April 9, 2015 - Fremont salutes Pontoon F!

Unsurprisingly, regional and national transportation news has been dominated since Monday by the tragic Amtrak 501 derailment. Because many of our readers are following the news of that accident via traditional or social media, and every outlet is working with the same (small) set of facts, I elected not to try and summarize all the 501 coverage, but to focus on other things that happened this week. STB’s reporting and commentary will continue in other posts.

If, nonetheless, you have room in your brain for one more 501 story, make it this KNKX interview with All Aboard Washington’s Lloyd Flem, who knew two of the deceased, Zack Willhoite and Jim Hamre, through their transit advocacy. “I can say with clarity, on behalf of both men […] that we do not believe the future of transportation is an infinite amount of pavement so everybody can drive alone, all the time, everywhere.” Words to live by.

The roundup:

This is an open thread.

62 Replies to “News Roundup: Everything But 501”

  1. Always careful about context of quotes from anybody. Also, how much I think the source of the quote knows about his subject. And my own experience with the subject. No matter how rich source is.

    Driving a Prius and having sat behind a Tesla steering wheel, I prefer a car I can see out of. Would also like to check maintenance and repair figures per year. Factoring in driving conditions and skill handling them.

    Contest for you, Elon. If a girl we both liked was making up her mind, with full knowledge of both of us in all senses, on a day-long drive over roads of her choice in the cars of our choice, whose car would she stay in longest before giving Lyfft our coordinates for an intercept?

    Because, to quote the late Texas Senator when he made a Vice Presidential candidate cry:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola_Tesla

    “Mr. Musk, the more you know about your car’s namesake, how much do you think you’re him?”

    Personal metric for whether a bus is on time? How likely is my next arrival at work to leave me still employed? Likewise whatever the train number, over a ten mile run, same question if speed limit between Lakewood and the Nisqually was thirty.

    ‘Morning.

    Mark

    But: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola_Tesla

    To paraphrase the late Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen: “Mr. Musk, the more you know about Nikola Tesla, how much more or less are you one of him?”

  2. Regarding the cheek to gil article, a large part of why I support dense city is because I love nature. The more spread the city, the less room for nature. It irks me when people try to fight density with environmentalism. Whether it’s using the environmental review process to block trains or trails or claiming we can’t have more density because it would mean reduced city tree canopy. To get more trees in the city, we should turn some parking lots into wetlands, not stop buildings from using their entire lot.

    1. Ben we need to interview a wider…correct term would not be “demo” but “ZOO”-o-graphic, for full perspective on this subject.

      Raccoons and rats (I thought of the raccoons first somebody else get rats!) probably think New York subways and all their passengers’ residential density really dwell in deep NIMBYland. Though rats sense real speeshism here, both social and institutional.

      Raccoons get unfair cute-ism credits no matter how reverberating the bang when a whole alleyfull of garbage cans go over. And evidence shows the raccoons eat not because they’re starving and have a giant litter to feed, but because it helps them turn into vicious overweight striped bullies who enrich the rabies vaccine industry every time a human disputes their cute.

      Coyotes always poll positive because without humans, their only other choice of cats generally leave them being food for other coyotes. Though the ones with those big furry paws and short tails and tassels on their ears sometimes reduce the pro-human vote from Redmond- Edge squirrels by killing them for fun.

      And crows? The denser our numbers, the better. Same with the number of days we’ve been laying there in the sun. Maturing, you know. But irked by those mechanical wolf-imitators with those intolerable lights that come roaring up and steal their lunch.

      But even when their older cousins the ravens lose habitat and deer carcasses to development, they know their their history well enough to relax.Given human’s chief species-wide proclivity, the more of us there are, it’s only a matter of time before trends get very raven-positive. Sound of a gun-shot is the world’s sweetest dinner-bell.

      MD

      We also learned in landscape architecture that suburbs create a classic “Forest Edge Habitat.” Meaning that deer go out of their way to be graceful enough that humans overlook the horticultural damage they do, no matter how much they just paid for those trees.

  3. Throwing this out to the horde– what was interim SDOT director’s Sparrman record when he was SDOT director? (Was he a Nickles appointment, McGinn, etc) Did he do anything bad/good? Is it his job to lose.

  4. The airports complaining about a loss of revenue due to ride sharing seems a bit overblown. As ride sharing becomes more ubiquitous, of course people will choose the option that costs about the same as parking, but gets them direct to their terminal. I don’t understand why airports haven’t already started raising the fees for ride shares to operate in the airport. Enforce large fines for non-compliance. Or just flat out ban ride shares from airports again. But for Pete’s sake, don’t cry about loss in revenue from less people choosing to park.

    A lot of transit systems add a sizeable bump to fares when you take it to the airport, why not ride shares?

      1. When you think about the numbers, though, the airport is probably still losing a huge amount of money compared to parking.

        Suppose the average trip is three days. A person who parks in Seatac’s garage probably pays upwards of $80 for that, of which you gotta think they get at least 50% in profit. A person who uses rideshare from the airport pays $6, which, even if you assume rideshares impose no cost to the airport, is a huge haircut.

        Essentially, rideshares are preventing the airports from capitalizing on the natural scarcity of adjacent parking, or, to put it a different way, the inherent spatial inefficiency of cars. That’s not a bad thing of course, but I totally understand why airports are freaking out.

      2. True. I was thinking about it more in relation to lost fees from their cab concession. Parking is a way bigger deal.

      3. Congestion pricing for the pick up and drop off lane sounds perfectly good to me. But everybody should have to pay. It’s not fair to charge Uber passengers for use of the facility, while making it free for any friends and relatives willing to pick you up without being paid.

        Toll the drop off lane equal to 30 minutes of parking in the garage, and run a free shuttle to a remote lot, where pickups can be free.

    1. I’m not a big fan of protectionist measures taken by a public or at least quasi-public interview to incentivize individual car use, myself.

    2. You would think an airport that desperately needs room to grow would see the advantages to reducing the size of Americas biggest parking garage (SeaTac) and use the land for more actual aviation activities. If there is a demand for parking let the private sector convert their miles of surrounding surface lots to parking garages.

      1. I think the issue is that there’s currently not any better (or even close) revenue source for the parking garage space, were it to be torn down. A hotel would theoretically be a better use, space-wise, but that involves a large source of labor, which means less revenue than the garage, which is pretty close to zero labor to run (don’t get me wrong, I believe a hotel would be an excellent use of space and generate a lot of jobs). I thought a hotel was supposed to infill the old car rental space, but not sure what happened with that.

        The FAA (and the skittish Port) are always seemingly nervous about doing anything next to terminals, so I’m not sure what would be an acceptable replacement for parking, were it to come to that.

      2. I wonder if the long game for Seatac is to squeeze as much revenue out of the existing garage and terminal buildings for as long as possible until a complete overhaul is needed, then to ultimately reduce the parking footprint and expand terminal operations into the location of the existing garage. We may be stuck with a legacy garage for a few more decades as the Port is beholden to tax payers.

        As far as the parking vs. rideshare situation, I’ll happily take Link or a bus as far as possible and get a rideshare/cab from a Link station. You can’t have a very long trip (number of travel days) before parking becomes cost prohibitive. $40/day, $140/week for parking!!! I’m not saying that it shouldn’t cost that much, but when you compare that to an Uber or Lyft, round-trip, it isn’t very competitive.

      3. And how about for that family of four coming from the suburbs (where we are still waiting for Link to reach us) taking a week-long trip with bags in tow? I just checked and from my location it’s showing $110-150 for an UberXL. For many of us, use of off-site parking lots around the airport is still the most cost-effective means (outside of annoyed friend/relative drop-offs) of travelling to and from SeaTac.

      4. Tlsgwm, I’m out in the lonely suburbs too. The bus ride wasn’t all that bad last time we traveled. There was an older lady with a lot of baggage, so two of us helped her with bags, and it wasn’t very crowded either. 574 and 560 both stop at Seatac in addition to Link. 560 gets you as far as Bellevue, 574 gets you down to Lakewood, and Link gets you up to Husky Stadium. Most people in the Seattle or Tacoma Metro areas can cut a significant amount from their cab ride just by taking one of the very cheap buses available at the airport.

        That being said, I fully understand the frustration of rural travelers, as my parents live a full hour from the nearest airport, 3 hours from the nearest reasonably priced airport. (Incidentally, their town smells of hog manure and boasts a poultry pageant.) Any time I visit, it’s a trip to the car rental counter, or a request that they pick me up, which they often take as an opportunity to visit a relative or do “big city shopping” while they are there. Friends on the east coast have similar issues getting from their rural & small city homes to big city airports with big city parking prices and lack of transit, so many of them actually do two one-way car rentals, one from home to the airport, and another from the airport back home, every time they fly.

        At least WA state has a few shared ride companies that cater to rural pockets of the state. I know that Kitsap, Wenatchee, and Olympia all have shared ride shuttles. Always an option, better than nothing. I’d love to just ask my parents to pick me nearby, and not need to rent a car that I don’t really need. Much of the US doesn’t even have the shuttle operators available beyond the extents of the city that the airport serves.

      5. There are shuttles from Bellingham and I think everywhere in western Washington and possibly Vancouver, Victoria, Leavenworth, and Ellensburg, are there not? In other cities the only times I’ve used shuttles is when the city buses don’t come to the airport (Charlotte, Raleigh, Oklahoma City), and my impression was that airport shuttles exist everywhere buses are absent. But I haven’t tried to go to rural areas around other cities.

        In Charlotte or Raleigh I went to the ground transportation desk and asked if there was a bus to the city and was surprised that there was none. I thought that all cities, if they didn’t have a train from the airport, at least had a bus. But some cities this size have buses only in the central city, not to the airport.

      6. @Mike, when were you at Raleigh? I grew up there, and there’s been a bus straight from the airport to Raleigh for the past six years or so, with transfers to Chapel Hill and Durham. Before then, for another ten years or so, there was a shuttle to the regional transit center with transfers to all three cities.

        The shuttle from Bellingham Airport just began last year, IIRC.

      7. There’s two main problems with buses: lack of luggage capacity and frequency.

        I’ve been on the 560 once or twice, and there’s simply no place to put luggage. You can use the seat next to you, but if it’s crowded, this simply wouldn’t work. And forget about using it with younger kids. Keeping track of all your luggage plus kids plus their stuff is going to be impossible. It’s worth the extra money for a car/shuttle.

        Then there’s the problem of frequency. The 560 runs every 30 minutes on weekdays and once an hour on weekends. And you likely will have to connect. And walk to wherever your house is. I live a 10 minute walk away from Brickyard and getting to the airport via bus would take me an hour with no transfer penalty and no waiting. More realistically, it would probably take two hours.

        I can drive/uber to the airport parking lot in 30 minutes. That’s 3 wasted hours per trip. Link would be great. But we don’t have it out there. Maybe the 405 BRT will be better – we’ll see.

      8. Raleigh was 1998 probably. I went again ca. 2005 but I stayed with somebody who drives everywhere so he probably picked me up. Maybe it was Charlotte that said there wasn’t a bus and I’m misremembering about Raleigh, or maybe I just couldn’t find the Raleigh bus.

        I’ve seen shuttles from all over western Washington on the ground transportation signs for years, so there must have been earlier Bellingham ones.

      9. I was recently considering moving to downtown Kirkland to be close to work and I realized that if I did it, it would put me in a similar predicament – a trip to the airport would either require a lot more time or a lot more money than a trip from my current home, where UW station is just a 5-minute Uber ride away.

        This is problem with suburban buses in general – they are heavily oriented around peak-hour commutes to downtown Seattle, and if you need to get anywhere else or travel at any other times, things start getting difficult. It’s usually still possible to make the trip; just time-consuming, often involving lots of waiting and/or detours to downtown Seattle, even if it’s totally out of the way.

        ST3 does include an “I-405 BRT” which should theoretically help with the problem – if the bus is made to run frequently enough all-day, which is a big “if”. Even then, most would still need a ride from home to the bus stop, but at least it’s a ride that costs $8 instead of $50.

      10. 1998… I was growing up in Chapel Hill then. I think there was already some sort of Raleigh-Durham Airport shuttle, but sometime around then, the airport got into a fight with the regional transit agency over parking revenue versus plans to eventually build regional rail. So, maybe they didn’t know, or maybe they wouldn’t tell you. (They’re still planning the rail. Something might happen in the next ten years or so.)

        No idea about Charlotte.

        As for Bellingham, I was talking about shuttles to the Bellingham airport! I don’t know much about the Bellingham-Seatac shuttles, except that I’ve heard they exist.

  5. Anyone know why northbound Link is stopping at SoDo? I can’t understand a thing the driver is saying and ST’s website says there’s nothing wrong.

      1. They have this annoying habit of changing drivers in the middle of a run, and making everybody wait while they do it. You never know when it’s going to happen.

  6. Seatac airport has a bit of an arrivals pickup congestion problem. Last night I got a Zipcar to pickup someone at the airport for an after midnight arrival. Expected little congestion at that hour…definitely a shock to see it backed up almost to the control tower! I went ahead and paid the $4 to park and meet her inside at baggage claim, and based on the parking spot indicators there were lots of open spaces. For me, definitely worth the $4 to avoid what might be explained as “grade school pickup free-for-all on steroids.” I noticed a sign saying something like “If arrivals is congested departures is available.” Kind of vague–available for what exactly–but I guess they allow pickups at the departures level in that situation? Anyways, I was thinking: Why not capitalize and direct people to use the parking garage, perhaps with reduced rates for the first hour, to help ease some of that congestion and rake in some parking revenue? One of the few situations where I feel that parking was actually the “lesser evil.” On another note, if there are so many after midnight arrivals at SEA, wouldn’t it make sense to run Link a bit later, even if it might be less frequent after midnight?

    1. SeaTac has had an arrivals/pick-up congestion problem ever since the 90s and has never adequately dealt with the issue. It was exacerbated when they ended their 30-minute free parking in the garage. Yes, for you folks who are more recent transplants, this how people used to drop off or pick up friends/relatives at SeaTac.

    2. If you had to pay the same $4 to access the pick up and drop off lane, many would choose to just park in the garage, and all the problems would be solved.

      If this change causes the garage to run out of space, they can make space by reducing the amount of long term parking spaces, or making most long-term parking valet, and store the cars off-site.

      1. In the meantime, the pick up congestion is a powerful incentive for me to choose Link to go home from the airport over Uber. At the end of the day, the Ranier Valley deviation beats 30 minutes of standing there while the driver inches forward in line. Even if I still need an Uber for the last mile, it’s much easier, and cheaper, to be picked up at the UW station than at the airport.

      2. Understood. For many of us Link is still not an option as it hasn’t reached us yet. Also, the solo traveling experience, and its attendant decision-making, is different from that of a family’s.

      3. Yep. Car2Go + Link when I’m flying solo, and SeaTac parking when I’m flying with kiddos. I don’t even mess around with the private lots anymore. It’s worth it not to have to deal with getting the kids and the luggage on and off the shuttle.

      4. Car2Go plus Link can be a great combination, and before U-link opened, that’s what I often used. Usually, by the time I landed, the Car2Go’s were all gone from downtown, so I ended up doing the switchover at Beacon Hill Station. Now, I do the switch at UW Station, using Lyft/Uber, since the UW has declared the station a Car2Go dead zone. I even discovered the trick of requesting the ride from the train, so that the driver is pulling in, right as I’m heading up the escalator.

        Back when I had a car, I used to occasionally use the parking shuttles, but they always seemed to take forever to show up, in large part, due to the shuttles getting stuck in long lines of other shuttles. The Port really needs some sort of a cap as to how many vehicles can be allowed to use the commercial pick-up lane per hour. Otherwise, you just end up with a vicious cycle where shuttles get stuck in traffic, leading to long wait times, so parking companies add more shuttles, so traffic gets worse, so wait times increase again.

        Recently, Zipcar, ReachNow, and Car2Go started introducing one-way service to/from the airport. But they use the WallyPark lot, which means you have to wait for the shuttle to get to the car, which makes the service unattractive. Virtually any destination in the Car2Go home area, you can get there faster by riding Link and picking up a vehicle at any of the stops, rather than deal with that parking shuttle.

        If the Port is looking for new ways to make money out of the parking garage, one thing that should really be a no-brainer is to allow car-sharing there. It is absolutely ridiculous that the car-sharing cars are forced to make people wait for a private shuttle, while the valuable garage space is taken up by long-term parkers, whose cars are just sitting there for days or weeks on end. Allowing Car2Go, ReachNow, and Zipcar users to pick up and drop off cars right there in the garage could be a cash cow for them. A simple $5 fee for picking up or dropping a car at the airport, multiplied by 10 pick ups and drop offs per day per space would provide the port way more revenue than conventional long-term parking, while still saving large amounts of money for the people parking the cars there.

    3. Yes, the airport has not adjusted to the texting and messaging age. Before we had cell phones, we used to drive to the airport and park and wait for our passengers — sometimes for hours if the plane was late.

      They really need to get after those people who sit in the loading lanes while the passengers inside have yet to pick up their luggage. They idle for 10 or 15 minutes and keep others from loading!

      Hint: I always tell anyone that I am picking up to go upstairs to the ticketing level where I will pick them up. Congestion picking up people lasts for many hours a day due to bad behavior of a few, and they usually don’t wait on the upper level.

      asdf2 is right that if we charged for use of the terminal access lanes, the volumes would go down. Perhaps if they simply had the $4 toll for using the lane if someone stayed longer than 10 minutes, the problem would abate.

      Regardless, there is a major issue here and a pitiful cell phone lot that makes all entering and exiting traffic cross each other only makes it worse.

    4. Back in the Midwest, I’m used to the parking garage being free for the first 30 minutes, specifically so that people park to pick people up at the airport.

      At the very least, charge the same price for short term parking (<1 hour) as you do to drive through the pickup lane. If both options were $4, many people would park.

      1. Agreed. Fwiw, that is how it used to be at SeaTac as well (first 30 minutes free) when I first moved here after graduate school. Then I think they started charging $2 for that first 30 minutes if my memory serves me correctly.

  7. Not to be telling an editor his job, because that’s surest way to personally get stuck with it. But train number irrelevant, somebody’s got to tell the media its ongoing delivery of organic fertilizer has been stamped return to sender.

    Automatic train control used to be called instinctive knowledge of the difference between a high speed rail corridor and a ten-car freight spur. And an intensively trained engineer with the experience to drag the author of his train orders up the ladder and tape his rear end into the control seat and his hand to the throttle before jumping clear.

    Pop quiz to measure State math skills. Over ten miles of non-stop track, how much would it degrade Portland service to set train speed at thirty instead of eighty? Anybody who knows the answer, put up your hand. And if you ordered eighty anyhow, please come up and introduce yourself in person. All of you.

    OK, back to things everybody isn’t tired of. People with details of what they found inside those cars are a lot more tired right now, but would like to hear from them soon as they’ve had their rest. And one category of information needs to re-awaken all kinds of interest: Officials Under Pressure.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Re: “Outlook 2018: Transit agency execs rank funding shortfalls, PTC challenges among chief concerns”

    The Lynnwood Link project, originally estimated at $1.5-1.7 billion and now at $2.9 billion, has been overleveraged with regard to its federal funding participation and Rogoff knows it. This has been a deliberately understated risk for the project up until this past year.

    1. It’s interesting to compare the executives’ responses. Rogoff seems better prepared than the others: his answers are more detailed and cite more specific efforts ST is doing. Phillip Washington in LA is also good in that regard. The others use more tautological generalizations and have fewer specifics. That could be due to their communication skills, lack of agency progress, or that the challenges they currently face and the solutions are harder to articulate.

      Dallas is building a downtown tunnel? Hooray! When I’ve been there before the light rail varied from 30 mph in arterials (mostly) to 55 mph underground (one station) to a 20 mph crawl with stoplights every block (downtown).

      Tlsgwm: how is it overleveraged? Does Lynnwood Link depend disproportionately more on grants than other Link projects? Does it have a lower grant/ridership ratio? Nobody knew that Trump would be elected until the ST3 vote, and most predictions said he wouldn’t. And it came down to some 10,000 votes, which is fewer than the number of voters that were suppressed, fewer than the 3 million more who voted for Hillary but didn’t make it through the Electoral College formula, and much fewer than the number reassigned to gerrymandered districts. Of these, only the gerrymandering and suppression was clear enough ahead of time to be quantified. And now with federal transit grants still completely unclear, there’s nothing to base an estimate on. You could say that ST should pull back and assume zero funding or 50% funding, but that’s as arbitrary as anything else. There’s a just as strong argument to wait until we get some concrete information from the feds regarding the budget and our competitiveness before revising our predictions. Except for grant money that was expected now, to pay for immediate bills, if there’s any of that.

      1. “Does Lynnwood Link depend disproportionately more on grants than other Link projects?”

        Yes. From the start of planning, and long before the 2016 election rolled around. Thus, the remainder of your reply isn’t all that relevant in that context.

      2. How much more? Are there certain subtasjs that are grant-funded only in this project, or is it just a general amount for construction as a whole? Did they give any reason for it, such as the project is highly qualified (which I would expect given the role if that corridor in the region), or that North King/Snoho’s local budget was too tight for local funding?

  9. I have a quick question that I haven’t been able to find easily anywhere else:
    With all of the talk about positive train control, does the rest of the mainline between Seattle and Portland have PTC? For all the articles that have been questioning whether this line should have been opened without it, I just started wondering weather any sections of the current track are still operating without it. Does someone here know that for sure?

    1. I came across this the other day, fwiw….

      “Patrick, the Sound Transit spokesman, said installation of the positive train control was not behind schedule and that the agency always intended to have it operational some months after the service began. He noted that other segments of the Amtrak rail system between Seattle and Portland, Ore., also do not have operational systems.”

      http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-washington-amtrak-derailment-20171219-story.html

    2. Thank you, that’s sort of what I thought.

      It just seems awfully disingenuous of the media to be stating that this line was rushed in the service before the safety equipment was finished, when the same safety equipment doesn’t exist anywhere else on the line either.

      I suppose the Corollary of saying that we shouldn’t have opened this new line until the PTC was up and running would be to say that perhaps none of the trains should be running anywhere until the PTC is up and running there too.

      1. There’s a ton of information on the FRA’s website, including the history of how the implementation deadline for PTC nationwide was extended after pushback from the rail companies resulted in Congress amending the 2008 safety improvements act back in 2015.

        Here’s the section on PTC. Scroll down to see the individual entity implementation plans and most recent quarterly report (“PTC implementation status by railroad”).

        https://www.fra.dot.gov/ptc

      2. Cascadia Breanna, this is the same media that spun Lakewood mayor’s words when it was clear all he cared about was the inconvenience of motorists waiting 15 seconds for 14 daily trains.

      3. Breanna, if you’ve just started commenting in Seattle Transit Blog, it’s very good to have you. Some of us and our comments are more obsolete and in worse need of preventive maintenance than the United States of America.

        Missing from this discussion is same question a trial court will doubtless ask: “Why didn’t you hold top speed to thirty from Lakewood south at least until Positive Train Control was installed?”

        Meantime, until PBC (Positive Brain Control) arrives, my math skills better not carry passengers. So somebody else please some hand me some electric tape so I don’t need to keep cribbing math answers.

        Over straight track of about ten miles between Lakewood and the trail-in to the main line, how much unrecoverable operating time would a top speed of thirty miles an hour lose us between Dupont and Portland?

        Glenn, I think you’ve got the right remedy, but the wrong field of study. Instead of a human engineer, your assessment better for a large, rich, lazy, and self-pitying country. Though come to think of it, common cause of death for both patients can class as deferred maintenance.

        9-11 killed three thousand. Our sequel likely repeat of the Bhopal chemical leak, that killed at least five thousand. All ISIS will have to do is claim credit. Leaving us to angrily refute this slur on our own decades-long efforts to save on maintenance. Luckily we now have undeniable evidence that we are indeed First at something.

        And Poncho, a little political advice. When you cast aspersions on a public official concerned about the safety of his community, at least give the world a week to forget he was just proven right on the train’s first try.

        Mark Dublin

      4. Mark, his concerns were entirely about grade crossings and not liking high speed trains. His criticism of the new line had nothing to do with this insane 30 mph S curve, that is a hazard but he was never talking about that.

    3. As I said above, the old track has a lower speed limit which is intrinsically safer, it doesn’t have large changes in speed, it goes along the water so it’s flat, and the engineers are well used to it. The issue of delaying The new corridor is just that: a new corridor that may have unknown problems.

      The deadline pressure they were under to avoid disqualifying for the stimulus grant is also concerning. Does that point to a flaw in the law, ineffectiveness in ST/WSDOT/BNSF in not completing it sooner, or proof that the project was overambitious in the first place (it couldn’t have been completed in the timeframe so the grantor shouldn’t have chosen it). Unless maybe there was nothing else to award the grant to, which would be a sad state if affairs.

      1. My understanding of the stimulus funding conditions was that the project simply had to be completed and operational by the 2017 deadline. It did not have to be in the revenue service phase. I may be incorrect about that, but that’s my understanding on the matter.

      2. There’s segments of the old line that have some severe speed drops too.

        There’s been an awful lot of these overspeed derailments recently. I’ve been on a few cab rides, and the flashing of the bright white concrete ties at 79 mph does some really odd things to my head.

        It might be useful for someone to do an actual medical study to see if there is more to this than just pointing the finger at the engineer. There might be an actual biological reason for these accidents. I don’t think any of them have happened on lines with creosote wood ties (which are black).

      3. It seems like Amtrak really wanted to get the new trains operating prior to the holiday rush, and I can see why. They typically add additional trains around Christmas, so it is a perfect time to launch a new schedule with increased service levels.

      4. I can confirm that the old route does not have a crazy 30 mph zone in the middle of it like this new route. Im writing this from a southbound Cascades train now.

        I just cant believe after rebuilding a bypass for new higher speed service that a 30 mph s curve would have been kept.

      5. What about the Point Defiance tunnel itself? Seems to me the signs on that are 30 mph.

        There’s also the tight curve in downtown Tacoma by the glass museum. That’s at most 30 mph.

        One big difference with those is the significant landmarks around them. The bypass route just has featureless scotch broom and I-5.

    1. A couple of takeaways after a second reading…

      “The 18-member transit board, composed of regional elected officials and chaired by Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, asked no questions and offered no comments in the public board meeting Thursday, though nine-figure budget choices and an estimated 67,000 daily riders are in play.”

      Yup, that certainly sounds like the ST board.

      “In that paperwork, Sound Transit will attest that it can finance the project even if there’s no real savings and costs stay up at $2.93 billion, Kempkes said. (The figure would be listed as $3.07 billion, under an FTA matrix that includes bond interest that transit agencies pay before opening day.)”

      So the cost “savings” is actually closer to $100 million since the already inflated $2.4 million figure included the financing cost.

    2. I wonder how much they would save if they went back to the original plan for the 145th Avenue Station, which was to have it at 145th. The decision to move it up the street meant that it was much bigger. They have bought a lot of extra land so that buses can turn around. They are treating it like a transit station, when anyone with a map can tell it shouldn’t be. Just put a station close to 145th, and run buses *by* the station. They can turn around a couple blocks later, although there is no good reason why they can’t just go to Bitter Lake. Doing so would require extra funding (for the 522 buses) but that could come from Seattle (just as Seattle chips in for extra bus service on Metro).

  10. The plans for 65th NE are horrible, and really deserve more publicity. I hope someone on this blog is going to write an article. The Urbanist covers the issue well, but readership on that blog is tiny compared to this one.

    In a nutshell, the problem is out of lane bus stops for the buses. This is ridiculous for this corridor. There are two problems with that idea:

    1) You slow down the buses (it takes a while for the driver to merge back into traffic).

    2) They shrink the size of the sidewalk. This is part that is really nuts. You are making the sidewalk smaller while you add a subway stop in the neighborhood. Thousands of people will be walking along the sidewalk, and many will just walk into the bike lane, as a result.

    All for what? Their own data shows that it won’t even save a driver any time. People hate stopping behind buses, but in this case, it really doesn’t matter. Either way, they obviously have their priorities messed up here. I would argue that we should add bus lanes here, but at a minimum the buses should stop in the main lane.

    1. Portland is big on bus bulbs and are on many if not most walkable commercial streets, they are not too big in Seattle. Dont know why they dont embrace them more here.

    2. Yes, if bus bulbs are good enough for Dexter and Roosevelt, why aren’t they good enough for 65th? I would expect more pushback on Roosevelt which is more of a citywide thoroughfare, while 65th just dead-ends at Greenlake and SPW and is not a particularly attractive turn from the east (because it’s so long, slow, hilly, bumpy, and has that winding at View Ridge). So not hordes of people going all the way across town and fuming at waiting behind buses.

      1. Exactly. The city is treating it like it is a major automotive corridor, like Aurora. It isn’t. There are only going to a handful of drivers stuck behind a bus.

  11. Waste of server this late, Poncho, but just for the record, there’s an easy settlement with the Mayor of Lakewood, and sensible solution to the speed disruption. Keep top speed at thirty from Lakewood Station to the trail-in with the main line.

    I read the length of the line between Lakewood at the crash site about ten miles. How much irrecoverable time would that cost a Portland train? Pretty much same as that blinding TGV track between the river and Portland Station?

    I also frequently exit I-5 northbound along with heavy Base traffic headed for Steilacoom. Whoever’s technically at fault, first easy mistake will leave a trail of two different sets of body parts so far along the tracks that the Medical Examiner will shut down the line for six months retrieving evidence. And the Lakewood police somehow just too busy to dismantle the stacks of railroad ties I’ll be helping the Mayor pile across the tracks.

    Because what the man’s right about is that he’s dealing with an agency too cheap to budget for the elevation and undercuts eighty mile an hour service demands in that area. If failure to straighten out the line in the first place wasn’t already sufficient proof…like I said, give people a week or two to forget last Monday.

    Mark Dublin

  12. Re bikeshares: An unexpected benefit has been the ability to rent bikes in other cities as well. I believe it was Ofo and Limebike I rented in recent trips to Houston and DC, with apps I already had on my phone from Seattle. That wasn’t at all possible with the traditional racked bike shares.

    In DC I was headed out of town and didn’t think I had time to visit the Capitol building. But then I saw an Ofo and jumped on. Zipping past city-financed (I assume) racked bikeshares I made it there in 10 minutes, then just left it where I wanted (out of the way, of course). Convenient, fast, and cost me $1.

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