12 Replies to “Podcast #74: Impossible Means Hard”

  1. I really appreciated the discussion of tunnel vs. bridges in this podcast as I have been agonizing over that question. I have been attempting to write my feedback the West Seattle/Ballard extension feedback survey and I am stuck on the following:

    * Ballard ship canal crossing: I strongly believe 15th Ave NW is a better choice than 14th Ave NW because it will allow downtown Ballard access. So should I commit to a tunnel in order to not cloud the water by also asking for a high bridge?

    * West Seattle: If an elevated line is built, I’m worried about:
    – The amount of property destruction in the yellow alternative (it is really a lot – see page 7 in the visualizations)
    – The volume of the above-track streets (even though I love to look at trains, I do think the elevation of the track in West Seattle is very voluminous and will make the streets dark.)
    – The 140 ft elevation of the tracks as they pass the golf course – is it really an earthquake safe design?
    – West Seattle is big enough to become another Bellevue in 50 years, is a tunnel the right long term decision?
    – From what I’ve seen from abstracts – very minimally reading, tunnels start to become cheaper than bridges once bridges are 60 years old. Are tunnels better 100-200 year investments than elevated track?
    – Rising property costs may causing the line to become more expensive

    I get that these options require additional money.
    I also know that survey feedback will be rolled up into bullet points. The points we make should be very finely targeted.

    1. I think it should be elevated following Fauntleroy/Alaska and extendable down the hill to Alki, which in addition to having at least as much density as points south in West Seattle, is a very popular regional destination with significant parking issues.

      Not at all worried about capacity of tunnel vs. elevated as Chicago pioneered *the* El train and is much more dense than the Alaska junction will ever be. If anything, elevated makes platform access be that easier and can *increase* the street-to-platform flow capacity compared with a deep tunnel.

    2. Property destruction is the one real issue I see there, and that is about whether homes will be condemned in order to keep arterials open during construction. I think the community will side with giving up the arterial ROW for construction staging.

      ST maintains its infrastructure better than DC, which has had to close down its subway, even with its tunnels.

      If one is truly concerned about shadows, then that is a net argument strongly against tunneling. Should we really make riders wait in underground darkness, in perpetuity? Above-ground pedestrians under the light rail viaducts will spend more time praising the protection from the constant drizzle than cursing having to cross the street to tan themselves.

      At any rate, any time an elected official opens their mouth and expresses concern about shadows, they demonstrate that they have spent zero time reading the posts from pro-transit blogs.

  2. 21:20. Bingo, it’s ADA. You can’t have a permanent platform without ADA access. ST staff said in the boardroom the temp platform will only work next year because it will be staffed at all times, and only available when trains are there simultaneously. No one will be waiting on the center platform.

    1. Right – the temp platform will be 1. Staffed constantly, and 2. Only accessible when BOTH trains are present with their doors open. Very different than a platform people can wait on when transferring

  3. A few comments on the HSR construction:

    – California probably made some major mistakes. 1. Electrification should have been a major foundation project, as that would have enabled GHG benefits for all trains. 2. Building should have probably focused on the hardest and slowest segments first — Bakersfield, Antelope Valley and LA — followed by San Jose to Merced.

    – The Florida HSR is potentially more viable rather than less viable. Many Orlando resort destinations are self-contained mini-cities so that tourists don’t want rental cars. Both South Florida and Central Florida (Tampa to Orlando to Daytona) regions have about 7M people each — comparable to Houston and Dallas. They are also about 200-300 miles apart, which is almost a perfect HSR market distance. It’s also very flat (no expensive tunneling needed) and very tedious to drive. Finally, rental cars are so ubiquitous and cheap in Florida (comparable to one or two days of parking at an airport) that renting one even at both ends would not seem that silly and one-person HSR tickets would not be orders of magnitude costlier than rental car gas.

    1. The thing with Florida is it isn’t high speed rail, exactly. It’s the same Siemens locomotives the Cascades trains have, only with conventional passengers cars rather than Talgo equipment.

      An entire Cascades Talgo train weighs less than the locomotive and cab car at each end. This gives you some idea of what the difference is between something designed for high speed and conventional USA trains.

      Brightline / Virgin Trains America might be pretty successful due to their level of investment but the resulting service will be no faster than what could have been done with Cascades trains.

    2. One thing about Florida, the train is presumed to terminate at Orlando Airport, not downtown. So though transit is terrible in both Orlando and Miami, there’s good airport access at both ends, so tourists would be marginally more likely to ride it than you’d otherwise think.

    3. Agree that it would’ve made more sense for Cal HSR to start with a feeder segment into either LA or SF/SJ. In addition of the cost complexity of starting in the urban area, I wonder if Cal north/south rivalry was also part of the reason for starting in the middle. – political version of King Solomon’s Judgement.

      1. It may have been a factor. Three other factors that I could see would be a mentality that they could get the most miles out of building the easy part first (a political success story), that they would build Central Valley support by having a local project, and that projects near major metro areas could be perceived as commuter projects — and those are more expected to get local or regional funding.

  4. Can we not time the trains to pull up alongside a center platform at ID/CS Station, and then have a couple staffers there, in perpetuity, to make sure nobody with an ADA issue hangs out on the platform? I bet even letting riders with ADA issues linger there, and telling them to board a pass through the next train, still isn’t a real ADA issue.

    And spend a little more so trains can fly over the tracks to head directly to the base instead of stalling out in the middle of ID/CS, where the space is really needed for a center platform?

    I suppose if the eastside subarea isn’t willing to help fund the flyover tracks and center platform, it is their riders who will suffer in perpetuity.

    1. I’m actually a bit surprised that — given the dearth of popular new Eastside projects — there was not an attempt to budget money in ST3 to built better connectivity for the IDS access. New escalators and elevators could probably only cost $20M at most, and the ID Station platforms are wider than at other DSTT stations so there appears to be enough width o drop in new sets of stairs, and convert the existing sets of stairs to escalators.

      Curiously, there is an open call for station access funds by ST right now!

      https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/creating-vibrant-stations/connecting-to-stations/system-access-fund

      Perhaps the STB should be talking about this to get communities to apply for funding. The applications are due by March 11! I’m sure that posters could put together a long list of ideas, starting with funding escalators, as well as walkways over and under busy streets! It’s actually rather disappointing that ST is asking for project sponsors rather than taking the initiative to identify needs on their own first.

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