47 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: All The Stations”

  1. Well it’s a beautiful Sunday to drop a big comment on the open thread, so here goes…..

    But I assume most of you know the Seattle Streetcar is rising above projected costs, even operating costs. Quite frankly, I take the view that transit dollars are very finite. Working out from there, I find the bags of money in streetcars to be counterproductive. Why not just have clean electric buses serve those routes frequently and spend the savings getting more bus service around and for Seattle’s…. urban villages?

    I mean if the comments on this blog are believable, there’s some serious problems these urban villages are facing and they got a long wait for their subarea to pay for two light rail lines. I’m also a big fan of urban transit having electrified buses and walkable streets.

    1. Joe, have you ever ridden a streetcar in any city? Because it’s purpose is different from a bus. Of course it’s transportation. But its chief value is as a moving sidewalk through places with a lot of activity going on. For people to see and get off when they feel like it, to shop, have coffee, see a museum or a park.

      When the Connector opens on First Avenue, a passenger will be able to move, at their own pace, through South Lake Union, First Avenue including Pike Place Market and the Art Museum, the walkway to Colman Dock, and all of Pioneer Square, Jackson through the International District, and then Broadway.

      Passing LINK stations at Westlake, University Street, Pioneer Square, IDS and Capitol Hill. Meaning if you want speed, you’ve got that too. But what the streetcar is for is the leisurely morning or afternoon in between. Remember, every place it passes through is just beginning to grow.

      A balance sheet’s got two columns. Naturally, criticism’s in order if something’s not being done right. But from what I’ve seen and ridden of streetcars and these growth years in Seattle, they’re a good investment.


      1. Mark;

        I have rode MANY TIMES both Seattle Streetcar lines.

        I am simply thinking of how we can have more transit, more places, more often with the same money. Especially since some of the appeal of modern streetcars is to electrify transit.


      2. And it would be the epitome of foolishness not to connect the two streetcar lines we already have. Build the CCC, get a few years of operational data under our belt, and then decide whether to expand the system, improve the system, or just stay with what we got.

        Finish what we have already started.

      3. I agree wholeheartedly with Lazarus. The CCC makes too much sense from a usability and operational perspective to not complete it, but after that the system will need to prove it’s value before even considering further expansion.

      4. If you want a leisurely stroll through downtown, a streetcar is not the answer. The answer is sidewalks and feet. Which we already have.

      5. Joe, have you ever ridden a streetcar in any city? Because it’s purpose is different from a bus. Of course it’s transportation. But its chief value is as a moving sidewalk through places with a lot of activity going on. For people to see and get off when they feel like it, to shop, have coffee, see a museum or a park.

        Sorry Mark, that’s ridiculous. There is nothing a bus can’t do that this* streetcar can. In fact, it could do more. It could connect to every inch of this new route, and then some. Instead of looping around, endlessly, trying to figure out where exactly it is going (east to Rainier Valley … wait, no … up the hill after all) it could actually connect various communities. Instead of ending at the north end of lake Union — as if Eastlake and Westlake didn’t exist — it could actually serve them. It could connect to distant, far off lands — like the UW, Fremont or Belltown.

        * Just to be clear — this isn’t true of all streetcars. Streetcars in Toronto, for example, are very large, and thus can carry more people than their buses. That isn’t the case with our streetcars (they are roughly the same size as our buses). Speaking of Toronto, I’ve ridden the streetcars, along with the buses and the subways, and believe me, the streetcars are nothing special. They are much slower than the subways, and simply less useful than the buses (because they have such a limited range). Folks there have considered removing them (many times) but since they’ve already made the investment, it is tough to change gears. They would have to buy a lot of new buses (something we, fortunately, wouldn’t have to do).

        Which gets me to the argument Laz made, which is often repeated. In economic circles, this is known as a “sunk cost” argument. Another common phrase for the argument is “to put good money after bad”. In other words, just because we’ve wasted a bunch of money on the existing streetcar, doesn’t mean we should waste more money on it (even if it is a smaller waste). To put in practical terms, there is no evidence to suggest that building this streetcar line is better then simply replacing everything with buses. Sell off the streetcar facilities (that are actually worth a bunch of money) and run buses there. Or better yet — run them someplace better.

        I have yet to hear anyone defend this route. If this was a bus route, it would have been killed years ago. Why have you wasted an eternity serving one stop on 14th and Yesler? Why haven’t you just sent the bus up Yesler, then making a simple turn on Broadway? Maybe you should have separate buses going north-south and east-west, versus a single route that heads south, east, north, west, and then north again within less than a mile?

    2. The streetcar needs to be made into a light light rail with more dedicated lanes and signal priority. It could really be just a smaller scale Link.

      There is nothing wrong with streetcars, just how they are implemented here.

      1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tram-train


        First link, tramway in Karlsruhe, Germany. Had long-distance cross country railway where city streetcars, with appropriate motors, could switch into them. Don’t think Seattle has same opportunities anywhere

        Though for transit development if ST area’s population keeps compounding, might be possible to design some towns that’ll accept trains on the Karlsruhe model. Millionth time…”They Do It For Cars!” But for every street-rail discussion, not a foot of GP running.

        Second link, I keep including to make a couple of points. One, while I doubt there’d ever be a reason to run a train that big through any city streets at all- which the Chicago and North Shore doubtless knew- it does show a mode with a lot of flex. Also morale thing: Street rail went down fighting.

        Ross, have to admit I last saw Toronto about 25 years ago, and from what I remember about the PCC’s- a streetcar stuck in traffic is a roomier motionless bus. Have the Canadians done any transit-only lanes downtown yet?

        Though by the same token, idea that in heavy traffic buses can get past things streetcars can’t- resulting accidents make everything even slower.

        Car size? What’s Toronto CBD’s daytime population? Elsewhere, have been aboard trains same caliber as Skoda, with more links.

        When I first pioneered out here in ’74, didn’t “cotton” (did old prospectors ever use that term for agree with?) to such a romantically industrial place becoming a tourist town. Now, major worry is we don’t have all our eggs in a basket with six plastic rotors from a booth at Olympia Mall.

        Still insist, though, that we give visitors some interesting industry to look at, and place orders with, and invest in. We could make it roar and belch smoke if current Administration makes that a condition of Federal transit money.

        This afternoon, a lady shop-keeper told me it irked her that so many people from Japan bought huge orders of goods which they shipped home and sold. Overseas, have also noticed how many young people worldwide want to at least see the United States.

        Not sure how many hostile or competing countries have same problem with people sneaking in money to legally buy large amounts of their goods. And Asdf2, not fair but what is is (they don’t even say that on Ted Talks anymore,do they?) Prejudice still exists. If people wanted to pull luggage up steep hills, they wouldn’t have sold their yak for a truck back in Tibet.

        But you’ve identified a historic context. Give Smith Tower a bronze plaque advertising last multistory office access where elevators still have fair competition. Also, will fight alongside you- strikes in the streetcar era often used paving blocks for negotiation-if anybody tries to groove-rail your staircase.

        Also- a certain public transportation agency seems to be doing its best to give stair climbing back its former place in the sun, I mean hallway. Which if publicized, could show the world’s traveling classes that somebody still respects traditions precisely for being a hard waste of time.


      2. Toronto streetcars are like a bus with tracks. There’s nothing special about them except an olde look.They aren’t larger than a bus, or at least they weren’t in 2001. That’s what’s so frustrating: they come, they’re the size of a bus, and then they stop behind cars — when they could have been so much more. It’s like throwing away their potential. In their defense, they’re legacy streetcars, and there weren’t so many automobiles when they were designed, and my experience may be on the worst line (Queen Street). The King Street and Spadina streetcars may have more exclusive lanes; i don’t remember. One thing I liked about Toronto was the extensive 24-hour service on both streetcars and buses.

      3. the smallest Toronto Streetcars in service in 2001 (CLRV) have a capacity somewhat larger than an articulated bus (130 passengers). The larger ALRV have a capcity of over 200.

        Since then, the fleet has been slowly moving over to Bombardier Flexity Outlook streetcars, which have a capacity of 250

        Toronto streetcars aren’t very fast, but one of the main reasons they’ve been retained is that Toronto has long had unusually high transit ridership (they were able to self-finance their first subway lines out of War-profits, after all). There are 80,000 riders on King Street these days.

      4. And, while there have been delivery issues with the Flexitys, they are 100% low floor. 100% low floor buses are not available in North America, and aren’t that common worldwide yet.

    3. In acute response to all of the above, I retain my original position. Let me add the appeal of streetcars is to accelerate gentrification. So not just are modern streetcars taking transit dollars and spending them on higher income folk & tourists, but also pushing out locals who can’t afford the higher property taxes. Thanks.

  2. Can we deliberately build travel, and destinations like this into ST’s -3 and here-on? Hate word “Disruption” connected with anything useful. Visions of a guy in a hoodie with a corporate logo popping prozac all the way through his Ted Talk. Desperate to unload all his Facebook shares.

    But last five years’ events in development and the shreds of land-use planning could get transit into the same order of property development that the car industry has taken for granted since first chain drive clicked onto a 1903 Winton. Worked for them.

    Nothing new for transit, either. Shaker Heights wasn’t already there for the streetcars. Developers themselves built them in. And cemeteries didn’t have to be forced. Even if they couldn’t look out those chiseled glass windows on one particular ride, cemetery ridership didn’t have to forced out of their cars.

    Some other possibilities that weren’t here twenty years ago. The country is going to need a whole new economy that will replace fewer large industries with many more small ones. Everything from precision machinery to industrial design to baking, brewing, and coffee roasting. Also, we can also reverse a major disaster of rail-oriented development and reserve some open space for buffalo. Ok, but who ever heard of Bison Bill?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Not sure what to you were saying about cemetery ridership, but I just got this image of transit advocates eschewing single stiff hearses. I can just see a whole funeral precession getting on the bus, loading the casket through the rear door. Even better if it’s a proper Irish wake, giving drinks to confused passengers and trying to get them to sing along

  3. This video reminds me of a book I have Entitled “The Underground Guide to the New York Subways” by Dave Frattini. The Author visits every station & notes something about the neighborhoods around them including local eateries. I should note however the book is a bit dated as subway routes have changed since publication, but it is still fascinating to go to all 468 stations & see what’s around.

  4. See, Ben, this is why History has to replace calculus as a graduation requirement on the WASL test. Mainly, to illustrate what happened last time. Worth a look at the Archives for invoices.


    We might want to take a step back on plans for Aurora. A major permanent industry might be good for both ridership and funding. However might not accept Bus Rapid Transit as a substitute.

    But many cities in Europe have pub cars that can be chartered. Though real coup could be, either by coupling a pub car to the cemetery car. Or using a LINK car with the coffin in one section, and a pub int the other.

    Ought to contact the Irish Consulate to be sure we’re traditionally correct. Because mistake could cause some serious consequences. Though considering usual Aurora Avenue on Saturday night, this is probably a pretty short transit police report.


    But would advise Fare Enfocement to avoid using the term “Tap”! Or even worse “Tap Out!”


  5. There was an interesting piece today in the Seattle Times about the plans for two underground stations in the SLU area. This part had me a bit perplexed though:

    >>>Initially, a Sound Transit fact sheet said the additional Aurora stop would serve 3,000 to 4,000 daily boardings.

    Those numbers, said Hallenbeck, ignored a cultural shift toward transit now that roads and highways are maxing out. Rail is the way to keep pace with job growth, he said.

    “Unless Amazon goes bust, they’re going to underestimate ridership,” Hallenbeck said.

    In response to Seattle Times questions, Sound Transit reran its model — upping its forecast to 7,300 to 9,400 daily boardings at Aurora, and 13,000 to 17,000 for Denny, spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said. The agency wouldn’t provide supporting documents.<<<



    1. We definitely need two stations but I think it would make more sense to put the Denny station south of Denny Way.

    2. Wouldn’t they be subject to a public records request? That’s how they caught SDOT lowballing costs.

      That said, two stations in that area seem fairly reasonable to me considering the density that is going in there and possible connections.

      1. “Wouldn’t they be subject to a public records request?”

        Yes. Absolutely so.

        I hope the Seattle Times follows up on the matter and gets the aforementioned data/documents that support the transit agency’s revised ridership figures.

  6. ST has been very unwilling to widely publish ridership reports for general public review. This alone makes me question whether any of the stations are in the right places because we haven’t seen alternate ridership numbers. They also never disclose transfer numbers for bus-rail and rail-rail, as if the public are children who can’t interpret these data.

    That said, i like the idea of moving the Denny station to Denny/Fairview/Boren as was suggested by some in the WSB comments. That would create some amazing possibilities for connections.

    1. I think the idea those stations are too close together is kind of non-sense. It’s consistent with the distance between the other stations downtown.

      Additionally, both stations are at excellent transfer points. 99 connects with the E and other 99 buses, and the denny station connects with the C, the streetcar, and the 8. If anything they extremely well cited.

      It felt like Seattle Times was drumming up a needless controversy.

    2. We can tell whether the stations are in the right places by just looking at how close they are to transfer buses, high-volume destinations, and the highest concentrations of mixed-use buildings..

    3. The 8 will not be on Denny then except for a short bit to cross the freeway. It will be on 15th Ave W – Mercer – 5th – Harrison – Fairview – Denny – Olive/John/Thomas – Madison. So Aurora & Harrison will be its station.

      At the open house there were several requests to move the Denny station a few blocks south to serve Belltown better and even out the spacing. How about it?

      1. That would also be a reasonable thing to study, Mike.

        There are so many complex tunneling issues between SLU and Westlake (geology, current and planned building footings, underground electricity and water and sewer and communications trunks, cut-and-cover versus bored, station vaults, construction staging areas) that to fixate on specific station locations could easily become a costly mistake this early in the process. It’s pretty easy to hone in on one or two alternatives where rights-of-way are available and minimal disruption is required (like Tacoma Dome Link, Everett Link and Redmond Link); in this area, it seems terribly foolish to decide these things in the next year without adequate study. It may easily become necessary or beneficial to move a station a block or two or three (either sideways or along the initial alignment) as designs move forward. We just don’t know.

  7. LimeBike could be officially expanding to Bellevue and Redmond sometime around May this year (details). The Bellevue fleet is planned to be all electric. If only Bellevue had more safe bike facilities, this could be a solution for those that are tired of dealing with the abysmal weekend frequency of eastside buses, yet don’t want the expense of Uber or car ownership.

    Unfortunately, the street network, in many corridors, says otherwise. What would it take to get bike lanes installed on a street like 8th St., 148th Ave., or 156th Ave.? Or, least carve out a parallel neighborhood greenway that can be viably used as a bicycle thru-route? The only options I see either involve taking private property to widen the street, or taking away a car lane on the existing street. Neither option seems likely to happen in the foreseeable future.

    1. As someone who lives in Bellevue and finally, reluctantly got a car last fall, I sympathize with this dilemma. Maybe we could widen the 148th sidewalk to turn it into a bike path? Or maybe we could connect back streets through apartment complexes and neighborhoods to extend 152nd south as a greenway with bike connections past the east side of Highland Middle School? It already exists between Main and SE 11th where it connects to a trail paralleling 156th, so you’d really only need to build the connections between 20th and Main.

    2. There will be a major east-west bike corridor across western Bellevue, although not by this year. Kirkland has bike lanes on several of its arterials, doesn’t Bellevue?

      1. I like the idea of extending back streets through apartment complexes, but look at the map, I don’t think it’s enough – if we want a greenway corridor that runs for more than a few blocks, I don’t think it’s possible without taking space from a few people’s back yards. Which means, a political non-starter.

        If we could just take one traffic lane in one direction out of Bel-Red road, and turn it into a protected bi-directional bikeway, it would solve a whole host of problems.

  8. Is anyone else following the Charlotte northern/UNCC light rail extension details?




    Some interesting things:

    1. All UNCC students are assessed $25 a semester for a rail pass. Faculty and staff can opt in for $75 a year. The university made its own web page promoting the new rail station!
    2. The end station is on campus at surface level, right next to dormitories.
    3. The interim stations include four parking garages or lots, with air conditioned walkways across the boulevard that drop down to platforms.
    4. IKEA is within walking distance of one station.
    5. The line is being marketed heavily as changing the perception of connectivity. That includes promoting that students can work in their central business district, and secondarily that there will be restaurants and night life nearby.
    6. About half of the path is in a median (like MLK) — but the proportions look much wider. The environment doesn’t look very walkable for much of this section. They did add some grade separations for busy roads that cross the alignment, and they added crossing gates for roads that cross the tracks.
    7. About half of the path parallels a rail right-of-way. While there are some places with pedestrian connections and some TOD, the segment looks fairly low-density industrial.
    8. A number of stations have new housing next to them.

    New light rail systems are pretty rare in the South. The only other ones I can think of are in Norfolk, Houston and Dallas (Atlanta and Miami are heavy rail — as is DC, which could be considered on the border of the South).

    I haven’t seen any reports on ridership since it opened. It still will be an interesting case study about the role of light rail for university students, the impact of developing very low density areas for TODs, and how it will fall on the amazing-versus-boondoggle scale after a year or two.

    1. Just like organic food and vegetarianism, non-car mobility will inevitably come to the South. Even conservatives after a while care about safe milk and nutritious lettuce and, like Mark Dublin. why they have to have a car and drive on stalled highways. It just happens a few people at a time, and first at universities and the largest cities, and it may take decades to reach a critical mass for policy change. But when people see something useful, like light rail for thousands of students, that happens to serve students who work downtown, they can get behind it. Because it’s no longer “a socialist train that’s empty because everybody drives”, but a productive asset in the community.

      1. The divide between liberals and conservatives is largely a divide between urban and rural. Generally, the southern cities that have light rail (or at least the portions of such cities that have light rail) are liberal, even if their state, overall, leans conservative.

        Conservatives, by and large, tend to live in places where the population density is too low to support mass transit beyond basic bus service (and, in many cases, not even that), and also low enough that even if every trip is a car trip, the roads still don’t clog up.

        The only time these people have to deal with big-city traffic problems is when they visit a big city. Which doesn’t happen very often.

        To a large extent, conservative opposition to mass transit of all forms is a cultural thing. I’ve met people who have very conservative politics, yet when they visit a major European city, such as London or Paris, they ride the subway around town, just like everybody else. There’s something about simply being in another continent, and being in a city that is world-wide famous for its transit system, that overcomes the U.S. “must drive everywhere” bias.

      2. When in Rome, do as the Romans. They probably do the same in New York. (That is, if they get over the idea that the subways are unsafe.) There’s a severe case of this among financiers who live in Manhattan and government officials that live in DC. Namely, they walk to work or take the subway, and see that the city absolutely needs mass transit or it can’t function well, and they love strolling the streets and walking to the shops, but they somehow fail to see that this could apply to cities in the rest of the country too. Part of the DC subway’s appeal is like the Washington Mall and museums: we have all these things just like a European capital so we’re not inferior. But they can’t seem to apply this to other American cities, and release funding for comprehensive high-capacity transit networks and make regulations more transit-friendly like Germany does. It’s like “Only in New York and DC”.

    2. I was there on Opening Day.

      1/5. The university was indeed extremely excited – the first few trains out of UNCC were packed.
      4. I did see a couple of students getting off at UNCC with IKEA boxes under their arms…
      6. N Tryon St/US 29 (where the rail runs in the median) was previously a 5-lane “Old Highway” with an extremely wide right-of-way and extremely poor pedestrian conditions. The light rail project included installing sidewalks, crossing treatments, and bike lanes on the road, which is one of the aspects that planners are most proud of.

  9. First time here. It’s great to find informed people discussing these important issues.

    Since this is an open thread, I hope it’s okay to post this general question:

    We’re trying to understand why there are no park-and-ride lots around the MLK light rail stations. We live outside the “walkshed” (a great word I learned here today!).

    We understand that Seattle is trying to reduce car use. But, we’re not going to walk 2 miles (especially in the winter) to catch light rail downtown. So, light rail is currently almost useless to us.

    We’ve heard rumors of planned East/West jitneys to expand the region that light rail serves. Is there anything formal on that?

    We’re trying to understand what the thinking was around no car lots.

    1. Welcome to the board. I’m a regular poster — and can be an independent thinker. I like to comment because I think the perspective of a rider is important!

      Anyway, to answer your MLK comment, I would begin by saying that Seattle has had a wonderfully frequent bus transit system for decades. As much as rail is being supported these days, many people are used to walking a short distance to their nearest bus stop and riding to Downtown and are resistant to change.

      When planning for the light rail started to get funded, there was already a strong sense that park-and-rides just got people to drive and that SE Seattle should be instead a place for urban revitalization. In fact, several areas had (and still have) local bus service to Downtown Seattle and they don’t want to give it up (and the fact that we have two transit operators leads to an unfortunate lack of coordination — now a bit better bus still not where it should be)! Finally, the low-budget for the first segment on MLK meant that costs were cut in lots of places so we have surface rail with median stations and no grade separations for the rail.

      My general advice is to find a way to use the local buses with a real-time arrival app if you have a smart phone. My rebellious, unofficial advice (especially for evenings and weekends) is to park your car on a nearby street and walk to the station. You may have to walk a few blocks — but frankly if there was a big garage or lot, you’d probably be having to walk half of that distance anyway. I’m not going to reveal my parking location secrets!

    2. The big problem is that park and ride lots really don’t add that many riders. The huge park and ride lots at Tacoma Dome each hold about 1,000 cars. They are used almost exclusively by commuters, and therefore generate almost no ridership outside peak periods.

      Once at capacity, there would be no ability to add more passengers that way either.

      The mixed use developments along MLK are creating some significant ridership growth for Link.

      Here in Portland, where the emphasis has been on park and ride lots, a good year sees 2% ridership growth on MAX. Link has always done better than this.

      If you are 2 miles from Link, there has to be something closer.

    3. Even in areas where large park-and-ride lots had historically been popular, the cultural shift to using cell phones has really increased the drop-off and pick-up activity at stations around the country. BART was showing that these were generating as many trips as park-and-ride at stations with a few thousand spaces when they did a survey a few years ago!

      I can’t seem to find any station access surveys for ST.

    4. The official Seattle goal is something like 80% of the city is a 10 minute walk to frequent transit (or something close to that) in the near future. So if you are 2 miles from a Link stop, you aren’t actually intended to walk to that station, i.e. you are not in the walkshed. There should be (or will be in the future) a frequent bus route that has a stop much closer to you. Link is intended to serve a big chunk of the city, particularly dense nodes, but by no means is it intended to serve all destinations, even within SE Seattle.

      For example, if you “too far” east of a Link station, you are likely closer to route 7, and if you are “too far” west of Link, you are probably on the top of Beacon Hill/Ridge and can catch the 36. Obviously, that still doesn’t cover everyone, but do you follow the logic? This is why the city is investing in upgrading both the 7 and the 36 to “RapidRide” quality, even though that general area of the city already “has” light rail.

      As for east-west jitneys, yes there are some creative ways to expand the walkshed, including subsidizing ridesharing (Uber, etc.) to ferry people to/from Link stations. These aren’t currently in practice in Seattle but are being looked into.

    5. Seattle passed a law prohibiting new P&Rs in the city. However, there are several private parking lots near the Rainier Valley stations that take Link commuters. They’re sitting on the land until they’re ready to redevelop it. The east Othello corridor has gone up and down in service. The biggest complaints seem to come from those south of Rainier Beach station who don’t have many options but they do have the 107.

      If you say where you’re coming from we might have some ideas for now, or what Metro wants to do in the area in the future.

      1. Thanks all for the interesting responses. Clearly I’ve found a great collection of well informed transit nerds (and I say that with the highest respect!) :-)

        We are at Genesse and 47 Ave S. Bus service is available on Rainier to get downtown. We had hoped light rail would a replacement for our using the bus, but I guess not. :-(

        Any insights into plans for our area would be welcome.


      2. Tom –


        1. Rainier RapidRide will improve service on Rainier. Be sure to learn more about the proposal and give feedback: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2018/03/20/metro-wants-feedback-rainier-rapidride/

        2. Route 50 was created explicity for you, to connect your neighborhood to Link. It doesn’t come as often as it could, but if Metro hears more feedback from folks like you on the route, they will be more inclined to increase service and make it better. So be sure to try it and send them your feedback. https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2012/03/08/route-50-is-a-chance-to-show-train-bus-connections-can-work/

      3. Some recent history: Route 39 and 34 went all the way from near your home to Doentown Seattle for decades. They were replaced by a Route 50 crosstown route a few years ago.

        Route 50 was originally promised to run more frequently, like every 15 minutes (probably to keep opppdition quiet). It eroded to every 20 Minutes by the time it started running, and it is every 30 minutes at most times of the day.

        In other words, the neighborhood got bamboozled.

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