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This is an open thread.

66 Replies to “News Roundup: Ready to Go”

  1. Foolish helmet laws that save lives. Sorry but no matter how many times I hear STB or the Seattle Bike Blog complain about the law, I won’t change my tune. Why? Because that folish helmet law is why my friend back in grade school went back to his house to put one and it ended up saving his life. Minor inconveniences that save lives are worth it, that’s regulations doing their job.

    1. I really don’t get they anti-helmet crowd, at all. If they don’t want to wear a helmet, don’t; they’re adults that can make adult decisions and deal with the consequences for not wearing one. They’re still idiots for not wearing one.

      The arguments for repealing the helmet law fall well short of reality and are mostly hand-wringing, armchair activists trying to “make a difference” rather than focusing their energy on actually improving bike safety. They’re no different than the anti-motorcycle helmet crowd that pop up around the country now and then.

      All the bike shares need to do is make people sign a disclaimer acknowledging that they understand there’s a helmet law and they need to ride with a helmet. It’s no different than boat rental companies requiring renters to acknowledge that they are required to boat with life jackets, motorcycle rental companies requiring renters to acknowledge that they are required to ride with helmets or car rental companies requiring renters to acknowledge that they are required to drive with seat belts.

      1. Because they are completely different modes of transportation with different impact points and restraining devices. Cars have seat belts while two-wheelers have helmets. We wouldn’t want seat belts on two wheelers, would we?

        There are better arguments against the helmet law than ‘Why not for drivers?’

      2. The reason people want to see the helmet law repealed is that there is no clear evidence that requiring helmet use boosts safety. Basically, it’s been found that drivers will take more risks around bikers wearing helmets. If bikers wear helmets, there are more accidents, but with a lower fraction of deaths if I remember correctly.

        Personally, I think there’s big difference between riding 10 miles in congested traffic through hilly areas and riding on a protected bike lane for 10 blocks. I wouldn’t stop wearing a helmet on my bike commute. But if I was just riding 1/2 mile on safe streets I would probably skip the helmet.

        Give people the choice of whether to wear a helmet. You’ll likely see more people biking shorter distances. Which itself may (on the whole) provide enough health benefits to counteract a few additional deaths.

      3. I’m also a helmet law agnostic, but understand the argument against them. I do wear a helmet because I think there is a fairly narrow range of situations where it can be incrementally safer. Largely those situations are made necessary by lack of safe biking infrastructure, and I’d prefer not to put myself in them, helmet or not. My fearless cousin crashed on a bike at 30MPH and doesn’t remember what caused it, but he’s glad he wore his helmet. Why was he riding at 30MPH though? He does it to keep up with traffic so he could merge and make a left turn. Now that Seattle’s building protected bike lanes, I’m able to ride a steady 11MPH for most of my commute regardless of the speed of the nearby cars. I can take a direct route safely, so it makes up for the slower speed. I also have little need to look over my shoulder constantly or worry about close-passing cars (which is likely what caused my cousins crash). Fortunately his city is also starting to build proper protected bike lanes. When I commute by bus, I’ve ridden the last few blocks through Lake Union Park wearing a felt fedora on the sturdy, upright bike share bikes. It was no more dangerous than walking the same distance. If people are made to carry helmets around as a condition for turning a 15 minute walk into a 5 minute bike share ride, it will be a drag on the profitability and usefulness of that system. That means one less option for people who want to use cars less. That leads to more people choosing to use cars. I personally chose to drive most of the time before the city made real improvements to transit and bike safety along my route. A transportation system largely based on driving is a dangerous and deadly one.

        An transit analogy might be excessively ticketing and prosecuting jaywalkers at a bus stop in the middle of the block across a busy road from a grocery store rather than adding a crosswalk and signal, designing the road for slower speeds or moving the bus stop. Is that really caring about safety?

      4. Tim F, well said. I fully agree that we need to put more emphasis on building a safer network and preventing accidents in the first place. Helmets are generally a good idea but I think we should allow adults to decide for themselves whether to wear a helmet on a short trip.

    2. I’ve nearly fallen several times over the past year because of poor road / trail conditions. Regardless of the law, which I am neutral on, I won’t be giving up on wearing a helmet specifically for that reason.

      Copenhagen is commonly cited as the example of why helmet laws are unnecessary. Helmet use is low and cyclists are everywhere, but there are other important differences with Seattle as well. Copenhagen is completely flat. Most people ride wide-tired bikes which are stable and slow. Pavement is generally in good condition and bike lanes run along most arterial streets. Overall cycling speeds are lower than what I see here. Seattle has bike lanes with potholes, nasty pavement joints, storm drains, and weird merges with car traffic. We have a long way to go on basic infrastructure to reduce risk for cyclists, whatever you think about the helmet law.

      Interestingly, helmet adoption was much more common among the road cyclists I came across in the Danish countryside. The higher speeds and lack of dedicated bike infrastructure perhaps influence the personal helmet decision.

    3. I agree that wearing a helmet is safer than not while biking. The same could be said about walking and driving. Why no helmet law for those activities?

      But going beyond the question of how much paternalism is appropriate in our lawmaking, a helmet law generally doesn’t mesh well with a bike share system. When you pick up one of these bikes you probably won’t be at home or anywhere nearby. The helmet law is essentially a requirement that someone who even *might* choose to use a bike share bike when they’re out and about should have to carry around a helmet, just in case. This doesn’t exactly seem reasonable.

      1. “I agree that wearing a helmet is safer than not while biking. The same could be said about walking and driving. Why no helmet law for those activities?”

        Maybe because the dynamics involved are completely different for either of those. I suppose that if one were to “walk” at Usain Bolt-esque speeds in mixed traffic with reduced stability and lengthened stopping distance, then it may well be a good idea to require helmets for walking. Or if one were to drive around in a vehicle that wasn’t a steel cage filled with airbags (you know, like a motorcycle).

      2. Skipping past the silly question about walkers and drivers, I’ll say that helmets worked just fine with pronto. Just provide them!

        Hopefully you would want to do that even if they weren’t mandatory, elsewise your essentially choosing that bikeshare users can’t wear helmets.

      3. I’ll say that helmets worked just fine with pronto.

        This is a remarkable statement to make. Pronto went out of business!

      4. @Martin–and Pronto failed because of the helmets? My point was that the helmet portion of Pronto worked fine, at least from a user perspective. Furthermore, are we going to consider bikeshare as part of our transit network? If so, why the expectation that bikeshare not only cover costs but provide a profit to a private operator? Last I checked, we don’t expect anything like that of our other transit systems.

      5. Maybe because the dynamics involved are completely different for either of those.

        People are defending the helmet law with an absolutist argument that people might die. A driver helmet law would save lives too.

        Someone has to show me that a bicycle helmet law saves lives at a higher rate than a drivers’ helmet law, perhaps one that just applies to freeway driving. Only then is it evident that this is just not a nuisance that unnecessarily discourages bicycling.

      6. I don’t think pedestrian helmets are as silly of an idea as you claim. Check out this data from the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation. They looked at injury statistics in England.

        In absolute numbers, about ten times more pedestrians were admitted to the hospital for serious head injuries than cyclists were. Furthermore, in terms of percentages, pedestrians admitted to the hospital for any type of injury were more likely to have head injuries than cyclists (44% vs. 38%).

        This of course doesn’t account for the different numbers of pedestrians vs. cyclists. The average person walks much more often than they bike, and biking may well be more dangerous per minute than cycling is.

        But if your metric is reduction in injuries and deaths, requiring pedestrians to wear helmets could easily save more lives than requiring the same for cyclists.

      7. Pronto failed. The helmet requirement and the fact that people didn’t want to use helmets worn by others was responsible for at least some number of people deciding not to use it. Whether it made a major difference there’s disagreement, but it’s not the way to maximize timeshare use if that’s your goal.

      8. @Martin: A driver helmet law would save lives too.

        Strawman argument, but I’ll get my torch out: There are already so many safety features on cars that helmets would do little to nothing. If bikes had seat belts, airbags and were surrounded by two tons of steel, you’d have a real argument.

        Someone has to show me that a bicycle helmet law saves lives at a higher rate than a drivers’ helmet law, perhaps one that just applies to freeway driving.

        On the flipside, someone has to show me (or the county council) that repealing the helmet law would have any effect on bicycling rate (hint, it wouldn’t: cycling rate is high in Seattle, considering the many convenient choices of transportation compared to other high cycling rate cities) or not have a negative impact on safety.

        @Mike Orr: If I recall, helmets didn’t even make the list of 10 or so reasons why Pronto failed. Did it contribute? We may never know, but I would venture to say a handful people chose not to use Pronto because helmets were required. But a handful of people not using Pronto was not the reason it failed. You probably had more people choosing to not use Pronto because they thought bicycling is lame.

      9. If we were going to be serious about reducing injuries and fatalities of people walking and bicycling then we’d redesign our streets to limit vehicle speeds to 20-25 mph, install safe & protected bike lanes and crosswalks, and prioritize our intersections for people who aren’t in cars. That’s what would really make a difference, not requiring people on bikes to strap Styrofoam to their heads.

        Given that we haven’t done those things I think it’s prudent for people on bikes riding in traffic to wear helmets, but there doesn’t seem to be a strong case for the effectiveness of a helmet law.

      10. A reasonable review of the helmet law would also look at the differences in use between bikeshare bikes and owned bikes. When I owned a bike and lived in the U-District, I rode it all over including commuting to First Hill, to Greenlake for church, recreation, and shopping, to Mountlake Terrace to visit a family, to north Lynnwood to another church. That’s a lot longer distance than bikeshare bikes, with widely varying road qualities, and riding at a faster speed because the distance was long. I fell off my bike twice, once near the Snoho border on the 19th arterial (no significant impact), and one in north Lynnwood when it got dark and rainy and my headlight battery ran out (I don’t remember but I woke up in a supermarket and they said I’d ridden into a ditch and was walking by the store windows; l they sent me to a hospital and did a scan but no concussion). I believe in wearing helmets because I don’t trust going over stones and raised pavement segments.

        But Pronto was completely different: a few stations close together in a congested area. You don’t ride far between stations, and you don’t ride fast. Downtown the U-District or Children’s was the furthest you could go, and while that’s far enough to go fast, you can barely fit it into the 30 minute limit before a surcharge kicks in. And most riders didn’t go that far anyway. So you’re traveling slowly on a small number of streets, and that enables you to get to know the streets well and their possible problems, and for the city to target those streets for smoothening them up. So Pronto is the least likely case where a helmet is needed. I’m not sure about these new ones that let you leave a bike anywhere: will they also have a small service area or will they allow you to leave it anywhere in the city? If it’s a small area it would be more like Pronto, whereas if it’s a large area then it would be more like owned bikes.

      11. @Mike, thanks to gravity and our hilly city, you don’t need to go far to go fast on a bike. Capitol Hill to downtown/Bellown/Pioneer Square are an easy example of that.

      12. There are already so many safety features on cars that helmets would do little to nothing.
        There’s no good reason to think that. Serious head injuries per hour travelled are about the same for driving and biking, even with seatbelts and metal shells and whatnot.

        The benefits of cycling, even without a helmet, have been estimated to outweigh the hazards by a factor of 20 to 1. Consequently, a helmet law, whose most notable effect was to reduce cycling, may have generated a net loss of health benefits to the nation. Despite the risk of dying from head injury per hour being similar for unhelmeted cyclists and motor vehicle occupants, cyclists alone have been required to wear head protection. Helmets for motor vehicle occupants are now being marketed and a mandatory helmet law for these road users has the potential to save 17 times as many people from death by head injury as a helmet law for cyclists without the adverse effects of discouraging a healthy and pollution free mode of transport.


        The notion that helmet laws make perfect sense for cyclists, but no sense at all for motorists and pedestrians is nothing but status quo bias.

      13. “There’s no good reason to think that. Serious head injuries per hour travelled are about the same for driving and biking, even with seatbelts and metal shells and whatnot.”

        I could not find any numbers specifically about head injuries. The closest I could find is this

        “784 cyclists died in 2005 (p. 86). That would make the death rate 0.37 to 1.26 deaths per 10 million miles.

        33,041 motorists/passengers died (p. 86) from 3 trillion miles traveled (p. 15), making their death rate 0.11 per 10 million miles traveled.

        So cyclists are either 3.4x or 11.5x as likely to die as motorists, per passenger mile.”

        Again, I am not defending the helmet law. But the argument that it needs to go because ‘drivers don’t have to wear it’ is weak.

        The other point about health benefits due to increased biking in absence of mandatory law is a more cogent argument that needs to be advanced.


      14. djw: Ah yes, the Melbourne Study! The 25 year, single point source study, cherry-picked by the anti-helmet. Nevermind it didn’t look at ANY other factors other than correlating a helmet law as the causation of a reduction in cyclists. Economic changes, job-market shifts, change in transportation choices, population shifts? Nah, it’s clearly the helmet law! I still have yet to meet one single person that refuses to bike because of the King County helmet law, yet the anti-helmet crowd makes it seem like there are millions of people.

        “Consequently, a helmet law, whose most notable effect was to reduce cycling, may have generated a net loss of health benefits to the nation.”

        This is my favorite anti-helmet argument! Because there are 600,000 people per year sitting on their couch, getting fat and dying of heart disease instead of cycling, solely because they don’t want to wear a helmet.

    4. The anti-helmet crowd must have fallen one too many times without a helmet.

      Should motorcycle helmets be required for motorcycles? Should seatbelts be required in cars? Should smoke alarms be required in homes? Should carseats be required for infants?
      Anti-bike helmet folks don’t think so.

      Just like seatbelts, helmets have saved many, many (countless) lives, and I have several close friends that would be gone today without helmets.

      And it doesn’t take a car to injure a bicyclist and cause damaging head injuries/trauma.

      1. Anti-bike helmet folks point to research that it helps in only specific circumstances that are a small minority of collisions. It helps when you fall forward over the handlebars onto your head. When the law was adopted in the 1970s most bikes had drop handlebars. Now half the bikes are mountain or cross bikes with flat or raised handlebars. With mountain bikes at least on-road, you’re more likely to fall sideways onto your side rather than straight onto your head. That’s why helmets have only limited relevance to those kinds of collisions. They’ll help if your head lands peripherally onto the ground, but you’re unlikely to land straight on your head where the helmet gives the most benefit. So helmets help in only a minority of crashes, the lack of helmet incentivizes bikers and adjacent drivers to pay more attention and move more safely, and collisions are extremely unlikely in some environments like flat bike trails and low-volume residential streets where some kinds of bikeshare programs or frequent riding are targeted. So it’s saying let’s review the science and the different biking environments and tailor the law to the actual circumstances where it’s releveant, rather than a blanket assumption from the 1970s.

        You can notice a similarity in the marijuana laws of the 1960s vs now. In the 40s through the 60s, “reefer madness” propaganda caused people to make blanket assumptions and ban all use and research of cannabis, as if it were like poison gas, with no opportunity to research its benefits. The current law in Washington is focused narrowly and looks at its actual harms and benefits.

      2. The “wearing helmet makes drivers pass closer to bikes” argument is based on a study from 2006-2007. It was reviewed by other researchers in 2013 who found that the initial study’s findings were not supported.

        Somehow that second study never seems to make it into these debates, however.

      3. See my link above. Motorcycles in greater danger for head injuries than drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians by orders of magnitude, and the evidence on the value of motorcycle helmets is absolutely clear. The evidence on bicycle helmets and laws requiring them is an inconclusive mess that points to very little effect, if any. There’s simply no comparison here.

        Defenders of helmet laws just abandon any attention to magnitude of risk, and contrasting risk with reward. But these are tools we really shouldn’t abandon when evaluating public policy.

      4. @Alex: I’ve found that the anti-helmet crowd is very similar to anti-vaxxers. They like to cling to decades old studies that have since been decisively debunked, to push their wacky agendas.

        @djw: “Defenders of helmet laws just abandon any attention to magnitude of risk, and contrasting risk with reward.”

        It’s. A. Helmet. They are available everywhere, inexpensively and are very unobtrusive. You’re making it seem like it’s some extremely heavy and bulky item people are forced to lug around (they weight less than a half a pound and can fit in or hang from a backpack) or some extremely expensive item they must purchase (they can be found for less than $20).

        I get it that some people value their brain less than 0.5 lb and $20, but that’s not going to change the law.

      5. Helmets aren’t available “everywhere,” and they’re too bulky to really take around while walking. Say I take the train to Capitol Hill, and decide on the spur of the moment that I want to bike down to First Hill. Perfect trip for bikeshare, right? Nope – because I probably left my helmet at home, and there’s nowhere for me to easily and cheaply pick one up by the Capitol Hill Station. If I’d known before I left home, I might have brought my helmet with me – but it’d fill up half my backpack, so I don’t do that unless I know I’ll be biking.

      6. Stop conflating “anti-helmet-law” with “anti-helmet”.

        Helmets are a good idea, because they protect your head.

        Helmet laws are a bad idea, because they discourage people from bicycling.

        The average individual benefit from increased exercise is greater than the individual risk of brain injury, and there is a safety benefit for all riders in having more bicyclists on the road, whether or not those additional riders are wearing helmets.

        We should repeal the helmet law, in order to make bicycling feel like as ordinary and welcoming an activity as possible. We can still keep encouraging everyone to wear a helmet whenever they ride – we just need to stop threatening them with a ticket if they choose not to.

      7. @Mars:

        “Helmet laws are a bad idea, because they discourage people from bicycling.”

        How many people, seriously, don’t bike because of the helmet law? I see quite a few people that bike without helmets. Seems like a non issue. We don’t need to change the law for the one or two (likely imaginary) people who actually don’t bike because of the helmet law. Most don’t bike because of various other reasons (hills, weather, lack of infrastructure, etc).

        “The average individual benefit from increased exercise is greater than the individual risk of brain injury…”

        See my post above. People that get health issues from lack of exercise are not because of helmet laws, it’s because they don’t like to exercise. Those one or two people who want to exercise, but don’t bike because of the helmet law, are going to find some other form of exercise; there’s quite a few options available.

        “…we just need to stop threatening them with a ticket if they choose not to.”

        When’s the last time you heard of somebody in Seattle, or even the surrounding cities or rural County, that got a ticket from not wearing a helmet? I remember some macho cop writing a ticket or two on the Westlake parking lot, like five years ago. But if I recall correctly, the cyclists he gave the tickets to had helmets dangling from their handlebars or from their backpacks, rather than on their head, so I have no sympathy for them.

      8. Stop conflating “anti-helmet-law” with “anti-helmet”.

        Helmets are a good idea, because they protect your head.

        Helmet laws are a bad idea, because they discourage people from bicycling.

        No kidding. The conflation of ‘anti-helmet law’ with ‘anti-helmet’ is so hackish it’s hard to to imagine it’s being done in good faith. To move between the two like that requires an implied premise that everything that is a generally good and wise practice with some benefit should also be legally mandatory. To state the obvious, no one actually thinks like that; you’d have to be several clicks past Stalin on the authoritarian-meter to have such an approach to the law.

        How many people, seriously, don’t bike because of the helmet law? I see quite a few people that bike without helmets. Seems like a non issue.

        I don’t know, precisely, and neither do you, as the research has varied between “probably very few” to “quite a bit” in their findings. But I do find it amusing that we’ve now reached the “why bother funding a food bank when there are supermarkets easy to shoplift from” stage of the argument. “If you don’t like the law, you can just break it” is, amongst other things, a poor defense of a particular law.

      9. To be clear, there are people who think helmets are a good idea and even wear helmets, yet are troubled by the law and especially by its impact on bikesharing.

        As to “drivers pass closer to helmeted bikers”, I’ve never heard that, and it sounds dubious. I think drivers just think “bicyclist”, not “bicyclist with/without helmet”.

    5. I’ve ridden a bike all over Seattle and never worn a helmet. I’ve been stopped by police several times for jaywalking, but never for riding a bike without a helmet.

    6. Foolish helmet laws that save lives.

      Quick question: If you killed a bunch of cougars, would it save lives? The obvious answer is yes, because of course, cougars kill a few people each year. However, sometimes the obvious answer is wrong. It turns out that if you kill cougars, the number of deer go up. When that happens, more people drive into the deer, and way more people die in those accidents than were killed by cougars. In short, killing cougars costs lives.

      You might not know where I’m going with this, but here is a similar question:

      Don’t helmet laws for bike shares save lives?

      I am not aware of a single study that says they do. I am aware of the opposite: There are theories for this, and the most common one is that drivers respond to more bikes on the road. More bikes on the road mean drivers slow down, which lead to a lot fewer accidents. Fewer accidents means less head injuries, even though the proportion of injuries that are head related go up.

      1. Martin, you’ve got a point about protective gear for car drivers. Drivers in road rallies, where arriving early at a key point lowers your score, sometimes have to wear flame-suits. But average motorists, whose driving habits are more likely to require an extinguisher, don’t.

        But Ross, special thanks for bringing up cougars, because this one has regional land use implications. Now that human subdivisions extend into territory where cougars have lived, and hunted , since we were pretty much monkeys.

        Have also read that reason the human race survived is that to the average picky girl cougar (among the big cats, the girls do all the killing) of all the monkeys we taste the worst. So could be just for fun that cougars occasionally go after bicyclists now.

        Or maybe it’s because no teenage girl, especially if she has fur and claws, can resist anything moving sort of like a gazelle. Maybe she thinks this species of monkey might taste better than our forebears. Because helmet definitely makes us look like a type of monkey nobody she knows has ever eaten before.

        We need to check this one out, because if this is true, finally suburban sprawl has created an indisputable reason to fight against helmet laws. However, there’s a beneficial complication on life expectancy calculations.

        The currently popular “Paleo Diet” is missing the element most critical to raising the percentage of the human race in peak health: Fast and determined Predators. But since WSU has special relationship with a particular cat, veterinary program could help develop a breed of cougar that just chases the target all the way down Burke Gilman to UW Station, knocks them off their bike, and turns over on her back to purr and get her tummy rubbed.

        Meantime, just get a helmet. They make everybody look either Olympic or just generally wicked. Also, go see “Breaking Away.”
        Note frame 135:03. Might make bike rack space less critical.


  2. What makes the steel drawbridge in Seilacoom “the last of its kind on U.S. rail lines”? What is unique about that bridge?

    Outdated or not, it sounds like the equipment did its job. It put the train on the ground like it was supposed to. Assuming of course that the signals were working.

  3. So I have a hunch the answer to this question will be “it’s for the courts, many years and millions of dollars to make the decisions”, but I’ll go anyways:

    What is the implications of yet another statewide, $30 car tab initiative for a regional transit measure, passed by the voters, that was pre-approved by the state senate? Ignoring that the last two $30 car tab measures have failed in court, can a state, voter approved initiative overrule a regional, voter approved initiative? Or will this serve to reduce only the non voter approved portions of car tab fees?

    1. Only chance Tim will have would be if a Democratic governor signed a bill passed by the Washington State Legislature re-instating one of his initiatives, like maybe if its number was something like 695, after the State Supreme Court handed them Tim’s head on a plate with an apple in its mouth.

      You better hope you get appointed ambassador to Afghanistan, Jay!

      Mark Dublin

    2. The threat is uncertain but real. Just because many of his initiatives are unconstitutional (usually because they have two unrelated effects) doesn’t mean this one won’t be upheld. People in southeast Pierce and Sammamish will be eager to vote for it, as will those in the rest of Washington. The Times article ($) has some lovely quotes. For instance:

      ‘Eyman said that the size of ST3 affects voters statewide even though it is paid for by voters within the district. “When you’re dealing with $54 billion being spent on any one thing, that is having an impact on everyone in the state,” he said. “There’s only so much money available.”’

      In other words, ST’s taxes cut into the pool of money that could be taxed for other things. Things like exurban highways and small-town/rural amenities. Never mind that Pugetopolis’ productivity is already subsidizing the rest of the state.

      Second, it also affects other transit agencies:

      ‘Eyman’s initiative would also bar local transportation benefit district fees, which are used to fund local transportation projects. Currently, nearly 60 Washington cities and towns have such fees, which are normally $20, but range up to $80 in Seattle.’

      Most agencies like Community Transit and Pierce Transit are Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs). Metro is unusual because it’s not: it’s a county department. (It used to be an independent regional agency but because of a court ruling it was merged into King County.) I don’t understand what “fees” means: whether it refers to all their funding or just a certain type of it. But in either case it could lead to cuts in Community Transit, Pierce Transit, Skagit Transit, and others. Is Intercity Transit (Olympia) a TBD?

      1. “In other words, ST’s taxes cut into the pool of money that could be taxed for other things. Things like exurban highways and small-town/rural amenities. Never mind that Pugetopolis’ productivity is already subsidizing the rest of the state.”

        This is why we need to pass an initiative called “Keep tax money in your county and stick it to those King County elitists!” It will pass in a landslide and naturally be ruled unconstitutional. The backlash would be so great, the Legislature would have no choice but to amend the constitution. By the time counties outside of Puget Sound realize they’ve been duped, it’ll be too late!

  4. These stations names are really disappointing. If I’m reading this right, the Sound Transit decided to reject the names preferred by the majority of the public and go with their own preferences instead:

    A significant amount of public input was received on station names for the Lynnwood Link
    Extension. Sound Transit received input at 30 percent station design open house meetings in
    Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, and Lynnwood in November 2016, and through an online survey in
    April 2017. Over 7,500 station naming suggestions were received during this period.
    The top public recommendations for station names were Jackson Park (for NE 145th), Shoreline
    (for NE 185th), Mountlake Terrace (for Mountlake Terrace Transit Center) and Lynnwood Transit
    Center (for Lynnwood Transit Center). After further discussions with leadership from each city the
    permanent Station names were selected.”

    Ironically, the public preferred names that did a much better job of meeting ST’s own naming criteria. “Shoreline South/145th” isn’t even on 145th. And of course, Shoreline South and Shoreline North violate ST’s policy that to “Avoid similar names or words in existing facility names”.

    1. I wonder how the Seattle citizens living near the 145th Station feel about it being called Shoreline South. The platform itself is only 100′ north of the Seattle-Shoreline border. Granted that the nearest Seattle houses are nearly half a mile walk from the station due to the golf course, freeway, and Lakeside School.

    2. “After further discussions with leadership from each city the permanent Station names were selected.”

      Sounds to me as though the cities involved were the ones that decided against the popular names.

    3. The names seem reasonable to me. Except maybe Lynnwood. Are there going to be other stations in Lynnwood that this station needs to have a qualifier like “city center” or “transit center”?

      As for not following the public, we’d need to see the full results and not just the winners. If 30% of the public voted for “Jackson Park” and 28% voted for “Shoreline South”, I think it’d be reasonable for ST to choose either. And if ST chose “Shoreline South” because they felt the station is too far from the main entrance to the golf course to be called “Jackson Park”, then that automatically knocks out “Shoreline” at 185th St.

      If I had to quibble, it would be over word order. Why “Shoreline South” and not “South Shoreline”. Or “Lynnwood City Center” over “Downtown Lynnwood”. In colloquial English, adjectives usually come before the noun.

      1. ST3 will bring stations at Alderwood and Ash Way, both of which are part of Lynnwood (though the latter is unincorporated and only in the UGA). At one point, Lynnwood wanted a fourth station, between the TC and Alderwood, for their designated “city center”, so I guess they’ve given up on that.

      2. Alderwood Mall is a major destination, landmark, and long-term name for the neighborhood. These duplicate city names come up when there is no well-known name for the neighborhood. South Bellevue is in the middle of nowhere, and while it can be called Enatai because of the neighborhood across the street, hardly anybody but the neighborhood residents have heard of the name Enatai. The purpose of a subway map and station names is so that people can find places based on what they already know. Everybody knows where Lynnwood and Bellevue are, and they’ve heard of Alderwood Mall and know it’s near Lynnwood (they remember it’s got that “wood” in the name). But Jackson Park, uh, does that exist? Is that the one down on Beacon Hill with the golf course? “Ash Way” is surprising, because it’s really the name of an adjacent north-south street, so that station could be called “North Lynnwood” if “Martha Lake” isn’t interesting enough. But “Ash Way’ is a well-known name for the P&R if you take transit in Snohomish, so that’s a good enough reason for a station name.

    4. That’s how ST always makes decisions, it defers first to the counties and cities, and second to public input.

      I think Bellevue and Redmond stations will be called “Bellevue Downtown” and “Redmond Downtown” or something like that.

      Yes, adjectives come first in English, but these are station names where people sometimes have only a second to look at them or are trying to find a station on a map. For that there’s a good argument for puting the city name that people can at least get close to their station, then a glance at the adjacent stations will find their one.

      It’s not because of a few feet between Jackson Park or the Seattle boundary. Columbia City Station is three blocks away from Columbia City. The name was certainly because of aesthetics and city branding.

      While Seattle can feel a little snubbed at the naming, Shoreline does have more reasons for a claim on it. The station is more significant to Shoreline than it is to Seattle because it’s closer to Shoreline’s city center, and Shoreline has done significant work planning a denser neighborhood on its side and preparing to buy the highway and perhaps the south side. For Seattle it’s a peripheral burden: there is no neighborhood center there; it’s on the forgotten edge of three neighborhoods (Bitter Lake, Northgate/Pinehurst, and Lake City). Shoreline has only two Link stations, while Seattle has dozens.
      The station is closer to every point of Shoreline, while it’s close to only a small part of Seattle.

      I wish ST had stuck with “Jackson Park” or “Ridgecrest” for 145th, and “Shoreline” for 185th, because “Shoreline North” is actually more like “Shoreline Central”: 185th is about to become the main central street and transit street in Shoreline, connecting the station and community center with the Aurora shopping district and City Hall. I wouldn’t be surprised if upzones all along 185th eventually come to pass.

    5. As long as they don’t add “station” to the train signs, inside and out, I’m okay with it…. ;-)

      (although having grown up and lived many years in NE Seattle, “Jackson Park” was a known location – “Shoreline” was too, but 145th isn’t where you thought of it being.)

  5. I’m not entirely sure why the latest Tim antics will be devastating. An article linked in a previous blog entry noted that France built a double-track 302 km (188 miles) high speed rail line, with aroind 400 civil engineering structures (tunnels, bridges, etc) for €7.8B ($8.9B). We are strapped to build 60 miles for $54B???

    France must be using slave labor or something.

    Oh, and took less than 5 years to complete…

    1. The US has a lot of unique regulations. The EIS process is a couple years minimum and sometimes much longer, with ways for people to demand expensive alternatives and mitigations, and to push the route to where the highways and big-box stores are rather than where the dense neighborhoods are. The public’s assumptions for large P&Rs paid by the transit project add to the cost. The “Buy American” law precludes us from buying state-of-the-art equipment from Europe or Asia. American companies stopped making passenger trains in the 1970s because they considered it unprofitable and having no future, so the latest technology and skills don’t exist here. The trains we get are built by subsidiaries of foreign companies (Kinkysharo and that other one for Link) or by small startups that license previous-generation European designs (Portland Streetcar, using a third-rate Inkeon design for the SLU streetcar. Portland Streetcar later went out of business.) The big American manufacturers still don’t see the American passenger-rail market as large enough to be worth their investment. In commuter rail, US regulations require trains to be as heavy as freight trains if they’re on mainline tracks, whereas the rest of the world uses lighter cars and DMUs (which look like light rail but are powered by a diesel engine in each car). The US regulations have recently relaxed somewhat and are in flux, but it’s too soon for Sounder to adjust to it or new cheap DMU corridors to be considered. So basically, Vancouver can build a subway for half the cost American cities can. It’s like why is American healthcare so expensive? Basically because lobbyists get in the way of things that would reduce costs and make them more transparent.

      1. Excellent synopsis, Mike. I’d also add that the new lines in question are urban transit lines with all the additional costs that entails.

        Build a high-speed rail line comparable to the French one from the edge of the mountains (Ellensburg) over the Milwaukee grade to Marengo then north to Spokane (which would be cool anyway) and I’m pretty sure the costs would more accurately reflect those of the French line (plus the additional costs required in the US and stated in your post). Those 188 miles are not all in Paris/Lyon/Marseilles or whatever, where the HSR infrastructure has long since been built. They are, one would assume, primarily through rural areas.

  6. The SSL certificate for appears to have expired, forcing me to jump through a bunch of security hoops to load this page. Please update it!


    1. Same for me. It’s really disturbing, with my browser giving me warnings about how this site has probably been hijacked and may steal my personal information. Please fix this ASAP before it cuts your traffic.

  7. The headline about San Francisco should probably read “as many as 50 new bus lanes”. There’s no way SFMTA is going to put red lanes on all those east-west streets north of Market. It’s overkill.

    1. I agree it’s politically unlikely, but why would it necessarily be overkill?

    2. Each street has a bus route that goes to a different street on the west side. You’d either have to consolidate all the routes on one street, or give one neighborhood fast access while the others still have to crawl, simply because they were unlucky enough not to be in the street that was chosen for reddening.

      1. Not “one street”, (actually “one couplet”; they’re all one-way except California). But just two couplets get heavy all-day use. I’d say that certainly Geary/O’Farrell certainly rates, and already has reserved lanes. It currently has two all-day lines (the 38 and 38 “Rapid”) and two peak-hour overlay expresses (38A and 38B) which run with stops only at major transfer points well into the Avenues. Sacramento/Clay has the 1 California that runs about every four minutes all day long and is frequently packed at 2:00 PM. So put lanes there, for sure. There aren’t that many cars that use those streets anyway; they’re rocket-takeoff steep!

        But California? It has the least-popular, rather infrequent California Cable Car only; even if it had buses, they couldn’t share right of way.

        Sutter/Post has two trolley routes, the 2 and 3, which serve Pacific Heights; the 3 continues out into the Avenues a way on Clement to provide shopping service. I really doubt that they will put lanes on those streets which are pretty important for cars, except on Sutter between Kearney and Mason where the very frequent 30 jogs to and from Stockton. They could surely use a lane there.

        What is interesting is that they don’t have anything planned for the 5 Fulton except two blocks westbound on McAllister. They gave it a stop diet which improved its performance, but it needs more. It runs every three or four minutes all day long and is the main service for USF. Fulton itself is too narrow, but McAllister is wide all the way past City Hall. Extend that Red Lane!

      2. I should have been clearer in my description of the 5. McAllister is wide as far west as Gough, and I think the lanes should go that far, at least westbound. An eastbound lane past City Hall would limit pickup and dropoffs there. West of Gough McAllister is two lanes plus two fairly narrow and completely full parking lanes, but the 5 Rapid scoots through there quite quickly most days. The biggest congestion is around USF where the poor thing gets delayed regularly.

        There’s simply nothing to be done about that; the University attracts lots of cars all day long.

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