23 Replies to “Podcast #53: Elite Projection”

  1. Amtrak has had two derailments on the Cascades corridor in the last year: one on the Point Defiance line back in July, and the other on the bypass two weeks ago. PTC would have potentially handled both cases of overspeed conditions, which led to the derailments. So I’m going to have to disagree with the comment that it’s in some way reactionary to want PTC implemented along the PT Bypass before running passenger rail on it again. PTC will help reassure passengers, including myself who was on the 501 that day, that the service is safer as well as faster and more reliable. I can commit to riding again once PTC is implemented.

    The Cascades line, especially on the PT Bypass, is running on track that has speed limits that vary substantially due to value engineering relative to WSDOT’s 2006 LRP. I think that the varying speed conditions somewhat amplify the need for PTC. If say the entire corridor between Tacoma and Olympia/Lacey stations were rated for a single speed, there would not be as much of a need for PTC to take over during an overspeed condition, because an engineer could know not to exceed a single speed along a segment between two stations. PTC would add another layer of protection to defend against potential freight/passenger train interactions, but has been handled without it successfully thus far.

    I, like you, I look forward to the full report from the NTSB in the future, and I hope that this does not stifle further development of the rail corridor.

    1. There were many relieved to hear you made it out okay. I hope you can use the podium the national media have given you to great effect in bringing safety back to Amtrak’s culture, and making it more important than other deadlines in the political process.

      One particularly disturbing revelation was that David Smelser from WSDoT’s Rail Division promised the Lakewood City Council almost a year ago that PTC would “go in” before the trains started running in revenue on the Point Defiance Bypass.

  2. Elon Musk’s fear of riding in the same vehicle with a serial murderer on public transit came just a few days before another Uber driver murdered his passenger. Hours later, the Amtrak disaster helped bury that story.

    1. Either Elon’s being modest, or needs a new personal security adviser. Hard to feature either him or his theoretical murderer on public transit in the first place. Because the circles they both move in, crime scene will be cabin of a private jet, and Elon’s final thought will be that he’s finally found an investor for his next SuperTube.

      And Chris, like all of us very glad you got off that train in condition to write. But would be better for future of passenger transit if you and your attorney would concentrate on the design of your train’s final section of track, and the training of the man at with his hand on its throttle.

      On your way with accelerating speed to the top offices of both his chain of command and every agency even close to involved. Because while equipment like Positive Train Control should have been installed years ago, it’s still designed, built, and installed by human beings exactly like your engineer.

      Meaning similar chance of catastrophic failure for same reasons. So whatever laws and regulations say, it’s much better to think of the eyes, mind, and character behind the hand on the controller as the train’s final safety mechanism.

      Every person and agency who told your driver he had the training and, machinery, and the rest of a railroad for safe operations, should be forbidden lifelong from loading a napkin holder in a bistro car.
      Because whatever boards decide and courts determine, the man will go to his grave believing the responsibility was his.

      Mark Dublin

      1. BUT….How do we know he’s not driving one, and murdering passengers whose bodies he’s using as test-dummies for his latest anti-railroad?

        ‘Til we know for sure, I’m keeping my car, and despite really serious temptation, my ORCA card, and my Orange Cab phone number. And my running shoes. Have sat behind the wheel of a Tesla. And so Would Literally Not Be Caught Dead in one.

        BTW, permanent exhibit at SAM has photo of typical coffin from Haiti that looks like this year’s new coffin is a plywood 1959 Cadillac.


  3. Slightly crazy idea:
    Advocate for a state safety rail plan to grade separate some amtrak/BNSF crossings and replace the I-5 overpass at Lakewood.

    Also: use the opportunity to extend some sort of State funded service between Tacoma and Olympia? (DMU anyone?)

    1. I’ve long advocated for considering DMU (or self-propelled EMU) on new, non-electrified tracks — even with single-track sections — as a possible mode to be at least given serious study in a corridor. However, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in adding a new mode type, so we remain generally politically limited to always assuming light rail, express bus (renamed BRT in places) and Sounder (with huge outlays to private railroad companies).

      That contrasts with backing of DMU projects like some of FasTracks in Denver, SMART, EBart and Sprinter.

    2. Amtrak Cascades is owned jointly by the states of Oregon and Washington. Amtrak operates the service under contract. The lack of answer to the question “Who is in charge?” is part of the problem.

      The station location in Lacey, an hour’s bus ride on Intercity Transit from the Capitol, makes such state semi-run train non-competitive even with buses.

      1. Suggestion, Brent. Have heard 592 ST Express Olympia to Seattle is going away. But If we extend Sounder ten minutes or so south from Dupont to Lacey, 592 can do a lot more with a lot fewer hours.

        Little clarification here. Present local Intercity Transit route and schedules need not govern ST express buses, set up to meet trains, from Downtown Olympia to the Lacey station.

        By my car clock, twenty minutes max. Could also run from maybe three other centers in the area. Namely a Freeway-Free trip to Tacoma and Seattle. Would definitely a be a political transit political game-changer.

        In an effort to keep our culture alive by saying “Ya sure, you betcha!” and “Skoal” a lot of us ethnoconometrically-cleansed Seattle refugees might soon be numerous enough to turn an election in our struggle to reclaim our homeland.

        Think about it.


      2. “The lack of answer to the question ‘Who is in charge?’ is part of the problem.”

        If I were any of those track-side mayors, or their constituents, it would always have been my whole problem with every single facet of this project. Passenger rail or fresh chicken, if one part stinks, nobody complains about throwing out the rest.

        So would also take rather ill a suggestion that my objections didn’t count because whoever was being paid to be in charge let the train crash a mile or two from my own driveway.

        And in addition, I’d remind that with Word, it doesn’t take any white-out to edit some distance between the sports scene and the results of above uncertainty.

        But most of all would also pass along that my State Senator, Steve O’ban, tells me that enough of his constituents share my thoughts on this particular transportation problem that he’s canceling all further action on car-tabs.

        Along with any more campaign fund-raising, career-long.


    3. Nashville’s plan includes one corridor with light rail sharing tracks with freight trains, so things are a-changing. Time for DMUs.

  4. Thanks for the frank First Hill streetcar discussion. I would have added mention of Mayor McGinn’s influence on the project in addition to what you said.

    I also think it was a good example of how making decisions incrementally can have unpleasant systemic outcomes. Funding, alignment and street geometry were decided at different points (with backtracking not politically acceptable), and there was no multi-modal north-south corridor strategy defined before these things were decided.

    Seattle’s approach in that era was very single-mode focused. Even though there seem to be better multi-modal discussions today, I’m not completely convinced that we’ve deprioritized this approach enough.

  5. Rather than merely complain about the FHSC, can we consider ways to make it a more productive investment?

    I think one problem lies in the shape of the route. I’d love to see if there is benefit at splitting the route at 14th and Jackson and adding track — with the Jackson segment continuing to 31st Ave (eliminating Route 14, with the 31st Ave segment served by another route), and the First Hill segment going to Judkins Park or Mount Baker Link.

    1. The largest reason for its low ridership, IMHO, is its infrequent schedule that doesn’t mesh with Link. Not much can be done about that in the short term, due to the specialized fleet. In the long run, I’m not sure we’ll ever do business again with the same manufacturer who delivered way late.

    2. With regards to the First Hill Streetcar, I don’t understand the people on this blog who argue that we should throw bikes under the bus to make the slow-as-molasses streetcar slightly less slow, by giving it its own dedicated lane.

      Bikes and streetcar tracks simply don’t mix. Without a dedicated bike path, you’re effectively banning bikes from Broadway completely, and causing who knows how many injuries and deaths when people bike on the streetcar tracks, anyway.

      Telling people to just use the adjacent streets doesn’t work because Broadway is the street that goes through – the adjacent streets don’t. There is a reason why car drivers prefer Broadway to the nearby neighborhood streets, and that reason applies to bikes also.

      Really, the biggest problem with the Broadway bike path is that it doesn’t extend far enough north, so anyone who uses it still has to be comfortable navigating through car traffic, anyway. If they could simply extend the bike path up to Roy, *without* extending the streetcar, it would be much more useful.

    3. So Broadway can’t have transit lanes and will always have streetcars and buses stuck in traffic, is that what you’re saying? Is a cycletrack on Broadway so all-important that transit must take a back seat? Is that any way to design a street? The cycletrack can go on another street that’s not a major transit street, and people who want to bike on Broadway can go in the car lanes or sidewalk like they (and I) used to do before the cycletrack.

      1. You used to be able to ride a bike in the car lane. With streetcar tracks, you can’t anymore because your tires will get caught, and you fall over and go to the hospital.

        Also, much of the streetcar’s slowness is caused by the traffic signals and idiotic routing around Yesler, which a dedicated lane wouldn’t really solve anyway.

      2. I’ve lived on Capitol Hill for 4 years and have seen a grand total of 4 people use the actual Broadway cycle track. It was a just a vanity project so we could be one of the first cities in the US to have such a then-novel protected bike lane.

  6. Wanted to mention that I used Metro during the day of free NYE. Very helpful for kicking around town for party prep. It also sped up boarding and provided for a bit more light atmosphere. I went so far as to write a compliment to Metro about it.

    Hope they continue it, even expand it to other holidays. Maybe even use the free day to demo all door boarding.

  7. Can I buy you guys an hour of an audio engineer’s time? Please?

    All he needs to do is walk up to the desk where you record the podcast, find the volume for Martin H. Duke and turn it up, and find the one for Frank Chiachiare and turn it down. I mean, it’s been a couple of years of this:

    Duke: ..,.,.,,…;.;.;
    Chiachiare: HEH <== This single syllable loud enough to actually damage my speakers
    Duke: ..,..,..,.

    Please! I'm absolutely serious about offering to get you a couple of hours with someone who's willing to help fix your audio.

    1. I’d chip in for that. It’s even worse when you have a guest on. The Kubly podcast was unintelligible.

  8. I am a daily cyclist, and I am 100% okay with removing the bike lane on Broadway and exchange it for dedicated streetcar lanes. The thing doesn’t really go anywhere and is still kind of dangerous. Bikes should go on Harvard instead. Then afterwards we can extend that thing all the way to UDistrict and it’ll finally be somewhat useful as the 49 replacement.

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