Winter 2017 301

This is an open thread.

87 Replies to “News Roundup: Fail Again”

  1. With the Trump administration holding back FTA-promised funds, I wonder how things would be different if there was no FTA funding for local projects. By that I don’t mean USDOT holding back promised funds, but rather the agency just letting cities fund their own transit projects that don’t benefit anyone outside of their own transit district anyway. Aside from the relief of a republican administration no longer being a very direct threat to basically every transit project that doesn’t already have funding secured, it might result in better transit projects. Right now cities build streetcars because they’re streetcars, therefore they’re better (, when in almost every case a bus would be better. How much would it have been better for Detroit if the $200M spent on the Q line went to bus improvements?

    Of course, it funds good projects like Lynnwood Link, but these projects that are worth doing are done on their own right, and would probably be done anyway if the FTA funding would be able to be replaced with local taxing authority. Even if it means more taxes locally, I think that would be better because I know my taxes would be appropriated to projects that benefit MY county, and not held onto by a tax unfriendly administration. Plus, we wouldn’t have weird cases Forward Thrust, where the feds and the local voters and legislature have to basically ALL agree, or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gets missed. I feel like if what we could get is less volatility and fewer useless streetcars, it might be a good idea. Thoughts?

    1. Less money means smaller projects, or that some projects don’t get done at all. The highway-car infrastructure was subsidized 90% by the feds, and now you’re pulling the rug out from under neglected transit infrastructure that could compete with driving. The Streetsblog comments debate whether this is really a war on transit or just a sign of a disorganized FTA. I could believe the latter if it were some random program, but this one just happens to to match the right wing’s long-time calls to fund cars not transit, and Trump explicitly made the same argument before the 2018 budget.

      It’s not just ordering streetcar luxuries because it’s “other people’s money”. The FTA is supposed to screen grant applications and throw out frivilous ones. I don’t like parts of the FTA’s criteria: it’s also leading to a flood of highway-suburban light rail projects across the country that are less effective than urban networks, but it’s not frivilous. From a national perspective. Seattle is making a lot of right decisions on transit, because the national baseline is so low. The CCC streetcar was Seattle’s highest priority in its transit master plan. If there weren’t federal funding, it might have foregone other projects to build it, because streetcar and tourists and downtown business interests hoping it will attract customers.

      If it becomes definite that the grant isn’t coming, the city should cancel the streetcar and put the money into Madison RR. It would be tragic if Madison were delayed for the sake of the streetcar.

      There’s also the possibility of a lawsuit which would force the administration to release the grant money, since Congress has appropriated it. That might have fat chance in this environment, but it is the law.

      1. I really don’t understand, Mike, why everyone is to rah-rah about “Madison RapidRide”. The route is nearly useless for anyone with a disability, because the only place a wheelchair will be able to board within the CBD cord is on First between Madison and Spring. There are no buses to take the wheelchair user to that point.

        SDOT can still paint red lanes on Madison and Marion wherever they’re needed to improve reliability, so just up frequency on the 12 and call it good if the Federal money doesn’t come. The 12 serves the important part of the corridor; if it needs a stop diet to make good headway, do it. In fact using Marion puts the eastbound route closer to Link than Spring is.

        I know Marion is less desirable from an elevation standpoint, and in order to have a decent stop at First an island platform would have to be built, but that’s chump change compared to the full build out of the CCC or the Madison RR fancy stations. The point is that the City can give Trump the finger and still move around given the political will to use red paint.

        If 10 minute headways on 19th East are too much (they are) run every other bus as a turnback hang wire on 14th between Madison and Pine and use a 14th/Pine/15th loop.

      2. 99% of riders aren’t disabled. Red paint and more buses would be fine. The concept of special buses and off-board payment is overrated. What matters most to people is that they can get to their destination in a reasonable time, not crawling, they don’t have to wait long and know a bus will always come in a few minutes, and they feel safe. The other features make less of a difference. (And off-board payment doesn’t matter much if only one or two people are getting on at a time, which is what I usually see.)

        The most significant thing about Madison RR is the center lanes, which are better than any existing RapidRide or other bus route in the county.

      3. SDOT can still paint red lanes on Madison and Marion wherever they’re needed to improve reliability,

        Sure, but they can’t paint them on the center lanes. Having center running buses means the buses can run a lot faster. But it also means you need a new fleet of buses. You also need to pay for the service. Since the buses are supposed to run every six minutes all day long, the faster you run it, the less it costs to run. But it is still additional service (much as Link is additional service). I’m not sure, but I think there might be some utility work to enable the new lanes as well. All of that adds up. The point being, if we simply moved a few buses around and painted a handful of streets, it wouldn’t be very good. It probably wouldn’t result in very frequent service, nor would it be very fast.

      4. I’ve wondered the same thing, Richard Burlington. Routes 2, 3 and 4 seem much heavier between 18th and Downtown. Those other routes were “screened out” in the 2012 Master Plan update, which promoted Madison. (Note that the 2016 updated plan online doesn’t discuss the screening.)

        Further, Madison and James are also freeway ramp access routes.

        Further, no adjacent streets east of I-5 were ever studied — even those a block away like Marion or Spring. Could they be made exclusive? Could they carry auto traffic so that it could be pushed away from Madison? Could a one-way pair east of I-5 be considered (enabling right-side boardings)? Could Seneca and Yesler (non-ramp streets crossing I-5) be the primary First Hill transit streets, combined with a linking cross street?

        It always appeared to me that the intent of Madison was to get ferry passengers and skyscraper workers to and from doctor appointments. Certainly, Harborview gets the most foot traffic of any hospital on First Hill, and it’s not close to Madison. Certainly, more CD and First Hill residents with income and mobility issues live further south than Madison. Certainly, many Cap Hill residents north of Madison can walk to Cap Hill Link.

        Does anyone remember the Metro restructuring plan a few years back that even split a Madison bus route at Broadway?

        Finally, why doesn’t Madison BRT have a Link connection on both ends? It’s two blocks off Link Downtown. No extensions bending north to UW Station or Capitol Hill Station nor south to Judkins Park Station were ever considered.

        I think it’s great to improve transit operations on Madison! Still, I’m scratching my head as to if merely enhancing an existing route significantly improves accessibility or mobility like the Madison BRT proponents say it does.

        For a few years, I think the whole area has needed a “clean slate” transit or even multi-modal investment needs-based planning process rather than the endless parade of seemingly disjointed project ideas — from the ill-fated First Hill Link station, to the FHSC to Madison BRT (created by the City pre-ULink but not part of a Metro restructuring) to even the current rejection of shifting Midtown station eastward by three blocks.

        The “biggest elephant” issue that never gets analyzed or discussed is the difficult hill slope and the best way to address that for not only transit riders but also bicyclists and pedestrians. Certainly, a self-propelled vehicle solution makes that problem worse because those vehicles will be heavier and have less torque than what we have today with Route 12.

      5. The Madison corridor is the center of First Hill and has a number of large employers and high-rise apartments. There’s a huge amount of development both recent and planned which will increase the number of people even more. Even more than Pike-Pine.

      6. I’ve always felt that the “center of mass” of First Hill has been moving more towards Yesler. In fact, I’ve always thought of Madison as being more Capitol Hill than First Hill (but I’m biased due to having lived in the ID).

        Anyway, what I’d really like to see is BRT starting where the SLU Link station will be, and going down Boren and Rainier, at least to Columbia City. Basically, a “RR7 on steroids” which also would fill the transit gap between First Hill and SLU. Much more impactful and integrated as Madison RR will be–especially if the 1st Ave. streetcar gets scrapped. In fact, the streetscape upgrades on Boren would be worth it in and of itself.

      7. I agree, Mike. Plus it is one of the few streets downtown that goes all the way to 23rd as a straight shot. If it runs fast enough, then it changes the dynamic for travel in that part of town. It also leads to some pretty nice no cost changes for that area. I would start by moving the 11 over to use Thomas, then follow the old 43 route to downtown (Thomas/John/Olive/Bellevue/Pike-Pine). The 11 still runs downtown, but swings by CHS on the way there. Now you can kill the 43, because you would have a fast connection to the south end of downtown (via the G) or a slower connection to the north end (via the 11). You also get more frequent connections to Capitol Hill from 23rd (via the 11 as well as the 8).

        You could do the reverse (basically beef up the 11) but then the connections don’t work that well. Southbound 23rd over to Madison means going all the way down to catch the 2, or creating a new bus route that overlaps on Madison. You also wouldn’t be able to easily add service along Thomas/John without paying extra to beef up the 8. It just makes more sense to run a bus all the way on Madison, with the only overlap being the small segment east of 23rd (allowing the 11 to get over to Thomas/John).

        The project makes a lot of sense with all of the one seat rides, but it also makes sense from a network restructure standpoint.

      8. @B — There is no question that Boren should have an all day bus route. I know a lot of people have proposed it (including me). But I’m not sure it would have a bigger impact. More to the point, I think the two routes would complement each other really well. Madison BRT would be one of the fastest and most frequent corridors in the system. The only corridors that would be more frequent are those that share a bunch of buses (like Third). That means that it would work well for connecting trips. Let’s say I’m at Yesler Terrace and headed to Fifth and Madison. I could take the 27, but it doesn’t run that often (and I have to walk up the hill). I could take the streetcar, but it takes a while towards downtown (making the infamous button hook). I could take the streetcar or the 60 heading north, and then transfer to the 12 heading south, but the 12 doesn’t run that often. But with Madison BRT, it will. If you then add a very frequent line on Boren, that just improves the situation. I just take that bus headed northwest, then take the Madison BRT heading southwest. It is even better if I’m headed from Yesler Terrace to Madison and 15th.

        I think the Madison BRT project is a solid one on its own right, but I also think it can (and should) set up a number of restructures in the area, enabling much better bus routes, such as the one you mentioned. We could have something resembling a grid, even if the grid is often twisted 45 degrees (like a Picasso version of a grid).

      9. Sure center running is better; that’s obvious. But it’s not going to happen, at least not without the FFG. What I said is IF the Federal funding doesn’t come through — and unless the Republicans are whipped badly in November, which doesn’t look likely, it won’t — upping frequency on the 12 and giving it BAT curb lanes where possible would go a good long way toward meeting the goals of the original “Madison BRT” project.

        And, Ross, the Feds aren’t going to pay to run the service. So Seattle, King County, and Sound Transit together or some subset of them are going to have to fund the service just as they would with completion of the project as envisioned.

        Let’s say that instead of every other bus looping at 14th/Pine/15th it was two out of three. Or maybe coverage service to 19th East uses Spring/Seneca like the 2 and ALL 12’s turn back. The difference in speed that you point out means that it costs more to get from First to 15th, but you’re not continuing on to Martin Luther King, which is essentially twice as far, though certainly the quicker half of the route.

        It would be within spitting distance of the same cost to run from First to 15th in BAT lanes as it will from First to 33rd in center lanes.

        Would it be as whiffy? No, of course not. Instead of fancy stations in the middle of street, people would be waiting at more ordinary shelters on the sidewalk. Yes, make it a RapidRide with off-board payment, of course; that costs something. But it gets around the left-door problem and allows some of the current trolley fleet to be repainted in Oscar-Meyer colors and do the job.

      10. Oh, and as for the “hole” between 15th and 23rd just have the 11 continue down Madison to Boren and switch over to Pike/Pine there. That gives a very quick ride from the commercial core to Boren and Madison, keeping the Madison Park “express” service away from less exalted riders while also giving access to First Hill for the east end of the street. The 8 could handle the Madison Valley to Capitol Hill routing as it does today.

    2. This is Trump’s attempt to punish large cities, whose residents voted for Clinton by huge margins (10:1 or more in some neighborhoods). Or, another way to put it, Trump figures there’s no point in bothering to spend federal money on places that are going to vote for Democrats anyway.

      1. that is the correct analysis. Loyalty to Trump – the Patriarch of his clan – is paramount.

      2. I agree also. He’s the ultimate machine politician doing for “his people”, not “an outsider” at all. It’s just that his machine is composed of bitter, murderous white people down South and in the Midwest instead of the traditional city dwellers.

      3. It’s part of a longer-term trend of rural areas and small towns thinking they deserve more than they’re getting, or that they’re not getting as much as cities, or that they’re the American Heartland that Jefferson said was the core of the country. Trump is on the Republican ticket so he thinks he has to deliver conservative outcomes, or rather that he has to deliver promises to his base which are the more-rural areas. That leads straight to cancelling transit which is irrelevant to areas like eastern Clark County and Spokane Valley because they have a different vision. If it were primarily about punishing blue areas, he would have limited to or at least mentioned California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Washington State, and left other states like Arizona and Texas and Georgia alone. (Georgia’s suburbs recently approved a MARTA extension.) But the two have become intertwined — cities and blue-leaning — so punishing one becomes indistinguishable from punishing the other. But what’s ultimately driving this is rural/exurban entitlement.

        And they do have a point because cities are thriving and creating jobs (at least most cities) while rural/small-town areas have high unemployment and lack of investment. But the answer to that is to build up the cities in those areas, not to subsidize sprawl and rural highways.

      4. They have only a superficial “point”. The vast majority of the various forms of welfare that keep the rural areas of the country going are generated by income taxes on highly-paid city residents. It’s called “hunting where the ducks are”.

    3. @Alex — I don’t think getting rid of federal funding would really solve anything. First of all, the poor districts would suffer the most. They may have very worthy transit projects, but simply lack the money to pay for them. Second, I don’t think agencies build systems that are knowingly stupid just to appeal to the feds. I think the agencies are just ignorant when it comes to transit. Lack of federal funding wouldn’t change anything. As Mike said, Seattle would probably have planned to build the streetcar anyway. Or, to put it another way, there was nothing stopping them from building BRT instead (and trying to get matching funds).

      I suppose the feds could try and be more picky and ask more questions when it comes to these type of projects, but they tend to defer to the local areas. In other words, if the community wants to spend a bunch of money, and it appears to benefit a decent cross section of the populace (i. e. doesn’t favor the wealthy or politically powerful) than they assume that the locals know what they are doing (or at least, know what they want).

      1. “they tend to defer to the local areas”

        I don’t think the highway-suburban light rails in Denver and SLC were the result of deferring to locals, but instead the locals choosing projects that would score highest for grant funding. So again it comes down to grant criteria.

      2. I don’t agree Mike. When the first lines were built they were built alongside the old Santa Fe main line so that they could be completed inexpensively and reach into the southern suburbs where congestion was worst. There was extensive coverage in Trains Magazine at the time.

        That this got them good FTA scores is a function of the FTA’s willingness to fund rail to the ‘burbs.

  2. Tuesday I reported two broken escalators and one broken elevator at UW Station and one broken escalator at UW Station. Usually I walk down from the bridge and take the north escalator, but because it was broken Wednesday, on Thursday I stayed on the bridge and went to the elevators (forgetting that one elevator was broken). One elevator left and three bikes were waiting so I went down to the south surface entrance, which had been open yesterday. I got down to the mezzanine but the next escalator was closed. A guard had opened the emergency stairs and was standing next to them and the alarm was blaring. So I took the stairs down for the first time. At the bottom another guard was standing next to the stair door. OK, but couldn’t they turn off the alarm?

    This is like using a fifty-year old run-down subway in Detroit or a third-world country.

      1. Used to have an elevated like the SkyTrain. Might still. Also used to have little red and white streetcars from Portugal on a Downtown boulevard. Doubt it still does.


      2. Detroit lost the heritage streetcar line when they rebuilt Washington Blvd in 2003. The Detroit Peoplemover is still operating.

    1. It’s important to invest in redundant vertical conveyances. I am really bothered by ST always blaming things on equipment failures and not inadequate station design. In fact, ST just axed some conveyances on Lynnwood Link to save money, and modified station designs to make it almost impossible to easily add them back in the future!

      It’s mindless how planners and leaders can obsess about going from 8-minute to 6-minute train frequencies as important (overcrowding relief issues notwithstanding) but don’t seem to care one bit about delays of several minutes getting in and out of stations.

      Finally, it’s time to call out ST on the 95 percent standard where conveyances are critical. It’s a fine standard if there are redundant options and light usage, but it should be higher if the conveyance gets heavy use.

      1. Exactly, especially Lynnwood which will be the terminus for a long time. In addition to peak hour commutes, A LOT of people will be getting off there after downtown games and events. Why the &*$# isn’t ST planning and building for HEAVY USE of that station??? Is the knee jerk reaction saving of a few million really worth it, on a project that is already hundreds of million over anyway due to increasing land and construction costs? We should all be calling, writing, e-mailing, Tweet-spamming Sound Transit on a daily basis over this!

      2. @Al S. +1


        Fwiw, the public outreach person for the Lynnwood Link project I have communicated with in the past is a gentleman by the name of Roger Iwata. His responsiveness has been rather so-so in the past, based on my experience. (It took several weeks to get rather unsatisfactory answers to my questions about the Aug 2017 board presentation announcing the budgetary issues with Lynnwood Link. Additionally, I never heard back about the planned community outreach event for Lynnwood that was set for sometime in late summer/early fall but never happened after the announcement was made.)

      3. Sea-Tac? Rent construction elevators, remove railings where necessary, and leave structure in place long as needed. Need human operators? Have one policy-level official from every agency and company run them. Wages covered by their employers.

        UW and Broadway? If it’s true that stopped escalators can suddenly turn into chutes under heavy loads- anybody know the facts, and fast temporary fix? Apologize for referring to Security as “hired help”. Though think everybody called that deserves to be paid like they’ve been hired and unionized. Mad at attitude behind their orders.

        First act of respect: stairway guard gets a switch to shut off the alarm. If alarm system can’t handle that- make it. Want to go to rules, regs, and laws? Sound Transit’s either designed or tolerated hazards to public safety.

        Best if it doesn’t give Jeff Sessions the duty of relocating perpetrating officials to the Trump Towers Angle Lake.

        Mark Dublin

    1. Looking at the transit website and nowhere does it say there is a open house meeting on 9/17. There is a West Seattle and Ballard Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting Sep 5, 2018 and West Seattle and Ballard Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting Sep 26, 2018

      Is the Ballard Blog wrong or is the ST site just terrible about putting things on their calendar?

      Edit: Never mind, found it. So they are just terrible about running their calendar. They segregate the open house meetings off onto their own independent site and calendar. Almost as if they don’t want people to know about it. vs. official sound transit calendar

      Anyways there is a West Seattle open met on 9/8 and downtown on 9/11

  3. Metro has different color buses–for example, purple for trolley bus. What is the difference between the blue/yellow and green/yellow colored buses?

    1. The difference is what year the buses were bought. Metro changes the color scheme every few years, and several generations of buses are running simultaneously. The newest ones have several side seats and single seats. The oldest ones have green plus seats and no rear door in front of the articulation (i.e., two doors rather than three doors).

      1. The Easter Bunny had to run for its life. Also, whoever picked color and pattern for the seat covers should have to wear a leisure suit in same color and material.


    2. Oh, the oldest buses also have steps between the door and the farebox. The next generation had low floors but none of the other features except maybe a couple more side seats. The extensive side seats came with RapidRide in 2010 (A in 2010, B in 2011, C&D in 2012?). The spread of single seats and third doors to regular buses and the less-comfortable hard seats only came in 2016.

      The colors I can’t say as precisely because I don’t pay much attention to them. But the buses in the early 80s were white with a little bit of tan and yellow. Then came the dark forest-green and yellow which is my favorite. The purple buses probably came in the 2016 round.

  4. There’s a lack of detail in the news report about Madison BRT delays. Here are some extracts with my comments:

    “The US Department of Transportation tells KIRO 7 the money is being withheld from the Madison Street BRT because the busses currently planned for the route are not built to handle the steep hills along the route.”
    Obviously he is not talking about the trolleybuses that were originally planned for Madison BRT. Trolleybuses are the ideal hill-climbing bus. So there seems to have been an unannounced change from the original plan to use trolleybuses.

    A spokesperson for the Seattle Department of Transportation says “due to an inability to procure the originally identified vehicle based on vendor constraints, we are assessing alternatives. We’re actively working with Metro to identify fleet alternatives that meet route requirements and can be procured in time for the Madison BRT’s planned opening date.”

    What are these so-called “vendor constraints”? I have heard reports that New Flyer is now refusing to build the trolleybuses originally planned. Is this true? Why? If it is just because it is “too much trouble”, it would be a disgrace after King County Metro took the lead to give them the joint order with SF Muni for up to 530 trolleybuses one of the largest orders ever. Muni is now taking delivery of 185 XT40 trolleybuses so it is not as if New Flyer and Kiepe Electric are not currently actively involved in trolleybus production.

    But if necessary, other manufacturers could be found. Kiepe Electric is the lead contractor for the Next Generation trolleybuses for Dayton and they are using Gillig bus bodies. There are plenty of first rate trolleybus manufacturers in Europe such as Solaris, Van Hool, Skoda and Iveco, though presumably they would have to work through a local plant to meet Buy America requirements.

    1. I don’t know about the vendors, but the default assumption was trolleybuses. A streetcar wasn’t considered because of the steep hills, so it was known that trolleybus power was needed, and most of the wire is already there for the 12. Maybe SDOT chose a substandard version of a large trolleybus, or maybe the vendor is just refusing to build the right thing, or maybe SDOT switched to battery buses or hybrid buses at a later stage.

      1. We have to remember that these vehicles need to service island platforms, so they need off-side doors. This makes them a special order and the quantity will not be that large -20 or so?

        I assume the original plan was to place an additional order for trolleybuses with New Flyer. The “vendor constraints” could be:
        a) it is a special order and they cannot deliver within an acceptable timeframe;
        b) they don’t want or need a special order, as their order book is very full already;
        c) they want to cease any production of trolleybuses and concentrate on battery buses (I have heard ugly rumours to this effect from more than one source.)

        I have read that Metro tried to order the trolleybuses but New Flyer refused. But I have not seen anything in public with any detail.

        The present fleet of XT60s have 240kW motors which should be fine but if necessary it should be easy to fit higher powered motors th the XT60.

      2. I’d assume the issue is the doors, which would be a substantial redesign of a bus.

        Stepping backwards, designing the route around buses that don’t exist doesn’t sound like good planning. Changing final designs from the center platforms now would be expensive and time consuming.

      3. Let’s get SDOT out of the vehicle choosing business. We have two local transit operating agencies who better understand the nuances of vehicle operations from costs to capacity to acceleration to safety to sight distance.

      4. Martin Wright, any trolleybus that can make it up (and down) the Queen Anne Counterbalance hill can easily handle Spring (or Marion).

        If New Flyer is exiting the trolleybus market that is a great tragedy for zero emission transit vehicles. One trip up the Counterbalance would leave a battery bus gasping for juice.

      5. Robert, left-door articulated trolleybuses do exist. They just aren’t manufactured by New Flyer who’s the only US manufacturer. It’s the “Buy America” provisions that are the real problem here. That and of course the hostility to Europe that is rife in today’s government.

      6. “any trolleybus that can make it up (and down) the Queen Anne Counterbalance hill can easily handle Spring (or Marion).”

        These are larger buses and articulated. Metro doesn’t use artics on Queen Anne because the crests of the hills where part of the bus is flat and part is on an incline induce excessive wear on the bus. That could be part of it.

      7. Run the busses in the center lanes in a counterflow direction, so you don’t need left side doors? Or a separate section or two way roadway altogether, which is what most BRT systems do?

        The lack of an American manufacturer that does center running busses is a pretty damning indictment of American mass transit:(.

      8. >> Run the buses in the center lanes in a counterflow direction, so you don’t need left side doors?

        Ah, OK, I get it now (duh). I always think of contraflow on one way streets. Anyway, I don’t think that is a good idea. That means essentially crossing four alternating lines of traffic. Ick. That just seems extremely dangerous. I know Amsterdam has crossings like that (bikes, trams, cars) but folks have been at it a very long time — they didn’t just spring it on people. You also have the issue of how the buses cross. On the eastern end the buses will run in regular traffic, so the switching would get messy, to say the least.

        >> Or a separate section or two way roadway altogether, which is what most BRT systems do?

        The issue there is space (which is what I was getting at). If you add bus stops on either side or a two lane road that is essentially four lanes, and you don’t have enough for regular traffic. It would work great if the road was that wide, or if we simply wanted to remove cars altogether, but it isn’t and we don’t.

        >> The lack of an American manufacturer that does center running busses is a pretty damning indictment of American mass transit:(.

        Absolutely. But as Mike said earlier, who really knows what the issues are.

        The lack of an American manufacturer that does center running busses is a pretty damning indictment of American mass transit:(.

      9. “It’s the “Buy America” provisions that are the real problem here.”

        That could be a reason to not pursue federal grants.

      10. Eugene’s Emerald Express buses have doors on both sides. I’m not sure who made those but they can be obtained. Maybe Metro and Lane Transit should have put in a joint order?

      11. No.

        The difficult part is building the specialized bus body. The drive train from the axle gearbox to the wire shouldn’t be too difficult to apply to a different bus body. After all, Seattle’s first generation drive trains found their way into what? Three generations of trolley buses?

        The big issue might be the grades. What EmX has might not be able to take those severe changes from flat to steep grade and back again. You probably need a really specialized articulation joint to deal with that, and there probably aren’t too many bus companies with vehicles that can do that.

      12. Mike, Thanks. The transitions at the north-south streets on Spring and Madison (Marion, too) aren’t as abrupt as those on the Counterbalance, so I can see how artics might not work on the big hill.

        Ross, yes, the safety issue for pedestrians and cyclists was the reason that SDOT canned the original proposal to use contra-flow. Maybe the combination of sharp changes in gradient and limited availability of left-door trolley buses means that full-on BRT is simply impossible in the corridor. It’s certainly not going to be all that fast between First and Sixth, since it has to cross four superior arterials which are going to have the majority of the light cycles. It can’t have pre-emption through downtown. That would seriously mess up the flow on the one-way streets.

    2. I believe that counter-flow buses on Madison are a terrible idea.

      Madison street has to accommodate both ambulances (especially near hospitals) and fire trucks (especially near high-rise buildings). To do that, more than one lane of open street pavement is needed, especially at corners where these vehicles turn. If the buses are running counter-flow, that means that it would hard to have a lane that emergency vehicles can use if the main travel lane is blocked. That issue would seem to be why no section of Madison can have a counter-flow lane — even if it’s only on one side of the street. Similarly, installing side platforms in the bus lane would create a similar safety hazard.

      1. Good points, Al. Emergency vehicle access was probably also part of the rejection of the original proposal.

        But how are cars going to be kept out of the in-flow “bus lanes” if there isn’t some sort of physical barrier? Such a barrier would also prevent a ladder truck from placing itself in the middle of the street for a high-rise fire, which means there won’t be any.

        So how are cars going to be kept out of the way of the center-running buses? They are going to intrude; it’s the Seattle way.

      2. So how are cars going to be kept out of the way of the center-running buses? They are going to intrude; it’s the Seattle way.

        The point is it won’t matter (except at bus stops). If a car intrudes onto the bus lane, the bus in that lane simply crosses over into the center lane, and then back into its own lane. It isn’t like there is a steady stream of vehicles coming in the opposite direction. It is just buses, and since we are only talking about one bus route, there won’t be much traffic. The only time there would be a problem is if the obstacle occurs in a pinch point, such as the bus stop. The same would be true with contraflow lanes.

        Now a streetcar is a different story. It can’t move one inch (either direction) on any part of the track.

  5. “The Key Arena has been formally landmarked”

    Ayayay! That ugly thing. When will people learn to appreciate aesthetics again?

  6. Yes, we need to know more about what happened with the trolleybus order for Madison St. BRT. The city design called for one or more additional doors on the left side of the coaches, for center island boarding. Did that create the procurement problem? Trolleybuses are the only suitable transit vehicles for the Madison St. corridor, as they have been ever since cable cars went away in 1940.

    1. Agreed. See my earlier posts above.

      Why has there been such secrecy about all this? If this problem has arisen as a result of arrogance from New Flyer then they should be “named and shamed”. They are happy getting massive contracts from KCM but when it comes to a special order then it’s too much trouble.

      As I said previously, another manufacturer can be found. But if necessary, perhaps the street layout should be revised to suit the buses rather than the buses needing a special design to suit the street layout.

      1. Maybe we’re back to the contra-flow idea. SDOT doesn’t like it because it endangers pedestrians, and I can see that potential problem. Nobody is used to looking left when past the middle of a street.

        But flashing lights could be added to the cross walks a la railroad crossings. The buses could be detected by the overhead or the standard “electric eye” technology.

      2. Contraflow lanes are fine if they’re on the right where pedestrians are used to looking.

        In any case, we’re assuming the hold-up is the left doors. I doubt that. Other countries have more left-door buses, don’t they? It can’t be something invented here.

      3. Contraflow is pretty much irrelevant. The problem isn’t on the one way streets (where contraflow would work great) but on the two way part of Madison (east of sixth). This is where the bus should run in the center, so that it can have its own lane and not be bothered by cars that need to turn right.

        You can achieve much the same thing a couple different ways using regular buses. First is to run buses in the center, but have regular boarding (on the right). That would likely use more space, or result in bus stops not adjacent to each other, which greatly complicates the layout.

        Another would be to isolate the lane, and force right turning cars to essentially cut in front of the bus. You would need to add a lot more traffic lights, including at driveways. This only makes sense if you have a large corridor with very few intersections.

        What makes sense is to have center running buses with dual sided doors. If I’m not mistaken, other projects planned to use similar buses. So it isn’t like this is a one time only purchase, but simply the first of many.

      4. Look at Bellevue Transit Center and do same- except for narrower platforms. Diagonal across intersections at start and end of the route. If it needs manual control for safety- I think it does- pay it and do it.

        Lane safety? Narrow concrete planter box about a foot high between trackway and adjoining traffic lane. Barberries. Not only an ill plant to cross, but we can sell them to Persian restaurants. Though wouldn’t put it past DC to tariff public transit like a foreign country.


    2. It is a shame that we pulled out our cable cars. BRT just isn’t the same, and doesn’t come anywhere near a cable car’s grade climbing capability (particularly in adverse weather).

      Kudos to San Francisco for being smarter than us.

      1. Mechanical intelligence level goes back a long way. What we’d need is a Scots mining engineer who couldn’t stand watching draft horses- standard streetcar motor in the mid 1800’s- get killed. Especially when the cable-grip ore-cars back home were a voyage around Cape Horn away.

        Problem with getting the hardware back. Couple decades ago, SF updated the cableways- but couldn’t figure out how Andrew Hallidie did it all. But, as any Scot can predict from history, England has once again duplicated its classic contribution to progress by causing so many Scots to relocate.

        The ones that the British presuaded to come to our shores from Scotland by way of Ireland were probably largest ethnic group of (voluntary) colonists.

        All we have to do is top the European Union’s bid to get Scotland to join. Based on mechanical equipment from escalators to hill-climbing vehicles…anybody doubt it’s time for another Industrial Revolution from the people that did the last one?


  7. If I ever have a private security forbid me and dozens of other people to use a staircase, I’m going to ask a half dozen other passengers to assist me to keep order.

    And politely request Security to call the police to help all the rest of us to safely walk upstairs, starting one minute from now. And me and my assistants start guiding people upstairs, with others standing by anyone elderly and disabled. Loudly and visibly enough for every station camera to record what’s already on Twitter.

    Fire-fighters and attorneys I know are reading this, tell me where I’m wrong, and give me some other suggestions besides standing there ’til uniformed private help gets back from lunch.

    Can’t get RapdRide buses? Since we’ve got “Artic” trolleys and also wherewithal to build the lanes-let’s make do. Was it a psychiatrist or a first responder who said: “Depression is Learned Helplessness? ” So’s failure.

    Mark Dublin

  8. ST 2018: We promise we will include a bike and walking trail along side the future rail tracks on the Eastside Rail Corridor Trail/Cross Kirkland Corridor.

    ST 2030: Uh, we want to build another rail line on the Eastside so we’re going to be taking away your bike and walking trail and replacing it with more train tracks.

    Light rail enthusiasts: We’re ok with that!

  9. Two articles in The Economist August 11th. They require a digital subscription.

    Exodus: Summer and the Meaning of Trains
    Summer trains in France, with a Monet
    France has a higher train mode share than Germany, Britain, Spain, or Italy, Partly because of TGV trains across the entire country from Paris to Marseille.
    “Monet painted 12 oils of the Gare Saint-Lazare in 1877.”

    Charlemagne: Street Politics
    Russia spruces up central plazas in 40 cities.
    “The trend began in Moscow, where city authorities have rebuilt hundreds of streets and public spaces since 2011.” There’s some grumbling of its top-down approach and displacing kiosks (small retail stands).But some cities are inviting public input and citizens are getting involved for the first time.

  10. Supposedly they are beginning to put up steel structure at Roosevelt Station. But of course you can’t actually confirm that without going there because (surprise!!!) the station camera is still down.

    It’s been almost 3 months now since the cam went down. What gives? This shows disrespect to the neighborhood who uses the cam to get an idea of what to expect regarding construction activity.

    1. I live in the neighborhood and can confirm that there is some steel structure going up on the south end of the parcel.

  11. STB post yesterday – “… heavy wind and an attendant storm surge, the likes of which sank the eastbound span in 1990.”

    Wiki – “In November 1990, while under re-construction, the original bridge sank because of a series of human errors and decisions.”

    1. They’re both probably true. The storm surge overwhelmed the design flaws. Thank you for being a watchdog and fact-checker.

      1. It wasn’t a question of original design flaws. It’s about what workers did to the bridge in the months before the storm.

        “Engineers then analyzed the pontoons of the bridge, and realized that they were over-engineered and the water could be stored temporarily in the pontoons. The watertight doors for the pontoons were therefore removed.” Wiki.

    1. I took Amtrak to Portland this week and I was pleasantly surprised at the performance. Their other recently implemented bypass tracks seem to be paying off. We came in ahead of schedule on both legs. However I’m still looking forward to the additional 10-15 mins savings I’ll get once they get the PD bypass ready – their WiFi was down which took away one of my time killing options.

  12. I came across the following op-ed piece on e-scooters this week and thought I would pass it along on this open thread as the subject matter has been discussed on this forum a few times in recent months.

    Having just returned from a trip to the San Diego area, the piece grabbed my attention for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was very apparent to me that the number of e-scooters in the area has increased significantly since I had last been down there in January of this year. The Bird scooters in particular just seemed to be everywhere. Secondly, I had two incidents as a pedestrian whereby I was almost mowed down by e-scooter user, once while walking on the promenade in Pacific Beach and a second time while strolling Balboa Park. (In regard to the latter location, SD Police were stopping e-scooter users and reminding them that they weren’t allowed on the sidewalks and that users were required to wear helmets in the street per CA code.)

    The situation there seems to be a bit of a mess imho.

    Here’s the op-ed piece that appeared on cnn:

    Also, here’s a local opinion on the current state of affairs in regard to how the rules regarding e-scooter use are being enforced:

    1. I rode a Bird scooter once in the San Jose area. It took one hour to go about 10 miles, for an average speed of about 10 mph. They were definitely less stable than a bike, especially with the higher center of gravity resulting from a standing position. I wouldn’t feel safer riding them much faster than that, and I think 20 mph for a scooter is asking for trouble – an unexpected crack in the pavement, you could get hurt pretty bad.

      That said, the scooters are a convenient form of transportation when you’re just trying to go a short distance, and need something faster than walking. For short trips, anything that can get you going at even 10 mph on demand, without waiting, is going to much faster than a bus, Uber, or any conventional transport vehicle that you have to wait for.

      I don’t think saying the companies should have done excessive studies before launching is reasonable. Without actually launching, you can’t demonstrate the demand to fund the studies, so it quickly becomes a chicken and egg problem.

      As to parking, there are certainly things the companies could do, but so far haven’t. Bellevue requires Lime Bike to list parks and walking trails as “no parking” zones in the app, although I’m not sure how or if such zones are enforced. If enforced, this would at least prevent people from leaving scooters or bikes in the middle of hiking trails where bikes have absolutely no business riding, much less parking.

      Eventually, I can see two additional things happening. The downtown areas could become closer to a docked system, where parking is allowed in designated areas only, with a designated parking zone painted into the sidewalk somewhere on every block (with these zones enforced by GPS). The free floating system would still apply outside of the downtown area, where sidewalks are less congested, and the cost of paying staff to enumerate and paint every single place it’s ok to park a bike or scooter, too expensive. Second, when parking outside of a designated zone, users could be required to take a picture of their vehicle to prove it’s properly parked, with a small fine automatically assessed by image-processing software when it’s not. (If your phone’s battery dies mid-trip, and can’t take the picture, you just pay the fine). If the software detects you’ve parked improperly, a notification would pop up in the app, and you would be given a grace period of a few minutes to move the bike/scooter to a better location to avoid the penalty. A scheme like this would require a very reliable image classification software to avoid angry customers, but with modern machine learning advances, it no longer sounds crazy, like it used to.

      1. Thanks for your feedback. Being well into my middle ages, I wasn’t inclined to give the e-scooters a go myself.

        “That said, the scooters are a convenient form of transportation when you’re just trying to go a short distance,…”

        From my observation (based on the areas I went to and where I saw the most use), it seemed like most users were riding the scooters as a form of recreation and only served as a form of “transportation” in the most general sense.

  13. I was waiting for a bus yesterday at about 4:30PM at the northbound stop at 3rd and Pine along the Bon – sorry, Macy’s.

    While I was watching, more automobiles than buses blithely passed southeastward along 3rd through the intersection, right under the big red illuminated Do Not Enter sign. Anybody considered at least a little bit of enforcement?

    A northwest-bound Access van held up five buses for a full signal cycle waiting to make a left turn onto southwest-bound Pine. I don’t know whether that is permitted, or should be, but it certainly delayed lots of people.

    1. The way to get compliance on Third Avenue is to give the police who write the tickets 10% of the proceeds. Nothing else will do the job. They (the cops) are generally speaking are autoistas in uniform themselves. They don’t like the people who ride buses, so they’re not going to enforce the restrictions unless they get a reward for doing so.

  14. > If you’re new-ish to Seattle, The Economist‘s digest of the state of housing in Seattle ($) is about as concise and accurate as you can get <

    Lived here 4+ years, and that Economist article is a load of crud. You don't *have* to live in Seattle to work in Seattle. Sounder South Line comes to the rescue for people that don't have a shizzle about which cool neighborhood to live in and just want somewhere not shitty to live at a reasonable price. Auburn, Sumner/Bonny Lake, Puyallup, ding ding ding. On a lower end income and want help buying a home? WSHFC is your friend.

    1. Can you walk to the store and library and other daily errands there? Or do you lose what you’ve gained by having to keep a car and drive to everything?

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