many more I’m missing.

  5. Privately funded high speed rail? Ugh. Can’t we just decide to get serious about building a proper regional rail system in this state and set up an arm of WSDOT to do it properly so we incrementally acquire ROW or access, build improvements and get the benefits overtime. I would hate to see us go down the CAHSR path. Its 2017 and I should be able to get an electric train from Seattle to Olympia that comes every hour and takes under an hour to get there.

    If Oregon wants to join in, great because this network should eventually allow me to get a nice electric train to Eugene. But the HSR part can come in time as this system starts to come together.

    1. I seem to recall there was a privately-owned rail right of way that was making it very difficult for us to provide ubiquitous commuter rail, to the point that we’re building a 30-mile parallel light rail line. What it’s name? I can’t remember… B-something… Burly? Burligame? Burly Train? Bee-nana San Francisco?

    2. I wonder if reference to high-speed rail “paying for itself” isn’t an ideological pitch to average US commercial audience. Done right, it certainly will pay for itself many times over. Same as for every major public endeavor, from highways to continent wide electrification to education.

      Until legislative bodies from the likes of the Washington State of legislature to the US Congress, and their constituents spend declaring, and rendering them, unfit for funding.

      Whatever its lobbyists say, no industry in the world considers decades of red rust more financially responsible than a few years of red ink.

      A deliberate decision by the right wing Republican governor of Michigan turned the drinking water system of Flint from a more than self-supporting entity (nothing to do with water bills, which residents are still being assessed as they drink poison) to a bottomless pit of illness and civic collapse.

      Like the rest of America’s greatness, BART and DC Metro will once again increase their service area’s wealth with every turn of a car wheel. As soon as they’re given enough money to keep their rails from cracking, their brakes from falling off, and their passengers from death by poison smoke.

      Mark

  6. Decades ago, CTA had the driver who used to sing “The Love Bus” when getting on the express segment of his route – to the tune of the the Love Boat theme song.

    I realize that most folks reading this will need to look up what the Love Boat is, but that driver was a local CTA legend.

  7. Considering how many unknowns there are now, for Seattle and the rest of the world, so long as our planning is kept flexible, the length of its time frame is very comforting. But:

    “Instead of fighting back, the city settled, striking a closed-door deal, with a private organization that will determine how thousands of Seattle residents and visitors experience the waterfront for decades to come.”

    Somebody needs to be fighting back like a rat with rabies. If public affairs are not kept visual and auditory, they rapidly go olifactory. Questions becoming not “What kind of flowers?” but “How long has the florist been in the trunk?”

    No doubt, private enterprise can shorten a lot of process. Including creating the chance to experience a mile long Waterfront office park. Regional transit or waterfronts, not a good idea to have a technical project run by a board elected at large. Just so the people elect the officials who appoint it.

    But really curious about plans for LINK’s presence on the Waterfront. Any plans we can see?

    Mark Dublin

    1. No because there are none. Waterfrontseattle.org has the transit study. It recommends a battery bus or minibus.

      1. Mike, Erica Barnett’s article mentions West Seattle LINK once or twice. Making it clear we’re talking 20 years from now. I remember Marshall Foster telling me the city had adjusted some civil engineering to provide for this. Over very long time-frame,which present situation indicates could carry major changes in many directions. At once.

        Idea of routing West Seattle buses through SODO has one benefit that could save a lot of time. From SODO station,six minute LINK headways could get West Seattle passengers into downtown Seattle much faster than buses do now. And everyplace else on LINK.

        Little-known fact, since most of those who’ve experienced it firsthand have died knowing you’d learn soon enough, is how relaxing it is to think about your life’s work knowing that the more important your efforts are on the grand scale, the fewer of their results you’ll live to see.

        Definitely cures widespread annoying habit of concentrating on the past, usually on how great things either used to or could have been if it hadn’t been for….Face it, if it’d been that good for everybody affected it would still be that way.

        Meantime, take all your kids at every level of grandeur for a lot of rides on LINK. And streetcars, even when they don’t run very fast. Also new high speed ferry boats. And when they electrify a lot of BRT, buses too. Every set of sticky little fingerprints on a railcar window means a lifetime of Yes votes starting in about one ST- period or so.

      2. West Seattle Link in the first phase will terminate at SODO station . In the second phase it will have a new elevated track to downtown and go into the 5th Avenue tunnel. It will be nowhere near the waterfront. That was the Monorail II initiative that was rejected 80%.

  8. I didn’t know that metro has the resources to add two coaches to route 70. Do these extra buses show up on the schedule, or do they show up randomly and unexpectedly from a rider’s point of view?

    And on that note – They picked a good corridor to add BRT for sure.

    Though once U-district station opens, I’m guessing a lot of them would switch to Link+SLU streetcar.

    1. My understanding is that they generally keep some service hours in reserve for sudden spikes in demand.

      1. This has been in the local news a lot. Amazon has provided dorms for interns. Can’t they provide a charter service on their dime? Or at the very least cough up some $$$ to reimburse Metro.

  9. I got an email that blithely announces that because of a WS-DOT highway inspection, Link will terminate at SODO and at Westlake and there will be no train service between SODO and Westlake from start of service until 11am on Saturday.

    If Link is a main transit artery, which it is, and we are truncating buses at Link stations, there needs to be more of a commitment to keeping Link running on its full route, and not interrupting it for 6 hours. It’s hard to believe that WS-DOT cannot conduct its bridge inspection while Link is operating – or perform its inspections during overnight service gaps.

      1. I don’t know. Maybe not. Got to keep the SOV drivers happy. In fact, it doesn’t say anything about tunnel buses, so I assume the buses get to cross under the overpass and use the bus way.

        It’s insane to accept shutting down Link for 6 hours for this while keeping the roads open. That’s not how you treat a transit artery.

    1. It’s a safety issue due to the catenary. The lines have to be powered down while the inspectors are over them. That’s why the buses will not be effected.

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