Look both ways

This is an open thread.

46 Replies to “News Roundup: Harmful Obsessions”

  1. SLU article: “The guidance also notes that “bus hubs” should be fully screened from public view”

    Um, what’s a bus hub? It sounds like Bellevue Transit Center or Campus Parkway. Does “screening from public view” mean buses and passengers will have to make a time-consuming detour into a building? Transit should be central to our mobility plan and visible, not hidden away. Some people think streetcar tracks and trolley wires detract from a neighborhood, I have always found them refreshing, a sign that a city hasn’t completely drunk the 1950s kool-aid that cars will solve everything, plus it makes it easy to know where transit is and where it goes.

  2. Re: Sea-Tac Airport Plan

    Are there any plans for a second airport Link stop at the new north terminal? Or any plans to expand the airport shuttle train? I really hope so.

  3. Ah, lovely West Seattle article:

    “County Councilmember Joe McDermott declared that he also envisions light rail getting to The Junction underground. His voice is a significant one, given that he is on the Sound Transit board”

    An ST boardmember wants a tunnel in West Seattle? Was he on the board when it wrote ST3 and budgeted only for elevated? Did he object then?

    “Westerman brought up another funding question that led McDermott to remind everyone that the Legislature is moving toward cutting the car-tab taxes that are funding ST3. He says it’s too early to start coming up with contingency plans in case those cuts happen, though – if such plans are made now, the Legislature might decide it could cut even more, he warns.”

    So that’s why there are no contingency plans. I think ST mentioned this earlier.

    (I disagree that the current level of planning is inadequate: it worked for the 2008 shortfall. When we know for sure how much revenue we’ll lose and how it impacts each subarea, then we can decide which lines to truncate, which stations to defer, and/or whether to extend timelines. It’s kind of pointless to write a worst-case scenario now when we don’t know what the worst case will be.)

    I’m heartened that the article’s comments focus on the large number of 35th Avenue riders who would be impacted by the loss of the Avalon station. I’m not 100% against deleting the station, but I want a guarantee that people won’t be grinding their teeth as the bus waits for turns and crawls to another station.

    Pigeonridge Ben wrote: ” When Link initially opened they bypassed First Hill due to logistical/funding conflicts and “made up” for it by the implementation of a streetcar. Perhaps an Admiral to Avalon Triangle via Alaskan Junction street car would pencil out and increase service area?”

    Oh, there is that. It’s true that other neighborhoods have gotten mitigation for losing a station. Shouldn’t that apply to Avalon if it applies elsewhere? Otherwise you get into the situation like that Roosevelt got a tunnel and Rainier Valley got surface. I’m dubious of a streetcar solution, but guess what, streetcar lanes are the same width as bus lanes, so how about RapidRide+ for 35th?

    Rich Koehler seems to speak for the pro-tunnel movement; I can’t link to his comment directly but he explains their suggestion for 35th service. It’s something but it’s not as specific or with time comparisons as I’d like. He does make some not fully accurate statements:

    “ST3 assumes that bus service directly downtown will cease in favor of West Seattle bus circulators that shuttle people to and from stations. Per ST3, Junction and Delridge stations are budgeted as transit connectors; Avalon station is not.”

    What he calls “transit connectors” means RapidRide lines. The C is changed to an Alki-Burien line. The 120 is upgraded but still goes downtown. The 21 will become a Frequent route terminating at the station. The difference between RapidRide and Frequent is the street improvements, off-board payment, real-time signs, and branding — i.e., this corridor is highly important but not enough for all those investments. We should still have stations for Frequent routes, because they may be upgraded to RapidRide someday. The lack of RapidRide doesn’t mean Metro thinks the corridor is unimportant: it just means it didn’t make the top ten.

    1. I think the march to the junction is misguided, and it makes it difficult to turn south in the future. Terminate the line at avalon, run a streetcar from the junction.

    2. >> An ST boardmember wants a tunnel in West Seattle? Was he on the board when it wrote ST3 and budgeted only for elevated? Did he object then?

      Exactly. Either it is bait and switch or he has no idea what he is doing.

      1. I don’t think that’s fair. The final choice was “ST3 package including light rail to WS” or “No ST3 package.” It’s not like there was a motion during a ST Board meeting to require a West Seattle tunnel in the ST3 package and McDermott was like, “nah I”m good.” Presumably he pushed for as good as a package for WS as he could get during the ST3 scoping, and he’ll continue to push for the best possible deal for WS over the next decade.

        The ST3 debates didn’t magically end after the vote. All the interested parties will continue to jockey over the years as these projects move through planning & design. This all seems like a very normal and healthy part of the public process, particularly this early in design. Are there cost & benefits and regional tradeoffs – of course! That’s why we have a Board, not a Sound Transit king.

      2. The representative alignments in the ballot measure are budget ceilings. You can move or refine a line but you can’t make it much more expensive. The budget is scaled for an elevated line. If you make West Seattle more expensive, you have to make something else in North King less expensive, and North King is packed tightly full of things everybody says are essetial. The reason we pushed for a Queen Anne tunnel for ST3 was to have enough money for a Queen Anne tunnel or a Ballard tunnel, then we can refine it and possibly scale down but we can’t scale up. We won’t know until they decide what kind of tunnel and how much it would cost whether we can afford it, but it doesn’t look likely.

    1. Seattle’s mode share, 8.5%, has recently grown to tie Boston and Philadelphia, putting the region solidly in the “terrible public transit category,” up from “no public transit” (as in LA, Houston, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, etc.).

      1. It’s amazing that Minneapolis is in the top ten. I lived just outside downtown Minneapolis, right off the shiny new Green Line, and had to get a vehicle because living car free was simply not possible. Transfers were impossible because nothing was timed properly, service would end early on most of the network, buses were late or wouldn’t show up at all, and Metro Transit spends a whole lot of money on very poor station design. If they’re really worthy of being in the top ten, the quality of public transit in America is much worse than I had previously thought.

      2. Minneapolis has an excellent bike network, so assuming winter isn’t a barrier, you can work around the problems with the transit system that way. One of the trails is on an abandoned, below-grade rail line, with overpasses and entrance/exit ramps every other block. It almost has the feel of a freeway, except it’s for bike instead of cars, and therefore, much narrower, much quieter, and with a lot more green space.

      3. The quality of public transit in America is much worse than you may have thought. Only around 10% of the country has a civilized level of transit, everywhere else is worse than Seattle was in 2015 before it started increasing. 30-60 minute buses that end in the early evening. Where light/metro rail exists it’s usually full-time frequent (although Mountain View drops to half-hourly), but that leaves very few places in the city you can live with good transit, and there may not be any pedestrian neighborhoods or only one or two. However, Los Angeles is worth considering because even if the city as a whole has a low transit score, there’s a part of it the size of Seattle that has good transit I hear. One problem is that because there are so few cities and neighborhoods with good transit, they are the most expensive ones. The only place I’ve found that has both good transit and low housing prices is Cleveland I hear.

  4. I should point out that the issues discussed in the titular article on the DC streetcar are hardly streetcar-specific. Replacement parts being hard to get because a supplier is overseas/out of business can happen with any large vehicle. I’m far from a big fan of streetcars, but using this instance to specifically rip on streetcars makes it look as though someone has an ax to grind.

    1. Replacement parts being hard to get because a supplier is overseas/out of business can happen with any large vehicle.

      In principle, it can happen to any vehicle, but it is vastly more likely to happen to a class of vehicles that only ever had one domestic manufacturer, and never had a viable strategy for entering mass production. The federal “supply side” of the modern streetcar “movement” didn’t really give a shit about what America’s most pressing mobility needs are, or what effective passenger rail service needs to work; they saw it as a jobs- and legacy-building program.

      And yes, I do have an axe to grind (and I’ve written plenty about this). I think most of the modern streetcar movement has been a mistake; with only a few exceptions, I think we’d have been better if we spent our effort raising money for bus, bike and ped infrastructure.

      1. Actually, there are a number of domestic manufacturers. There only happened to be two with USA headquarters mailing addresses, and only one of those advertised itself as being the only USA manufacturer.

        Still around in the USA and with streetcars available listed on their web sites are:

        + Brookville
        + Siemens
        + Alstom
        + Bombardier
        + Kawasaki
        + CAF (Seattle’s next source, but not the best reputation)
        + Kinki-Sharyo

        There really needs to be a rationalization about streetcars. It isn’t a big enough industry to justify a dedicated manufacturer. Except for Brookville, all of the above manufacturers offer their “streetcar” as variations of their light rail car designs. The wheels don’t care if they are in dedicated right of way or in a street. So far, Atlanta seems to have been the only city smart enough to realize this and uses the Siemens S70 in the street, but everyone else calls a light rail car.

        Brookville is mostly a mining equipment company, but Inwould imagine they use components that are reasonably available for their cars.

      2. Salt Lake City also uses S70 for the S-Line, but that was mainly to share maintenance facilities with the TRAXX light rail.

      3. I had heard that referred to as light rail.

        That’s good. It means someone figured out that a common set of parts and tools between their light rail and streetcar lines makes sense.

        One transit enthusiast I know in Berlin has some very non-complimentary things to say about USA cities deciding to use completely incompatible car designs for what is essentially the same thing.

      4. There are right ways and wrong ways to do anything, Bruce. Give both streetcars and buses their own lanes and signals favoring them, and both will work. Neither is that complicated.

        As a passenger, things I’ve noticed over the years: Being part of a standing load on a streetcar is bearable. On a bus, miserable. Lateral “sway” makes a lot of difference.

        And even in the hands of a driver who knows or cares, a bus cannot “smooth out” . So on very heavy routes, comfort itself really calls for railcars. Also, since low floors create taller wheel-wells, buses give themselves less space and longer dwell times.

        For me, rolling streetcar museums like San Francisco MUNI, best purpose is to see what lessons we can get out of what worked in the past for dealing with same conditions.

        Skoda had a pretty good reputation. Curious why its cars aren’t still that way. But have also always thought that the simplicity and toughness of the PCC’s have a lot more to teach us.


      5. Acknowledging you have an ax to grind doesn’t magically make a bad point good. If it’s “vastly” more likely to happen, just show the “vastly” different data from the start.

    1. That’s very interesting. And he just lost his CFO Brian McCartan who took a new gig at the University of WA. The pressure on Rogoff will only mount in the next five years as Link projects are expected to come on line.

      1. A little mercy for poor Peter, Erica. How would you like to be sitting in his chair when Mark Dublin suddenly asks the Sheriff’s deputy who never says anything at Public Comment to please help him escape after yielding his time to Alex Tsimerman?

        Has to get his goat that public records clearly state that he is not a billionaire capitalist, as Alex insists. Also cruelly wrong to accuse him of being a Fascist (Faaaa Shist!) because Mussolini was a tall bald Italian.

        No, poor Peter can’t be anything but a middle of the road Trotskyite. Don’t bother to look that up. Everybody who’d remember Trotsky is also dead, even if they didn’t personally get murdered by Stalin.

        So ST’s poor CEO has to live praying that instead of her gold-plated Kalashnikov, Claudia Balducci will pull a battery-powered squirt gun out of her billion-ruble fox fur cape and tell Alex his time has expired by drowning him.

        Whole thing is enough to make me wish that poor Dave Earling and Paul Roberts really were billionaires. So get off Peter’s case, Erica. Little-known clause in the ST charter says that if they all resign, you become CEO just as Steve O’ban and Paul Hasegawa come up to the mike.

        What goes around…..


    2. I wonder who wants the job. Seattle Deputy Mayor Shefali Ragnathan is a polarizing name rising to the top.

      My support for Rogoff is real… shaky right now. Waiting on others to make a move.

      1. Sure some may want to #FireRogoff but folks… who will replace tacky and tenacious Peter Rogoff? There will 100% NOT be ST internal candidates until Rogoff is out the door – and most responsible media will not let me air trial balloons for understandable reasons.

        I think we need to think about who will replace Rogoff. Me, I want somebody who is a bad a** who wants to get stuff done. Who doesn’t need out of ST3 money a coach to coach him to be a CEO. Who doesn’t need not of ST3 money $300K a year to be a CEO needing three Boardmembers overseeing him.

  5. Comparing the costs: the new Graham Street station is going to cost $66 million or so – for a surface station.

    In 2010 TriMet added a MAX station in Gresham for $3 million, artwork included. Granted, it isn’t much to look at but the big difference is that they didn’t have to buy any property or move any traffic lanes in order to put it there.

    Contrasting the area around Graham Street makes it obvious that putting a station there is going to require moving traffic lanes, taking land for the new lanes, and other alterations to a developed landscape.

    In short, it is extremely important that these lines incorporate future plans, such as the 130th Street Station.

    1. I thought this station WAS planned for. If it wasn’t we can add that to the long list of penny wise, pound foolish decisions ST has made over the years.

    2. Neither 130th not Graham has an EIS yet. 130th is an option in the Lynnwood Link EIS, but that only means it for the most cursory review, and a detailed study was deferred. Graham was a deferred station in ST1, but at some point I think it was deleted, and I don’t remember whether that was before it after the Rainier Valley EIS was finished.

  6. Funny. Five years ago I thought Seattle and I would be in it together for another 36 years. Maybe if I’d only told that to John Goodman, the speculator who bought the apartment building with the Route 44 wire outside my front window he’ have left the rent where my neighbors and I could have finished our lives initogether.

    Maybe I just haven’t got the nuances in modern colloquial language. But I get the sense that no initogethrerite has ever put a nut on a bolt. Or knows anybody who has. I imagine Marie Antoinette and her social set felt even more whatever French is for initogether when their heads ended up in the same basket.

    Maybe numbers aren’t yet in on how division of wealth compares between 18th century Paris and 21st century Seattle. But wouldn’t bet anything I need, like a place to live, that Paris wasn’t better. But maybe all those car-and -tarp communities are actually populated by happy newcomers.

    Which explains why so many longer-term residents now sleep more initogetherally in doorways. Worst thing in about a million similar is that these people consider themselves “progressives”. Because “liberal” is sooooo 1959 it’s got huge tail-fins. Cards on the table kids.

    The way my political enemies consider people of wrong gender-preference, skin color, and national origin, that’s how the initogether think about anybody whose last daily use of their workplace plumbing is to wash the dirt and grease off their hands.

    Up ’til lately, consoled myself with transit activities that would let us all share the same region, connected by electricity, steel wheels, and speed. But now every time I get off LINK at International District Station after connection from ST Express 574 at the Airport, the less I care for any transit ride north of the Dome terminal for Tacoma LINK.

    And now, new fear from old experience. Six months from now, my current home in Olympia will go the way of my Ballard one when caravans of initogetherites get priced out of Seattle, but with enough money to buy my whole voting district.

    So at least do me a favor and keep sleeping a little longer in the doorway of one of those glass monstrosities that have either demolished or forever buried from sight everything I ever thought graceful about Seattle. Apartments have a long waiting list in Tierra del Fuego.

    Mark Dublin

  7. Regarding the Lander Street overpass project, the last I had read was that the project, even after being awarded a $45 million federal grant, was still facing a $40 some million funding gap on this (once estimated) $140M project. Anyone have any additional info as to how this decades- long project finally penciled out?

      1. Thanks. I guess you were partly right about that. Curiosity led me to checking out the details.

        This is where things stood back in 2016 after the federal grant was awarded:

        Est. Project Cost $140M
        Funding Sources –
        $45M Federal Fastlane Grant
        $20M Move Seattle Levy
        $10M PSRC
        $ 8M Freight Mobility Strategic. Investment Board
        $ 7M WSDOT-Connecting Washington
        $ 5M BNSF
        $ 5M Port of Seattle
        $100M Total
        $ 40M Unfunded

        And this apparently is where things are today:

        Updated Est. Project Cost $123M
        Funding Sources –
        $45M Federal Fastlane Grant
        $20M Move Seattle Levy
        $9.5M PSRC (-$.5M)
        $ 8M Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board
        $ 7M WSDOT-Connecting Washington
        $2.5M BNSF (-$2.5M)
        $15M Port of Seattle (+$10M)
        $ 3M Natl Highway Freight Program
        $13M City of Seattle Appropriation
        $123M Total (fully funded)

    1. Look at the positive side, Bob.

      Even if she IS Steve O’ban’s chief of staff, she can help us. After all, she does come from the land that uses trolleybuses for trucks.


      But in Gene Kelly’s great WWII musical “On The Town” the heroine (Vera Allen) wins the prize in a transit-system PR campaign, and becomes “Miss Turnstiles.”
      So be honest:


      Have we got “Miss Proof of Payment” here, or don’t we?


    2. >She posted videos with a light tone, and seemed fascinated by the way traffic lights worked in the U.S.: “It doesn’t change the light until you press the button.”

      Never thought I’d see Russian trolls supporting #GivePedsTheGreen

    3. Did she notice that buses and streetcars don’t come every five minutes so you need a schedule? In Moscow and St Petersburg public schedules don’t exist that I saw: if a route exists it runs every five minutes. Autobuses beyond the end of the metro. Are a bit less but still every 10-20 minutes. Marshrutnie taksi (vans), used in some outer areas, leave when they’re full, which is still every fifteen minutes (with a fixed route and fare, higher than regular transit, but not to the level of Uber or American taxis.

      And if you stick out you hand, somebody will stop and take you where you want to go for a few dollars. They cal themselves taxis, and people treat them that way. I didn’t take them because they were more expensive and I was afraid if being robbed and I wanted to take transit, but sometimes my friends out me in a taxi and prepaid the fare because they didn’t usually take transit and wouldn’t listen to my protest that I wanted to. I asked one driver if he was driving around all night, and he said it’s something to do on a Saturday night, make a little extra money driving people to clubs and such.

  8. Any idea what effect Trump’s tarriffs are going to have on the final price tag of ST3? Given all the metal that goes into trains and train tracks, whatever it is, cannot be good.

    1. Maybe not too bad. For FTA funded projects all that stuff has to come from USA sources anyway. You have to have a paper trail showing origin.

      I don’t think 30% will increase the prices enough to cause a shortage of USA made steel.

      1. Oh, yeah:

        It may impact the Central City Connector. I don’t think anyone is making T rail profiles (built in flangeways they prefer for streetcar lines) in the USA right now.

  9. Could be win-win, Glenn. Means we won’t have any competition when we set up a factory here in Seattle.

    Though if the Occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania runs true-to-form, more likely our rails will end up on flatbed trucks headed up to Volunteer Park for the new coal mine.

    Unless Vladimir Putin’s little niece will be so happy we made her Miss Proof of Payment that we’ll get the contract for extending the Trans-Siberian to Lake Superior, via the new floating bridge across the Bering Strait.

    It’s an an ill wind, Glenn…..


  10. “German court rules cities can ban vehicles to tackle air pollution ($).”

    Person who does the news board should actually read the articles that they provide links to. The article is about banning DIESEL-POWERED VEHICLES, not all vehicles. When diesel vehicles are banned, people can still use gasoline powered vehicles.

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