24 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Slow Walkers in NYC”

  1. I wonder if Jenny Durkan will cancel Northgate Link and do some alternatives analysis. Surely buses will work right?

    I assume that alternatives analysis for the center city connector happened long before construction. What would be the purpose of a second analysis?

    1. The need for U-Link and Northgate Link was clear every day on I-5 and Eastlake Avenue, and the people who felt like a half-hourly 41 was more appropriate for Juanita than for an inner-city neighborhood and urban center. The CCC, where are the tons of people wanting to go from Westlake to 1st Avenue, or Intl Dist to 1st Avenue? A trickle, yes, but not thousands upon thousands. And those that do have parallel trains and buses two blocks away on 3rd.

      It’s not an “Alternatives Analysis” in the EIS sense. An Alternatives Analysis is to explore what modes and corridors could achieve the goal most effectively. A review is to explore whether the goal was right in the first place, whether it addresses our biggest transit needs, and whether the cost/benefit ratio of the solution is proportionate to our overall needs and other projects and the total budget.

      1. If you’ve ever taken the 3rd Ave. busses when an event is going on (e.g., the Taylor Swift concert a few weeks ago), it’s obvious that a dedicated right of way is needed. Making 3rd Ave. transit only, and enforcing it, is the first step. However, downtown Seattle isn’t just 3rd Ave. and Pike/Pine anymore. Key to mobility is the network effect. Right now, no bus serves Pike Place, the ferries, and the historic heart of Pioneer Square. Link doesn’t stop close enough to the ferries. SLU is now part of downtown, and there’s really no direct service from the ferries to SLU (nor has there ever really been?) or to First Hill. The streetcar “loop” just makes sense for more and more in Town trips, which do not involve riding all the way from Capitol Hill Station to Fairview Ave.

        So what other alternatives are there that can get DONE in the next few years? Metro busses-that’s it! Does Metro have busses or plans to have busses that could run in the center lanes of 1st Ave every 5 minutes within the next few years? No. Any bus option will be back to running in the right lane. And while we’re at it, with the loss of the Federal grant, cost overruns, costs of delaying things and doing the “alternatives” study, is there any political will to do anything except run those busses in general traffic? (and inevitably the “we saved your parking spots” mantra.)

        There is a time to study alternatives. Then there is a time to FINISH the chosen alternative. Like when the construction has already begun and you have an impending *period of maximum constraint* that’s not going away.

    2. Alex, why assume that the Connector is dead? There’s neither any subway or elevated involved. But Pioneer Square is a very old part of the city. Probably with more underground things than the Underground.

      There’s something under the Pergola at First and Yesler. Restroom, I think. Also know that there are primitive pipes made out of wood, which don’t show up on usual scanners. If memory serves, First Avenue used to be the beach. Isn’t this kind of thing that The Seattle Times could be counted on to leave out when blowing up about the bike lanes?

      On the other side….why doesn’t the Mayor just tell everybody? Does anybody reading this know Jenny Durkan well enough to ask her? Nothing about her gets to Olympia. Is it the same for Seattle?


    3. >> I assume that alternatives analysis for the center city connector happened long before construction.

      Ha ha ha, that’s funny. You must not be from around here. No, sorry, we really aren’t big on alternative analyses. Not for Link, and definitely not for the streetcar. People just wing it around here. They look at a street, or a part of town and say “Hey, wouldn’t if be cool if we did something there?”. In the case of getting people from downtown to the UW, it was obvious to everyone that a subway was the best way to serve it — so in that sense, they managed to make the right choice. In the case of First Avenue, they arbitrarily choose a mode which limited them to particular route and was inferior in every way to a bus. Now the mayor is questioning the logic behind that choice, as well she should.

      1. Ross, if I had either a shop or a cafe between Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market, I’d think that a streetcar line connecting another at each end, would work very well for my neighbors’ businesses and mine.

        A very smooth ride with very little side-to-side motion,, room to sit, or stand without getting squashed, large windows for sight-seeing and window shopping with a large door to get off for real shopping.

        The route offers many opportunities to change to either buses or LINK when it’s time to go some specific place fast.

        But to me, best thing about the connector is that the First Avenue business community might see it in their interest to get some transit priority up on Broadway, to get their favorite passenger element down to them.

        No, streetcars aren’t an absolute necessity everywhere. But on this particular route, they’re the best tools for the job,


      2. Let’s be clear that the main problem with the streetcar is money. Some group or person was responsible for designing the system and having the design not foresee major added capital and operating costs. Some group or person was responsible for those cost estimates being way off. Some group or person was responsible for assuming a terrible contingency. Durkan was not Mayor when those things happened.

        Rather than complain that Durkan stopped the project, we should be examining what happened in project development that ended up with SDOT underfunding the project in the first place. Did a project manager pressure cost engineers to low-ball the project? Did some department head set a budget and pressure others to match a lower cost? Did some consultant actually prepare draft higher cost numbers but was then threatened by a staff person to report lower costs or lose the contract? We deserve to know.

        It’s particularly important to also realize that the project ridership numbers that keep getting mentioned pre-date ST3, so that the entire corridor will now be paralleled by a second higher-speed light-rail corridor running through Downtown — and this new one will also go into South Lake Union, taking even more riders off of that streetcar segment. New, post-ST3 numbers need to be published.

        To be clear, it’s not our current mayor’s fault that the project was stopped pending more analysis. The blame should focus on what was done wrong before 2017.

      3. Al S, thanks for reminding me of the circumstances I’d forgotten. It wasn’t just that streetcars are a dubious use of money but that this project in particular had apparently over-optimstic costs, ridership, and contingency assumptions, ignored ridership warnings from Metro, and covered up Metro’s warnings so that the council and Mayor Murray wouldn’t hear about them. Those kind of over-optimistic cost and risk assumptions are what melted down ST1 in 2000 and required reforming the ST board and recalculating ST1’s expectations.

      4. Let’s also not forget about the timing issue.

        The CCC would probably open in 2022 or 2023.

        The vault for the Westlake and Denny Station will probably require that the SLU Streetcar will have to be closed at Denny starting about 2026 or 2027 for several years. Unlike buses, streetcars can be easily rerouted for several blocks.

        So after being open for only less than five years, the connected streetcar will be disconnected.

  2. It’s not just New Yorkers; they make me goddamn crazy here, too. Even worse when it’s 2-4 people abreast on the sidewalk.

    1. Or you’re walking towards the 3-4 of them, they see you, and it seems they expect you to walk in the street.

      My experience playing hockey comes in real handy at times.

      1. Body language can be understood without involving words. Including somebody going out of his way to be in the way for no reason except to make a point.

        Also a movie, as presence of cameraman doubtless tipped people off. Seems to me what’s missing is plain manners.

        Though I think more than one faster moving person said “Excuse me.” Which always works for me, everyplace, whatever my walking speed.


      2. Maybe they never were taught about momentum in physics class and they need a free, impromptu lesson?

    2. You beat me to it Chris, the locals do have a problem with that sort of thing.

      The last instance with man walking behind backpack man down the subway stairs was a bit of an exaggeration; he could have squeezed around his left or walked on the other side of the railing.

      As a bit of a tangent, nothing bothers me more than people who continue to stand in the back doorway of a metro bus when you are trying to get off rather than getting off the bus momentarily or getting inside. IMO, D-bag behavior of the highest order.

    3. My issue is less with slow walkers than with slow walkers who TAKE UP THE ENTIRE WIDTH. Please, just let other people pass.

      Also the seventh circle of hell is filled with people standing side-by-side on an escalator.

      1. This. If you notice you walk slower than others, your through line on the sidewalk is a line on the right, not in the middle.

  3. I was thinking about England’s regional trains. How I, with a national railpass, could go from Bristol to Cardiff for dinner on a whim. And my Welsh companions who tolerated my naive questions, like we crossed a river and I said, “What’s that?” and they said “The Severn”, and I said, “What’s the Severn?”, and they said “The boundary between England and Wales.” But my not-that-great toasted cheese sandwich finally impressed on my mind permanently that “Welsh rarebit” is not :Welsh rabbit”.

    But still, high-speed and regional trains go all over the country. Gatwick Airport to Bristol no problem, transfer at Reading. Edinburgh to Bristol, sure, transfer at Crewe. Even little Inverness to London to Bristol, please, just once a day, 7am to 9pm, we don’t do night trains, but Inverness to Edinburgh every 1-2 hours, looking quite like a Caltrain schedule, for a 4-hour trip.

    It helps a lot that Britain has a higher population density than the US. The average US density is much lower. But that’s all because of the desert in the Rockies. What if we measured the state-by-state density, would we find more comparable regions? I’m not a numbers person so I’m not going to dig up the numbers, just think about it qualitatively. But it seems that the three west-coast states form one region, and everything from Chicago east forms another. Although we may want to separate the northeast from the rest because it has the highest density and the south and midwest would drag it down.

    But that’s average, where you just divide the area by the population and get an average space per person. As compared to population-weighted density, where you count each person’s distance from their neighbors. Average density is what the media usually quotes, but that leads to some contradictory misleading conclusions, such as “Los Angeles is denser than New York, and San Jose is denser than Seattle.” Huh? Then why are Capitol Hill and the U-District such great pedestrian and high-ridership neighborhoods, and Manhattan and Brooklyn even more so, when you can’t find anything like that in San Jose or LA? The fact is that average density causes inverted density to score higher. Seattle and New York have high-density neighborhoods but the density drops off precipitously in the suburbs, and even half of Seattle’s neighborhoods are low density. That pulls the average way down. While San Jose and Los Angeles are like Bellevue everywhere, a uniform medium density. That’s not very walkable or pleasant but it is higher average density than metros that drop precipitously. So population-weighted density tells you, “Which cities have neighborhoods that I’d want to live in?” But does that matter when you’re talking about regional trains across one or a few states? Or is it really just the fact that Britain and some US regions have more cities closer together and more towns between them, and average density is adequate for that? It seems so.

    1. Both average and population-weighted density matter, right? Average density, capturing how big the cities are and how close together they are, matters for obvious reasons. But population-weighted density, capturing the nature of the cities, matters, too. Inter-city rail stations, unlike airports, can be located in dense and walkable neighborhoods. You can build stations on the outskirts of cities with giant parking garages, like airports, and people do catch inter-city trains in places like that (mostly if they’re much faster than cars)… but even very fast trains aren’t faster than cars by the margin that airplanes are.

      If you’re traveling to the Portland area and you’re going to need a car on the other end, you could take a train and rent a car, you could fly and rent a car… or if you own a car you could just drive all the way. Seattle and Portland are about as far apart as London and Manchester… or about as far apart as Houston and Austin. There are always distances long enough that flying is fastest, and fast trains push that distance up. But the distance threshold for preferring a fast train over driving depends a lot on station access questions, whether you own a car, and whether you’ll need a car in the other city. Those are questions that tend to go with population-weighted density.

      Of course there are questions of history and politics, too.

  4. Mike, you’re messing with us. I know you actually fly, ride trains, drive, and walk enough to actually see how many things are in the way of how many other things, and people.

    Instead of trapped in a pile of stats like a lot of old guys are found dead under when their cat runs into it and buries them in it. Before it eats them because the poor animal is starving.

    Sweden doubtless counts as dense – though like the Norwegians, average person is just pretending for folk culture. But underneath those giant wind turbines at the south end, giant shopping malls and appropriately scaled traffic jams are suddenly appearing.

    My sister the wildlife biologist tells me that worst threat to air and water in Kenya is that the Africans now have too many cars. Probably same assessment as for average vet coming home after WWII as first working people in history to get a car in their dreams.

    I’m counting on you to help with my own Force 10 earth-quaking project: How to de-sprawl effects of last paragraph. The fifth-generation descendants of the Africans and the vets will need our help when nobody can see a single cow. “Back in my day …!” just means earlier malls.


  5. Another reason faster people were rude in New York. Probably thought the guys were trying to make a zombie movie that obviously really sucked. So here’s a really good one proving New York subways knows from experience there’s no such thing as bad publicity:



    Interesting question whether a train could be created that could take that curve. Maybe segmented like a streetcar. But able to also serve on the rest of the route re: speed and capacity. Put one of these in every 20th train, or something like that.

    Have the special train stop just long enough to unload one train-full of passengers while picking up another load. Or just send departing passengers back into the main station through the doors.

    Station would have to be refurbished for comfort and safety. With so much ceramic tile and marble. Not sure if sound level could be brought down enough for anybody to stand it. Maybe in its day, passengers were used to painful noise levels from machinery.

    Not hard to admire the quality and beauty of the old station. And many public buildings of that era. Also parks. Millionaires like Andrew Carnegie were famously generous with things like libraries. But I often wonder if this was the to make up for the average city-dwellers’ standard of living.

    Really would like to check out the old public bathroom under Pioneer Square, if it still exists. Can’t help but think the architects on the DSTT stations had a lot of mentality shown here in mind.


  6. New Yorkers (and people everywhere else) are generally courteous in public to people who aren’t dis-courteous to them first; this includes being courteous to slow walkers. In this case, people were annoyed not at the slowness of the walker, but at the rudeness of the walker: he was taking up the entire width of the walkway as much as possible, and not attempting to make space for other humans.

    But yes, the New Yorkers definitely impress with their side-eye skills on the video.

  7. https://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/Beach_Pneumatic_Transit

    In Seattle, are there any places about 300′ apart where either a replica or another example of this might be valuable? Quite a story. Built in 58 days.

    But best of all, avoided at least one permit. Jury may still be out as to whether corrupt city governments get things done faster and easier than honest ones.

    I think answer is that very few ordinary people have the skills and training to make it into the criminal world. Alive.

    And- different subway, same achitecture:





    The station is still used as a loop for existing trains. Note the gap between the car and the platform with the modern car.

    But I think worth investigating if an an articulated car can be designed to be operated along with regular cars.

    Really fascinated with the architecture. As with many public buildings of that era, it seems as if the public was presented with a lot more quality than now. Though probably also true there were fewer of them than now.

    And also that modern materials are now easier to build and maintain, and also easier to insert into existing older buildings. The ones in DSTT good examples. Whose architects had done similar in Pittsburgh.

    As I think somebody else noted in STB awhile ago, a lot of aggravating complication and difficult way-finding is because these passages have to be fit to the space available.


  8. What has happened to the monthly Sound Transit ridership reports? It has been quite a while since I’ve seen one, and I think I’m seeing all the posts to the blog.

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