As the rebuilt SR 520 bridge reaches Montlake tomorrow, a look back at the original SR 520 bridge on its opening day, where cars queue to drive across for the first time. A glimpse too at other Seattle freeways then under construction.

35 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: historic SR 520 flyover”

  1. Time once again for a comment from an engineer. Especially for transit, curious how the grades and curves would work for High Speed Rail.

    Also, what else can a sixty year old freeway be converted now that it’s become an impound lot for cars and a linear prison yard for their occupants?

    Mark Dublin

  2. Quick thought for funding, too. Even when they’d become obsolete for the purpose, I think their legislative foundation was the National Defense Highway Act. Fine.

    Like the rest of our infrastructure, massive update of everything structural and mechanical could be life or death matter for our country, war or peace. Whatever an enemy would target to beat us, its present condition could save them a lot of ordnance.

    Right now, no terrorist needs anything but a Twitter account. Claim credit for every crash and collapse, and go back to investigating sin in Las Vegas. I think 2001 really had a precedent. High Speed Rail isn’t something to de-fund for National Defense. It IS National Defense.

    How many jet fighters would it take to fund every ST ’til the rest of the US falls off into the Atlantic? One?


  3. 1963 was an interesting time in Seattle’s transit history: 520 just completed, I-5 still in construction thru downtown, 405 still in the planning phases. Also, many trolley routes were dieselized in 1963. The 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 15, 16, 18 and 21 all converted to the shiny new buses that you can see at the mid-span of 520. At about 1:56 of the video there may be an old trolley running downhill as the 9 BROADWAY heading to the Martin St. terminal.

  4. Man, is this ever embarrassing! Is everybody on Twitter now? Hope it’s just because it’s such a beautiful day, but no responsible blog, or comment-writers, can afford to give me two out of three slots- by 2:30 in the afternoon. So raise a couple more issues that I think are ripe or over- for some discussion, so when everybody gets home from the beach.

    Topic One: “Pre LINK”.

    1. With possible budget related ST slowdown, how far can we get by improving bus service to keep passengers moving with as much speed, reliability, and comfort as a bus can achieve.? North LINK example: Finish the decades-planned construction of a lane between Downtown and Northgate, to give I-5 buses all-day two way service?

    2. Since Convention Center project commencement seems to have time-warped into the future, is there any chance on Earth that by finally running the DSTT with the signals and communications built into it, we can keep bus interference with trains anywhere near tolerable? Like trained loaders and improved securement for wheelchairs? With only 550 and 41 still in there- snowball’s chance, even with rocks?

    1. 1. I doubt anything will be done. The various agencies (city, state, county) don’t seem to care about temporary problems. The tunnel is a mess, and it wouldn’t take much effort to fix it, but since the buses are being kicked out in a few years, they won’t bother. Same with getting to Northgate. Or Everett, for that matter. It wouldn’t take that much money to improve travel from Everett to Lynnwood — making it faster all the time than a train — but they won’t do it, because eventually a train is coming.

      2. See 1., above.

      1. Well, Ross, we can’t fault anybody for lack of practice. In two weeks or so, September 15 will mark 27 years of intensive studious work. And got to admit the success is impressive.

        However, like a lot of bad habits with psych-sounding cliche names, real problem is with “Enablers.” Every effort to improve DSTT operations faces train-loads of airport passengers from other places, including those with heavy-rail subways, enthralled like a cult.

        Or a “Base”, which is soon going to make the ball game call those flat pentagons “Coasters”.
        “Why can’t we have one of these operations back home?” Short answer is because we can’t get it on the truck.

        But somebody psychologically else once said: “Depression is learned helplessness.” Perfect example: By the Crash of ’08, every Federal prosecutor had spent years studying prosecution of rich criminals. And they’ve now earned a lot more degrees.

        Definitely agree about perception of what’s operationally necessary. Everything on wheels that goes in one portal eventually comes out the other. Sad fact is that the trains have already been here since 2009, with no visible improvement, except to get more passengers at one time stuck in the Tunnel.

        But one good thing about public ownership is that after a long enough while, teenagers get contrary enough to pester and also scare the political system into same action as anything else that itches all the time. Happened in the 1960’s.

        I have a plan. See to it that every candidate in the State, especially for the legislature, has at least one 18 year old opponent. Same of course for Seattle, the whole Sound Transit Board, and all their component subareas.

        But also, face every incumbent in both parties with a Republican of the breed that invented Metro Transit. Many of these people, or their kids, actually know which way either a railcar or sanitary waste will tend to flow, as opposed to being pushed.

        And also how to read a balance sheet, and therefore know that timely repairs and first-rate operations belong in the black column. You know, what the Far Right and too many Democrats who call themselves “Centrists” call “Leftists”.

        But most of all, especially in the highly visible transit world, it’s absolutely critical to fight for Freedom of Speech. The louder and uglier the tirade, the more accurately listeners can evaluate both content and speaker. While noticing his organization has five people.

        No question Founding Fathers would have understood the Second Amendment to mandate the right to bring a firearm aboard a crush-load train with one condition: The possessor had to spend the whole ride and all time on-property with their finger on the trigger and the muzzle in their mouth. Delivering by example Speech much more cogent than without the gun.


  5. So, if I understand things correctly, the HOV lane will go all the way to Montlake. But to exit at Montlake (to head to the UW) a bus will have to get over into the right lane. If that is the case, when will they build the HOV only lane to Montlake?

    1. That happens in a few years. Starting tomorrow, buses will need to move over to the right in order to either reach either the Montlake exit or the Montlake freeway station.

  6. Topic Two:

    Never been cited for tapping my ORCA card one too many, or one too few times per trip, but warning two months back spoiled a beautiful evening after a very bad day. Well, to whoever’s responsible…One Good Turn!

    Doubt I’m the only one to dutifully tap the fare reader before boarding, policy on every system in every country I’ve ever ridden transit. Only to get warned I was risking a $124 dollar fine because missed tap on exit made my “on” tap evidence of fare-evasion.

    This with the price of my latest pass in over 20 years of months already in the system’s pocket! Common defense by The System? “Well, it’s the rule.” Posted, including chance of same penalty as for theft (same title as for deliberate refusal) over a correct tap after a missed won….WHERE!!!???? Same question my attorney will ask if occasion arises.

    Not over any fare machine- including decal of the policeman standing over a passenger. In the ST Ride the Wave Transit Guide? What page? Online? Gimme the link. Bet me that the only way anybody can out they’ve committed the offense when a Fare Inspector takes their ID and warns them. Putting them one step closer to a fine that can cost them something they need.

    Couple experiments of mine lately. One tap can get you at least an hour and a half travel, including leaving the station for coffee or an appointment- so long as you don’t tap off anywhere. Or equally dangerous, tapping on, like the whole industry demands. Not sure whether inspectors’ can monitor or punish unpaid change of direction. Anybody know?

    Another little wrinkle. Passenger arrives in the DSTT legitimately tapped onto a bus. Being either new to the system or never learning otherwise, passenger taps his pass on leaving the Tunnel, as he was told he had to do after riding LINK. So customary tap when re-entering the Tunnel: you tell me.

    And while you’re at it, anyplace else in the information universe about the rule and its implications- except as part of first step to being punished.

    Meantime, I carry my ORCA card- no problem with it on buses- in clear plastic envelope. Along with the paper All-Day pass I buy before my every travel day involving LINK. Paper ticket making crap out of excuse (one of many I’ve heard) that interagency or subarea accounting problem is worth a $124 fine.
    How does paper-ticket revenue get divided?

    Fact there’s been so little push-back from the public over this matter indicates that over the years, very few fines accrue to passengers except those whom the Fare Inspectors think are deliberately cheating the system. Has any reader here paid the fine over series of innocent mistakes?

    Though might also suggest that violators who can afford the fine just have their secretary mail or e-mail it in. Might also be worth a Freedom of Information request for race and ethnicity figures. Or anything else to wipe that placid look off the system’s governing face.

    I’m not kidding about this. Calls and e-mails to officials to whom I’ve been referred by other officials bring me same amount of info as passengers get before getting warned or cited. So since my whole intent this afternoon is to get the whole blog world to set me straight…

    If I’m wrong by bad info or attitude, give me Hell. I yield my time this afternoon, so you’ve got the floor.


    1. If I remember correctly, I remember someone writing a story in the Stranger a while back about this exact problem, and having to go to some obscure court location in Shoreline to fight the ticket. I think it may have been Rapid Ride instead of Link, I don’t remember the exact details.
      What is really bad, in light of your experience, is the amount of riders who DO get away with not paying — hopping on and off Link and Rapid Ride, I see it almost every time I ride.

      1. LINK? Strange. The Fare Inspectors seem to be fairly savvy, and also familiar with a lot of the real evaders. So something must be distracting their attention. Wonder what it is?

        But for both LINK and Rapid Ride, could help to make all passenger platforms “Proof of Payment” areas.

        They did that a lot in Toronto last time I was there. Years ago, but seemed to get some things under control. Best of all…off the bus.


      2. That was Erica C Barnett in April 2015. In October she wrote about an amendment that would divert youth cases to the Burien court rather than Shoreline, because low-income people in south King County are having difficulty getting to Shoreline to contest their fine, so they end up just paying it as she did (with a $4.99 online payment fee).

      3. Once, I entered the tunnel on a bus and forgot to tap the card again for the transfer. The fare inspector was kind enough to issue me a warning, and I haven’t made the mistake again. Of course, the stupidest thing about the whole episode was that I had a pass, so the fare was effectively fully paid anyway, tap or no tap.

    2. How about this situation. I tap on and go down into the tunnel and I just miss a Link train, but, hooray a 550 pulls up that can take me to I-90 Station. So I tap onto the bus and get off at I-90 and then transfer to a southbound 106 or 7. What is my status with Link the next time I want to ride the train? I assume that after 2 hours the Link tap automatically expires and my card is “clean”, but I don’t know for sure.

      1. It “taps you out” when the 2-hour transfer period ends, and assumes you made the longest Link trip. May be a bad idea when Link gets to Everett and Tacoma and the longest trip is much longer.

        The best way to make sure is if you tap in to Link again within a few hours, watch what the screen says.

      2. You tap into Link and it deducts $3.25 (the current maximum fare) and starts the transfer timer. That’s a fare paid so when you tap on the 550 it is considered a free “transfer” because ST Express fare is $2.75. Your transfer to Metro buses is also free because their fare is lower. If you end up on Link before your 2 hours is up then it should not charge you anymore. When you tap into Link after 2 hours it will deduct the maximum fare again.

        Because of the fare differential between Link and Metro buses it is actually possible to extend your transfer beyond 2 hours because the timer resets when you pay the fare difference upon transfering.

        Say you ride Link from Capitol Hill to downtown so you pay $2.25 after you tap out at Westlake. Then about 90 minutes later you get a Metro bus to Ballard. When you tap on the D Line it deducts 50¢ (assuming $2.75 fare) and your 2-hour timer resets. An hour in Ballard later, you hop the 44 to UW station. It’s a free transfer. Then just before your second two hours (now almost four hours) is up, you tap into Link and it deducts another 50¢ and resets your timer again. Your total fare paid is $3.25 and you can ride all the way to the airport.

        This is similar to what a Greater Greater Washington blogger experienced on a visit to Seattle. You can read more about it. He even screenshotted his ORCA ride history as proof.

      3. I believe you can avoid overpaying by quickly tapping “out” at one of the platform readers as you see the 550 approach. The two taps should cancel each other out, so you pay nothing for the train, and are charged the regular fare for the bus.

        Of course, once Link is fully built out and buses are removed from the downtown tunnel, all of this nonsense will go away.

      4. Yes, the tapout is a refund of the difference between your trip and the maximum trip. That’s why there’s no penalty for not tapping out. But there’s a more indirect problem in that if you tap in at another station within the period, it thinks you’re tapping out, and the beep sounds the same either way, and if you then get on the train it’s considered fare evasion. That and forgetting to tap are what cause most of these cases of unintentional citations.

      5. Several years ago, I had an employer-provided orca with a full pass. I tapped in for the train at Westlake, then jumped on the first bus that showed up and tapped in there, since I preferred to wait for the train at International District where my phone would still get service (it was back in the dark ages when there was no cell service in the tunnel.) Then, I jumped on a train and learned from the fare inspector that boarding the bus had canceled my tap-in for the train. Fortunately, I got off with an unofficial warning (they didn’t record my driver’s license or anything) and went on my merry way.

      6. Creating a visual “barrier” by using the machines to demarcate the fare paid zone in a way similar to that at Sea-Tac is the easiest way to remind people to tap on/off. Randomly spaced machines can easily be overlooked or forgotten; I sincerely hope that the machines in the downtown tunnel stations are relocated to the mezzanines in such a fashion once the buses are removed. They should be installed just as are turnstiles in other systems (exceptions are at elevators that travel directly to platforms from the surface, which have to have their own readers). So long as the minimum ADA travel width is maintained in at least one location, creative placement of card readers, bollards or rails, and things like dropped signage or soffits over the “gates” can all be useful visual reminders to tap on and off.

        Of course, a valid pass covering the maximum fare should be prima facie evidence of fare paid and inspectors should be instructed as such.

  7. Curious how Seattle’s bike share is being received in suburban cities where a number of bikes are ending up? I saw several on Bainbridge Island last weekend. Are they being well received even though only Seattle permitted it?

    1. My guess is that there’s not enough of them outside of Seattle to generate a lot of complaints.

      At some point, though, some kind of geo-fencing is eventually going to become necessary. Ideally, this would be in form of a soft geo-fence, rather than a hard one, where you can return a bike outside the area if you really want to (but would be charged a fee to cover the cost of paying someone to go drive out there in a truck to bring the bike back).

      Ideally, the geo-fenced area would include at least a few sections beyond the Seattle city limits, perhaps the area along the Burke-Gilman/Sammamish River Trail out to Bothell and Redmond. Even Bainbridge Island might make some amount of economic sense, provided that the pick-up/returns were limited to a single, well-marked point on the island next to the ferry, summer only.

      1. As I understand, they don’t have a business license to operate anywhere except Seattle. So they’re at some regulatory risk if a suburban law enforcement officer decided to make an issue of it.

  8. Explain to me why Lime Bike and Spin are allowed to let bikes be parked right in front of my residence. Seems like they should be relegated to commercial and public spaces.

    1. If it’s on the sidewalk it’s public space, and if you look at your title deed it says “except the south 5 feet” or such. (I learned that when I worked at a realty-tax company and had to data-enter all those legal descriptions.) If it’s in their yard then that’s another matter; you can probably complain to the company and tell them it’s parked illegally.

      On the flip side, my apartment building used to have a Pronto station on the same block (which I never used). Since the open bikeshares started I’ve seen them in a lot of convenient places, including Rainier Vista near the benches, five bikes together in a bike rack at the top of a hill (the company must have brought them up), and the most amusing… when I came home a couple days ago there was an orange bike right next to the front door, just waiting for a resident to ride. It made me think more about using bikeshare someday.

    2. Just move it off your property or contact the company. We had a broken Spin bike left on our property I sent them a notice on Facebook and they had a tech van there within 30 minutes. I wish our city had response times that quick!

    3. I believe the grassy area between sidewalk and street is, in fact a public space. When I need to leave a bike in a residential neighborhood, that’s usually where I leave it, as I don’t want to block somebody’s driveway.

      One interesting question is whether or not it’s ok to park a bikeshare bike in your own driveway. My guess is it’s probably ok in practice (although, technically against policy), provided that it’s clearly visible from the street, you have no objection to other people walking on your driveway to access the bike, and you have no roommates that the bike would block getting a car in or out.

    4. I think you answered your own question, Kevin. “In front of your residence” might mean public space, right?

  9. Thanks, guys, for all the real information about ORCA card handling. But Mike, did you mean that Erica and her cohorts only paid $4.99, or had to pay the whole $124 in addition? Please help me out with this one. Lifelong difficulty calibrating how mad to get.

    All these calculations for getting the lowest fare are impressive, and could create a game where the winner would get a free Monthly pass. Or whatever they can get the most additional money on. But makes my point too.

    Every piece of uncertain or concealed information makes passengers, like everybody else poor and scared, move more slowly, and also ask drivers more questions, which drains operating funds like Water Quality’s best storm drain.

    Oran, can you give the world a link (or LINK) to those calculations? Bet the increased knowledge will be confined to you, but you really deserve it. For the rest of us – just make sure my pass is valid, thank me, and go find a thief.

    Sadly, elected officials who steal money and throw it away by delaying trains and delivering passengers, give them free passes so they’re tempted to ride one. I know, cruel and all things considered, highly unusual. But seriously, Mike, let me know how much Eric and those kids had to pay.

    If she got hurt, Bob Hasegawa has an office a 20 minute walk from my door, and Tim Eyman only needs a goat and a pentagram for a home visit.


    1. She paid $124 plus $4.99. It’s like when you buy a concert ticket online and the transaction processor charges a fee. She didn’t say how many other people got cited or how many people paid or contested it. But it was a big enough problem that Councilmember Upthegrove tried to bring some relief.

      1. Well, thanks for the info, because blue-hot is really good for a cutting torch. Or pent up human fury, if goal is to fix more than it destroys. Now I have to do the posting I’ve been planning and promising, but don’t really feel like doing. Somebody has to.

        First thing my attorney and I will tell the court, with prosecution forced to verify under oath, is that there is not a single posted warning visible to passengers, on station walls, fare machine instruction boards, “Ride The Wave” or any other literature …


        I’ve got a meeting. Or a connection to make. Or an International flight to catch. Several thousand passengers and I per day don’t have the TIME to read those often-illegible screens. Maybe I can get a service dog whose ears can register difference between on and off beep tones, but this isn’t funny.

        Glad Erica could afford the fine. Though she should get it back. I can’t. So far, the paper All Day passes I buy first time I board a train protect me just fine to avoid getting one. While also showing that the system can apportion revenue internally without Threat One. And proof that all a Fare Inspector really needs to see is a paid-up valid pass.

        All other fare arrangements- which I’m sorry are not “Products”- bottom line should be that registering a pass on boarding should be blanket immunity from charges of theft. In deference to current style for Inspectors’ uniforms: “Make It So!”

        Mark Dublin

  10. Surprised people on this board don’t advocate the bikes be parked on the street (like a car) – lol

  11. Commemorating Seattle’s final reduction to regions separated by impassable barriers of concrete, an unrewarded sacrifice for developers and suburbanites. Great for extracting money on a daily basis and then leaving for “home” as quickly as possible, or passing through, not so wonderful to live with.

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