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It’s time to look back at the top articles of the last year. The major themes should be no surprise: ST3 and high-speed rail dominated. But our series on East Link and how it’s shaping the Eastside was popular as well.

  1. Introducing Cascadia Rail by Cascadia Rail (Feb 12, 2018). The launch of a new organization advocating for state-wide HSR.
  2. Seattle Metro Rapid Map “circa” 1990 by Oran Virincy (Feb 17, 2018). Oran’s retro-fantasy map shows what Forward Thrust-powered Seattle rapid transit might have looked like at the dawn of the grunge era.
  3. ST3 Level 2 Planning – Time to Make Decisions by Seattle Subway (Sept 21, 2018). The Ballard-West Seattle options begin to narrow.
  4. ST3 Must be Built for the Future by STB Editorial Board (Feb 7, 2018). We argue the Ballard line should be built with expansion in mind.
  5. Reimagining Bellevue for Light Rail by Lizz Giordano (Apr 9, 2018). deep dive on Bellevue’s transformation around the train.
  6. How much would high-speed rail actually cost? by Alon Levy (Jan 17, 2018). A critique of the high costs in WSDOT’s initial high-speed rail study.
  7. ST3 Plan needs to put riders first by Seattle Subway (Nov 29, 2018). Feedback as the Ballard-West Seattle process moves toward the “preferred alternative”
  8. An Opportunity to Make Light Rail Exceptional by Seattle Subway (Feb 13, 2018). Seattle Subway’s opening gambit.
  9. Redmond Waits for Light Rail by Lizz Giordano (Feb 5, 2018).
  10. 14th Avenue is the Wrong Spot for a Ballard Station by Frank Chiachiere (Oct 17, 2018). Explaining why 14th is substantially worse than 15th.

And here are the most commented ones:

  1. The Center City Connector and the First and Yesler Stop by David Lawson (Aug 29, 216 comments). Nothing divides the community like streetcars, even when they’re really light rail. Perhaps a former bus driver’s perspective can help.
  2. 14th Avenue is the Wrong Spot for a Ballard Station by Frank Chiachiere (as above, 177 comments).
  3. 5 Questions About the Streetcar Halt by Martin H. Duke (Mar 31, 174 comments). The announcement was the strongest indication that Mayor Durkan was not going to pursue her predecessor’s transportation agenda.
  4. Elected Leaders Bail on First Hill Station by Frank Chiachiere (May 19, 159 comments). Always a longshot, the particular way in which Sound Transit dismissed the concerns of its most vocal advocates was shabby and dishonest.
  5. Snohomish officials: Seattle needs to rein in potential light rail spending by Peter Johnson (Nov 2, 154 comments) Intraregional rivalry, combined with skimping on high-ridership corridors to make sure the low-ridership ones are well-funded.
  6. ST3 Must be Built for the Future by the Editorial Board (as above, 149 comments).
  7. ST Level 3 Recommendations, Criticism of Chinatown Plans by Peter Johnson (Oct 9, 146 comments) A grab bag of looming ST3 decisions to complain about.
  8. Link Plans Part 3: West Seattle by Peter Johnson (Sep 18, 142 comments) and Kirkland’s NE 85th BRT Station by Dan Ryan (Apr 30, 142 comments). At its best, STB takes a seemingly small issue and elevates it to gain wider media attention. Dan accomplished that here.
  9. 10. ST Exploring New Escalator Strategies by Brent White (Apr 30, 140 comments). Another smallish issue that riders have to deal with all the time.

20 Replies to “Our Most Popular Articles in 2018”

  1. I missed the “Introducing Cascadia Rail” article. There were a couple of statements that struck me as off. “then the correct figure is most likely $9-16 billion”. I think this is way low.

    Characteristics of the Texas Central line for Houston and Dallas:
    1) No major urban areas between these two cities.
    2) Flat and straight path
    3) Private rail in Texas allows for the use of eminent domain
    4) 239 miles between cities
    5) Last estimated price is 18 billion

    2nd statement that was off: “which is much easier for the state to afford (and in line with French TGV construction costs).*

    Recently built French lines already have the urban infrastructure to handle new lines, it’s only a matter of tying into an outskirt segment. Washington state will have to start their urban structures from scratch. Thus far California is finding it’s biggest cost are running line into the town centers of Bakersfield and Fresno. Bakersfield will run about 3 plus billion. I can only image what the Seattle’s area will run – 6 billion? ,

    My guess for a full fledged system will be more like 30 plus billion.

    1. “Private rail in Texas allows for the use of eminent domain”

      Does this mean the government will enforce eminent domain for a private railroad that’s deemed in the public interest?

      1. I’m not sure what you mean in public interest. BNSF, Amtrak and etc all have eminent domain rights. Just need be rail. “Transportation Code in Section 112.053 and Section 131.012.”

        “Texas forefathers passed laws allowing private companies in certain industries that build infrastructure the ability to exercise eminent domain in limited cases.
        Internet/Telephone (i.e. Verizon/AT&T)
        Electric utility service for air conditioning, etc (i.e. Oncor/Centerpoint)
        Gas for vehicles (i.e. pipeline companies),
        Transportation of people and goods (i.e. highways and railroads)”

    2. I’d agree that $30 billion is more realistic but it’s still off. I think is probably more.

      Plainly put, there is no alignment north of Downtown Seattle all the way to North of Alderwood that’s going to be cheap. There is also no cheap way to put a stop in the ID; look at the challenge and cost of a new, mere four-car platform for Link there.

      Consider how ST3 is over $50 billion and it’s mostly above ground except between Lower Queen Anne and SODO and builds just 62 miles of two-way track that won’t require the gradual curves that high speed rail does.

      Finally, the metro populations of Dallas and Houston or the Bay Area and LA are more than what Seattle has — and Portland and Vancouver are significantly smaller and closer (faster to drive and less affected by faster trains).

      I’d rather see our intercity priorities be focused on adding trains and removing track delays first — if for no other reason than to test the market. A reliable train leaving from Downtown Seattle leaving every hour all day that takes an hour longer would be a vast improvement and hopefully would not take 30 years to get.

      1. I was thinking that Seattle-Tacoma could do something like the Peninsula is doing from SF to SJ, ie, upgrading Caltran so that HSR can run on the same line. This project is running much less than 6 billion and will allow HSR trains to run 110 to 125 mph for this particular stretch. There will have to be a major shakeup with UP and Sounder and a lot of bypasses but I think they could pull it off. There would be a couple additional billions needed for Seattle north and Tacoma south but much cheaper than a new line.

      2. Dallas to Houston is 239 miles.
        Portland to Vancouver 315
        SF to LA distance 400 via Fresno. But I’m not sure of the relevance in context of what I said.
        CA HSR is its own unique animal.

      3. I wonder what the max speed of Amtrak Cascades are for the Seattle to Tacoma section? I know federal law for urban corridors is around 110 or there abouts. My first investments would be 6 billion for a Cascades or Sounder express from Seattle to Tacoma. And then build the system out from there.

      4. Portland and Vancouver each have less than a 2.5 million Metro population. Thee are more flights from Vancouver to Toronto than Vancouver to Portland. It’s just not a high-demand trip pair. Any benefit to high speed rail is going to have to be related to Seattle, where the distances are less than 200 miles to either place.

      5. Of course it will include Seattle. “This vision of Cascadia Rail is Vancouver to Seattle and Seattle to Portland”. I’m comparing it with Texas Central because TC is a much lessor system but yet cost 18 billion. Therefor it is safe to say the Cascadia line has to be at least 18 billion and not the 16 billion mentioned in the article. (we concurred that a better number is 30+ billion)

        I mentioned Bakersfield and Fresno of CAHSR because those are the only US metropolitan areas currently experiencing downtown HSR construction or on verge of it Best to use actuals rather than speculations.

      6. I know federal law for urban corridors is around 110 or there abouts.

        Last I knew the limit is 110 mph with grade crossings. That’s why the Midwest corridors set that as their maximum.

        Except for the curve in Tacoma and Puyallup the track is straight enough to allow this. In fact, I’ve been told by someone who is old enough to remember that this is approximately how fast they ran the 1970s test train. Amtrak brought one of the French RTG turboliners to the Northwest to illustrate what could be done. It took another 20 years for the states to want such service and by then legal and capacity conditions had changed.

        The biggest problem is figuring out how to get enough track space to allow it. The faster the train, the more dispatching space it needs.

      7. The proposed Dallas->Houston line also saves a considerable amount of money by locating the Houston station about 10 miles out of downtown, rather than going all the way into the center of the city.

      8. Yes, and Texas’s hwy 45 doesn’t have to cross any rivers of note. The Fresno River Viaduct and pergola is a major expense for CA HSR. Wa contractors are drooling over the prospect of major structures involved in crossing rivers such as the Skagit, Stillaguamish and etc.

      9. The Caltrain right-of-way was purchased by the public in 1991 and is generally wider than what we have in Washington. They even were able to build a bypass network of “baby bullet” service years ago. They also gradually have been locally funding expensive grade crossing removals for 30 years so there are now very few left.

        Even so, the connection into Downtown San Francisco is still unresolved and electrification is not expected to be functioning until at least 2022.

        Knowing this, it may make sense to build any HSR segments from scratch.

      10. When I went to Palo Alto in 1989 there were peak express trains but they weren’t called baby bullets. How are baby bullets different?

        It also seemed like there were so many tracks in San Francisco that every run of the day had its own track. That seemed a bit excessive.

      11. By peak express I mean an A/B stop pattern, not point-to-point and local. There was no local train making all stops between SF and SJ peak hours; just two or three different groups of trains stopping at different blocks of stations.

  2. Comes a time when Homicide loses its Negligence defense. We’ve just killed three people pretending that a freight spur with top speed of what, forty? can carry the TGV. Or ever should. That’s not what passenger rail between New Westminster and Olympia Washington is for.

    Hope the courts award the survivors enough money to leave AMTRAK an BN just barely enough to get some rock between some mud and some rails. And be glad their execs are not breaking rock by hand like in the chain gang movies. Ok, nowadays it’s just lanyards and picking up highway litter now, and only if you’re too poor to pay your court costs for a parking ticket.

    For decades, present track between New Westminster and Olympia has delivered some of US railroading’s most beautiful passenger service. Let’s just live with it awhile more. Anybody with a job interview in Portland to replace Mark Zuckerberg, IDS to Sea-Tac takes about twenty minutes. If your bags need an elevator, smartphone Uber.

    Fast MAX ride into Portland when you land. But really would like to see BN’s plans, which no way include AMTRAK at all, for the Point Barrow-Tierra del Fuego run. Don’t think Wenatchee has a slide problem. And I cannot think of anything on wheels that will need a human driver less. Though I have been told that in Spain, every Talgo bistro car has a barista.

    However been warned not to ask for a pineapple coconut mocha at exactly 212 degrees and please don’t forget the whipped cream.

    Mark

  3. And get with it together, Mark. Only reason it won’t go Maglev is if present Temp help at 1600 Pennsylvania decides it’s National Security that coal companies get the steel industry to make wheels to cover its loss from those sad unfair traitors in Texas who’ve let George Soros talk them into going with wind and solar.

    But can relax about one thing. Every single one of my polls tells me that there is no way that Jay Inslee will ever be President. OK. NPR off, back to AustroHungarian YouTube. Uniform rules said dress saber mandatory for drivers and conductors. But duelling on company property limited to fare disputes.

    Mark

  4. ‘Nother favorite concentration I want to take into the New Year. Replace subareas with CORRIDORS. Because obviously, everybody on any given main line has one enormous interest in common. Just seems to be so much more dynamic than stodgy old rectangular property.

    Of course it won’t eliminate conflict. SW/Ballard/UW will make life Hell on (steel) wheels for all the other fierce brave ribbons and dots. But after all, isn’t ridership just another word for audience? The viewers I mean passengers want to see their side fight to stay on the Island.

    Fact that Mercer is fighting equally hard to keep the whole rest of the region off only adds to the excitement. Greatest thing is going to be all the gleefully treacherous alliances and betrayals that change by the service delay.

    And given our country’s current Electoral history, nobody can deny an irreversible new corridor to the Red White Blue and Golden Globe! We’re not gonna let Jay Inslee get away with locking Transit out of the Great Global Cooler, are we? Come on, you sneaky SWBAUW’s, we know you’re on his side!

    But here again, transit’s patriotic glory days give point us down the right tunneled, elevated, or inadvisably-surface track.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1caGN5No89w

    Which corridor’s leading lady or gentleman is going to be (Safest prefix probably just “Passenger”) Proof of Payment for 2019?

    Happiest Thing About the whole thing is that in five hours the whole “8” part will cease to be New Business.

    Mark

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