This is an open thread.

41 Replies to “News Roundup: High Performance Transit”

  1. I really hope they do legalize jaywalking. SPD is bizarrely obsessed with jaywalking.

    One winter night around 1am I was walking from Belltown to Westlake by myself on 5th Avenue. The streets were completely void. I didn’t see a single car or pedestrian. When I got to Virginia street, the cross light was red. I looked both ways (it’s a one-way street) and crossed.

    I saw police lights flashing almost instantly and I turned around to see a cruiser right behind me. I stopped, they parked, and one officer got out to ask for my ID. Within a minute two other cruisers came, lights on, and parked next them. THREE police cruisers with their lights on at 1AM on a weekday night to stop me for jaywalking.

    I honestly was trying not to laugh it was so ridiculous. I guess they did a background check to make sure I wasn’t wanted for anything and let me go. Not before telling me jaywalking was bad of course. When I was released I stood like a tool for about 30 seconds at a red cross light in the middle of the night while not a single car (except those three cruisers) went by.

    Yes it absolutely is a tool used to stop people and randomly check ID. This isn’t the only story I have of police overreacting to my ‘jaywalking’.

    1. In your case, a good middle ground would be making all signalized intersections into 4-way stops at night. No need for dedicated signal phases. Let them just flash.

      1. And yet, many of the newer signalized intersection stop giving walk signs at night unless someone shows up in advance to push a button. We are going in the wrong direction.

      2. Blinking 4-way stops works great if the streets are basically vacant, like in a business district that is dead after hours.

        I don’t have a problem with beg buttons. Usually if it’s the dead of night and there’s no traffic, hitting the beg button gives you a walk signal pretty quickly, in my experience.

  2. What does “make Jaywalking legal” mean? Surely they cannot mean allowing people to cross against red lights, Barman’s funny narrative not withstanding. Should there be a police policy that people crossing empty streets against a red light in the middle of the night don’t get ticketed? Sure. But making crossing between intersections and generally allowing people to cross against red lights is asking for an increase in deaths and dismemberment. Not to mention that it would play absolute hob with traffic, including bus operations.

    No, just No.

    On the pedestrian front all levels of government need to agree on a strong policy of enforcing the implicit cross-walks at every intersection or change the law. The current situation in which half the drivers will slow down and stop for someone standing near a corner is extremely uncomfortable for a knowing pedestrian. That’s because that courteous driver — thank you Mr. or Ms. Courteous Driver — cannot control the potential azzole bearing down on the intersection from the other direction. Not all drivers by any means know of and most certainly don’t always observe the implicit crosswalk law.

    So the pedestrian is put in a difficult position: if she or he doesn’t start crossing the courteous driver begins to doubt her or his interpretation and might start to move just as the pedestrian decides that the azzole really is going to stop and crosses.

    Or the pedestrian takes the opportunity to cross offered by the courteous driver and gets hit by the azzole or someone who passes the courteous driver on a multi-lane street.

    My suggestion would be that no pedestrian can be considered to be “jaywalking” if she or he crosses at an unmarked intersection during a lull in traffic, but that cars are not expected to stop for someone waiting to cross. Yes, I know this disadvantages pedestrians who need to cross arterials with no marked cross-walk in the vicinity of their points of crossing. Cities throughout the state would necessarily have to mark more intersections, but that’s a good thing because then it is unambiguous that pedestrians have right of way at that point.

    I know this is a tough issue, and at one time in Seattle a pedestrian could “count on” everyone stopping. But no longer.

    1. Hell, we can’t even count on drivers stopping from turning left on a green light when a pedestrian crossing the street at said green light is already part of the way into the intersection. So why would we expect that they’re going to stop at an unmarked crosswalk.

    2. I think “jaywalking” is too broad a category to definitively say if it should be legalized.

      Crossing at unmarked crosswalks is legal. Period. Motorists might consider it jaywalking, but it isn’t. Police should write tickets for motorists not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, marked or unmarked.

      Should crossing against a red light be illegal jaywalking? Depends how big the street is, how busy, and other factors. There’s a major intersection near where I live that has a 4-way light cycle. First N/S traffic going straight and N/S bound pedestrians can cross. Then N/S motorists turning left, but no pedestrians. Then all Eastbound motorists and all pedestrians crossing E/W on the southern crosswalk. Then all Westbound motorists and all pedestrians crossing E/W on the northern crosswalk. It sounds complicated, but there’s a definite pattern and I know exactly when I should be able to safely cross. But if nobody presses the crosswalk button or if I’m 3 seconds late, the walk signal doesn’t turn on and I have to wait 3 minutes for the cycle. I know I “should” be able to cross because of the appropriate green so I do. Is it jaywalking? Yes. Should it be legalized? I think it should.

    3. “Surely they can’t mean slowing people to walk against red lights”

      That’s what jaywalking means. When cars first appeared, they had the same right of way as pedestrians and horse carriages, so they had to slow down for peds. Only streetcars and other trains had superior right of way. After a couple decades the automobile lobby and drivers convince the government to change the laws to prohibit pedestrians in car lanes except at green lights or unmarked intersections. That was part of a large campaign to eliminate streetcars (thus disestablishing their superior right of way) and making streets one-way (which was impossible with center-running streetcars going both ways). All if it was designed to make cars the top dog. On the east coast pedestrians didn’t really buy into it and continued to ignore traffic lights and walk midblock. In the newer cities on the west coast that didn’t have a large population before cars, there’s more of a sense of “Of course you should wait for the light” and people who don’t should be ticketed, and forgetfulness that it ever was different.

    4. There was a YouTube skit linked her we a while back about the history of jaywalking. The proponents first had to convince the public that limiting pedestrian rights in streets was justified. A jay was a country bumpkin just arrived from the sticks who was so unsophisticated he didn’t know you’re supposed to wear a shirt and shoes in the city. So they tried to equate crossing the street without a light as being a stupid country boob rather than something everybody does. That succeeded, and led to laws restricting less to sidewalks.

      The skit has an overexaggerated caricature of a woman whose son walks across the street and is hit by a car and killed. At first the public is outraged the driver didn’t slow down to avoid a collision. But then the anti-jaywalking campaign got into action and soon she had a change of heart. “My son… was a jay!” she says in disgust and spits in his direction.

  3. Jim Merritt is wildly — unrealistically — optimistic. 5 years to build Link to Tacoma from Federal Way? Maybe in China.

    1. With some form of bonding that gives ST all the money at once, it could be combined with Federal Way Link and open in 2024. Not quite 5 years, but close.

    2. Pierce has been saving up since. 1996 so it has a large down payment. The entire segment will be elevated along highways (sometimes technically surface but without level crossings), and that is fast to build.

      1. Pierce bought two rounds of Sounder and two rounds of Tacoma Link, so it hardly has a down payment. Tacoma-Dome Link will be bought with ST3 funds as they roll in.

        But that aside, 5 years is plainly ludicrous, unless you suspend NEPA altogether and get all necessary federal, state, tribal and local approvals ahead of time — with no design or environmental data to inform those approvals. Then go design-build and pray your contractor can beat all previous records for finishing a service-ready 13-mile rail extension.

        The candidate’s claim is plainly irresponsible.

  4. I think the jaywalking law should require the condition “and the pedestrian crossed in a manner that was actually unsafe and the time they crossed”. If the officer can’t demonstrate to the judge that the jaywalker was actually unsafe, no fine and removed from the record. No more tickets for 3 AM crossings of empty roads.

    1. Best legal language on subject so far, Donde. Though I wonder if these practices are more typical of present enforcement than the multi-police-car response described above.

      Very likely that accidents in very low traffic circumstances are settled in civil court, not criminal. Personal injury suits are penalties too. But it’s probably past time to start setting all motor traffic speed limits in crowded urban areas close as possible to pedestrian speed.

      So long as we also provide faster transit for motorists who need to get through city at higher speed. Real test of affection. The more we love our cars, the farther out of either Downtown or the suburbs we’ll keep them.

      Finding every parking lot between my own garage and the Minor and James medical center full, I made it to a specialist’s appointment with thirty seconds to spare. After street and freeway driving that belonged in a Roger Rabbit cartoon.

      Pretty sure that “Maintenance Required” warning on the control panel mean’s my car has filed both divorce and domestic violence papers on me. Exactly like the beginning of our decades-long sprawl, but in reverse we’re probably already becoming more transit-friendly because the car world looks ever more like cross between a concentration camp and a mine field.

      That’s the REAL driving distraction that dwarfs cell phones, food, coffee, soda pop, and picking nits out of your mate’s fur and eating them (well that does too count as “grooming!”) Bored Driving. Main clue is legal defense consisting of “Whatever…”

      Bored Walking? Depends on how attractive the person is you walk into. And By the Open Thread way…anybody know how far it takes to stop a bullet train? Maybe for Portland, braking system should engage in Tacoma.


  5. I would think that the election of the mayor of the region’s second largest city would deserve more effort from STB than “this guy seems pro-light rail.”

    1. Not that this falls on STB, but I just moved to Tacoma in February and the dearth of coverage for the Mayoral race is leaving me guessing who to vote for. I never realized how well local politics in Seattle is covered compared to the outlying cities. It’s like throwing darts on a board, unless you can get to a candidate forum (hard when you work in Seattle).

  6. KUOW goes overboard on high-speed rail. “A bullet train could whisk you between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland at 250 mph or more.:” Microsoft President Brad Smith is quoted as saying, “If we lived in Europe it would already be there.” Um, 250 mph implies a half-hour travel time to Portland and a twenty-minute travel time to Vancouver. Assuming the political will, right of way, and construction money were there — and assuming it wouldn’t make any stops in between — is it really necessary to get to Portland as fast as Link gets to Lynnwood and the 554 gets to Issaquah? Where Japan has commuter bullet trains the population is ten times larger, so that the hundred-mile suburban ring is still like Capitol Hill. With all the billionaires appearing in Pugetopolis I have no doubt the train could find some passengers even if the fare is twice Amtrak’s. But Europe doesn’t have anything as isolated and low-density as Vancouver-to-Portland — isolated in that the next comparable city is five hundred miles away, and low-density in that large-lot detached houses start in Ravenna and Burien and it’s like that all the way to Portland and Vancouver except where it drops further to very rural. Also, the article seems to confuse bullet commuter trains in Japan with high-speed intercity rail in Europe. I was in Duesseldorf and went to neighboring cities mostly on the S-Bahn and regional trains (Cologne in 1 hour, Aachen in 3 hours), but once my friend wanted to go to Luxembourg on a high-speed ICE train and that took an hour. But Duesseldorf is in the middle of a region where a lot of trains pass through at all speeds, so I’m sure several use the high-speed tracks every day going to different destinations. But we’re so isolated that would really only be one line from Vancouver to Portland (regardless of whether it were split into Vancouver-Seattle and Seattle-Portland runs), one line for the whole track. When I think of Vancouver to Portland HSR that would be appropriate, I think in the range of 100-150 mph, not 250. And could it really have no stops in between and adequately serve the region? But can you have a 250 mph train stopping in small cities like Tacoma and Bellingham? What’s the closest comparable network that exists in Europe?

    1. The Swedish SJ system operates a high speed network from Stockholm to Copenhagen and Gothenburg (and slightly beyond). If I remember correctly, the top speeds are in the 125-150 mph range, so not high, high speed. I can’t imagine the population between Stockholm and Copenhagen, or Gothenburg is higher or denser than Vancouver-Seattle-Portland. Stockholm even has a number of Wallingford-esque type neighborhoods that are served by great rail, light and heavy.

      Stockholm feels like a Seattle sized city and they have similar densities (it’s 9300 pp/sq mi compared to Seattle’s 8000 pp/sq mi — metro densities are 900 vs 650). Copenhagen is probably a bit higher, but Gothenburg less. Stockholm is almost just Seattle with a London quality tube, and a true high speed rail line to their airport (albeit, a very expensive connection).

      1. Yeah, but those cities aren’t in countries that spend $600,000,000,000 per year on their defense industry. That’s more than 1.5 Billion USD per DAY. So, yeah, there’s the difference.

    2. These articles seem to pop up every few years, and are a unnecessary distraction from real improvements that we can make in the next decade. In the next decade, we could get the Seattle-Vancouver and Seattle-Portland travel times down to 2:30 by:

      – Adding a 3rd mainline for the entire length of Seattle Portland, and a 2nd mainline from Seattle-Vancouver so the trains never have to wait for freight.
      – Modifying the final stretch of track from Surrey into Vancouver to use a more direct routing. This part of the trip is agonizingly slow currently.
      – Raise platforms for level boarding and allow passengers to actually wait on the platform before boarding, which will reduce station dwell times
      – Achieve 110mph speeds in many stretches by grade-separating certain crossings and treating others with additional gates that permit the increased speeds. The equipment can already do 110mph. We just need track that can support it.

      Reducing travel time will increase the number of trips each train can do each day. We could have 50% more trips with the same equipment.

      1. The article may be excessive because it was already covered, but it comes out of the Cascadia summit a few months ago between business leaders and governors, where Microsoft and other companies pledged money for a feasibility study. They could have put money toward this alternative but they didn’t. Maybe they didn’t know about it, or maybe it wasn’t interesting enough to them. Paul Allen wanted a streetcar in SLU and didn’t want to hear about bus alternatives. So this may be the only way to get private money involved, for whatever that’s worth. The state’s long-term plan already envisions 110 mph eventually but it’s taking a very long time to get there, probably because the legislature funds it on-again, off-again. In the meantime we clamor for medium-speed rail but nobody listens, but Bill Gates speaks up and suddenly everyone is all scrambling to do something. The net result will probably hinge on what happens when the report says 250 mph is unrealistic, will the project’s scope allow it to downscale to 150 or 110 mph? If so then it could end up accelerating the state’s medium-speed plan, which is what they should be doing in the first place.


    .I think that since Second World War, the law, and most people have grown up with the belief that cars were here first.

    Truth is that when cars first appeared on the scene, draconian right-of-way lose were hastily drafted to avoid frightening horses. Not a joke. For years more, “spooked” giant draft-horses probably had much higher body count than cars and trucks do now.

    But in the Nordic lands and much else in Europe, pedestrians, bikes, and streetcars were there first, and still given considerable space in room, and law. However, I suspect that if you get hit by a public streetcar, you could have to pay to clean it,

    But major consideration is that with either Single-Payer or tightly-controlled non-profit private national health care, the legal industry has to earn its living dealing with other subjects. And if you run over a driver’s test manual, you’ll break an axle.

    My own starter remedy: Driving test every year, road test only with top-flight State Police instructor. Who then decides whether you get issued a new driver’s license or a transit pass good in at least US and Canada.

    Win-win to hundredth exponent. Massive Citizens’ United war chest from the insurance industry. Public transit passenger windfall, as sheer numbers force states and localities to give transit what they used to give cars.

    Especially so little car traffic on streets and roads that badly-outnumbered drivers would have to struggle for diamond lanes like bikes do now. If anybody who could really would voluntarily subject their car to abuse now considered normal

    Years ago, met local landscape architect named Grant Jones, who’d designed and built a roadway in Kentucky called The Paris Pike. Made specifically for automobile traffic, with speed, capacity, and control built into the grades and curves of the highway itself.

    Those who can handle an automobile for its real best use will gladly pay extra for car tabs that give them incompetent-idiot-free highways designed for skill and scenery, rather than trucks, cannons, and intercity parking. Might be time for swift first try. Guarantee nobody hostile would see this one coming.

    Mark Dublin

  8. It really should be illegal to start crossing against the light when there is active cross traffic–I don’t think many people disagree with this! It’s the situation without cross traffic that is at issue. Simple addition to the pedestrian laws would be the equivalent of an “Idaho stop”: Pedestrians can cross against the light as long as there is no cross traffic within, say, a block or an equivalent number of feet in both directions. At the very least, for 2-3 lane streets. Safer than waiting for the light to change and being forced into direct conflict with impatient drivers making turns. Of course drivers approaching any crosswalk need to yield to pedestrians already in the crosswalk because the pedestrian may well have entered the crosswalk legally, or the walk signal may not be functioning. And because basic humanity, one would think.

  9. If there is no rule against jaywalking then why should cars be regulated by traffic lights? Or lanes for that matter?

    Seems like the same argument applies.

    Does this do away with the need for a permit to hold protests on city streets? If the street is blocked because of people, aren’t they all just jaywalking? Isn’t that going to make hardworking people’s lives a nightmare.

    1. Traffic lights exist because cars can’t function without them once you’ve gone beyond the volume that a four-way stop and unsignaled arterials can handle. Otherwise you’d be waiting all day to turn or go through. It has nothing to do with pedestrians, who are going slowly enough that they can stop if a car is near and wait for it to pass. Although it impacts peds indirectly because they can’t get through if cars are zipping by every ten seconds without stopping.

      However, I personally wait for the light or go to a signalized intersection if the road is more than two lanes and cars are coming more than once every thirty seconds or so, because I don’t trust that cars will stop or can stop in time. (How do I know if the driver is drunk or distracted or the tires are slick after the rain and he misjudges the stopping distance?) I certainly don’t cross streets like Aurora unless traffic is so light that there’s only one or two cars at a time. I’ve seen people cross Aurora in full midday traffic just acting like cars can’t touch them; one of them was hit and got pulled up off the ground but landed on his feet and just kept walking as if it hadn’t happened.

    2. Right, because if you run into someone while walking, it is exactly the same as running them down with a 5,000lb vehicle going 40mph. Should we have to register our sneakers with the DMV while we’re at it?

  10. Glad to see the California high speed line is going to continue. Can’t happen fast enough. Wish it wouldn’t take Washington State so long to get Seattle to Portland completed.

    Between costing too much and poor management, I’m surprised to see the California line moving forward, but very glad it is.

    “What state and federal funds the project snagged was rapidly being depleted. The stampede of private sector investors that supporters in the 2008 election said would be overrunning California to deliver billions of dollars for high speed rail hasn’t generated even a plug nickel.”

  11. If Spin had a mobile website, I could use it. Requiring an app that isn’t available on Windows Phone is a bad plan in Seattle

      1. So instead of developing a mobile website, city policy is supporting Apple and Google oligopoly. Great policy. And telling residents they have to buy a new phone to use a service that uses public right of way

      2. City policy? These are privately run bikeshares. Between Android and iOS they’ve captured probably >95% of the population, and the effort required to reach that extra 5% isn’t worth pursuing.

      3. It’s a duopoly; and you are basically ranting about capitalism at this point. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want to. If you want to use it, get a phone that supports the app.

  12. Josh, better way to convey those very accurate sentiments to your elected reps and also the Democratic Party:

    Anything a foreign enemy would target, from modern railroads to highways to roads an bridges, to every other public thing in the US now falling apart…is many times more critical than every damn jet fighter plane from here to Alpha Centauri.

    When was the last time the Taliban or ISIS engaged us in a dog-fight? Damn, bet those went out same time as hub-caps. Also, what fighter plane was the last US aircraft in one? The F86 Sabre Jet (Korea) or the P51 Mustang (World War II)?

    Next multi-thousand dead Americans are going to die not from 9-11 Round Two, but Bhopal Part B. All the terrorists have to do is get on Twitter and say “Die Infidel Dog!” And no, “Infidel” isn’t translation of “Fido.”


    1. >Also, what fighter plane was the last US aircraft in one?

      F-15s and F/A-18s in the Gulf War (1990/1991) against the Iraqi Air Force, and F-15s and F-16s (USAF participating in a NATO operation) in the Kosovo War (1999) against the Yugoslav Air Force.

      But yeah, I get your point.

  13. Ha! I saw that Sounder car heading west on the back of a BNSF mixed freight last Saturday in Ritzville. They had it nicely protected with empty flatcars in front and behind. It looked spectacular.

  14. That new Sounder train is beautiful! Is it considered a DMU? Is there an operator cab on both ends? I didn’t realize that the space in a diesel locomotive is so unnecessary that you can cram it into the very front of a passenger car.

    1. Not a train, cab car. Specifically, a Bombardier Bi Level VIII cab car. The locomotive is at the other end of the train, or would be when in service (in this example, I’m guessing either Amtrak or a freight operator dropped off the unit at King Street). The cab car controls the train when operating in “push” mode of a push-pull train. GO Transit has the same model.

Comments are closed.