36 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Solar Powered Train”

  1. Obviously Inslee isn’t going to order DOL to comply with what voters approved and use the “effective 1/1/96” car value schedule prior to the vote on I-976. Nobody wants to inflame the Eymanites.

    However . . . DOL’s failure to comply with the law has cost the agency millions. The main question is: will there be the political will after November to do the right thing, and surcharge the vehicle owners who underpaid due to DOL’s ineptitude?

    I’ve read that people even blame Sound Transit’s lawyers for making a mistake (providing a draft of suggested changes to the statute to the legislature in 2015 that mistakenly changed the table to the 1996 one). That is completely unfair. The legislature — both chambers and both parties — knew exactly what they were doing: they wanted the agency to get enough revenues going forward to build out a world class mass transit system with ST3.

    1. The Times notes that while Macy’s occupies three floors of the downtown building, Amazon has offices in the top six.

      In the picture for the article I only see six floors above street level? No surprise Macy’s is closing this store with so many other stores (with better parking) surrounding DT. Nordstom is following the same strategy in consolidating locations. Some locations are doing well in the battle with online competition; others, not so much.

      1. Huh? There are clearly 6 floors above the ground level from the street. The street level makes 7. The recessed top floor doesn’t extend to the edge of the building and that makes 8. The basement makes 9.

        Anyone familiar with the building knows that there are obviously 9 floors.

      2. Yeah, Al is right. This is a great location. It was probably way better than most of their retail stores. It is just that they can make a ton of money from selling it. Likely there will be some ground floor retail, while everything above there is office buildings. It wouldn’t surprise me if the whole thing is sold to Amazon.

        Retail of this sort is just not doing well. In some areas it has completely died out. In others (like this) it is doing fine, but can’t compete with office demand. Retailers are focusing on the places in between, while still retaining smaller shops in urban environments (small-format stores like the ones that Target has opened up in lots of areas).

      3. It would actually be a pretty amazing location for an Amazon flagship showroom of whatever products that they would choose to stock.

      4. If it’s a “great” location for a department store then Macy’s is following the same death spiral that ended in the demise of Sears. That is, sell off all the profitable locations to generate cash flow. Pretty soon you have no great locations left and no cash flow.

        It’s true that the reason for the sale is to generate cash. Turns out six of the 9 floors had already been sold. It probably makes more sense in today’s market to lease rather than own retail space. And like Nordstom the chain has to be careful of over saturating any one market region. OTOH, it makes a lot of sense for Amazon to park some of it’s excess cash in real estate. And yes, this would, if the City does something about the crime, make an excellent brick and mortar location for Amazon.

      5. I was thinking the same. Amazon should take the opportunity to open a flagship storefront selling a wider variety of things than just its bookstore, grocery store, and smart speakers. It could also be a place for ancillary services like tailoring, showrooming, returns and customer service. Nordstrom is getting into tailoring/showrooming storefronts. BECU has opened a lot of “neighborhood service centers” that are basically customer service without the tellers — a reimagined bank branch. Amazon’s bookstores and Whole Foods show it knows its future can’t be 100% virtual, so why not a flagship store in the most prestigious art deco department-store building in its hometown, right at the primary transit-transfer point.

        At the same time I shudder to think of the cashless store selling Internet of Things stuff it might become. Still, it would be better than if the rest of the building became offices relevant only to the sector that works there.

        That Macy’s store itself has gone downhill the past several years. I haven’t shopped much in department stores for decades, but I did go there for things like Russell Athletic hoodies which a friend pointed out don’t have a brand name or logo on the front (just on a small tag). I did buy several things there this summer, and I noticed the escalators are run-down, the bathrooms have a number-lock like a fast-food restaurant, the merchendise is not that great, only three of the eight or nine elevators are running and the blank floor-labels are obvious, and the selection is smaller than at other Macys’. Plus the general department-store annoyance of having to walk around a large perfume department to get to anything else. All that made me want to stop going to that store. I’m now looking for a certain tea press, and only Seattle Coffee Works (in Bellevue) and Macy’s have it according to their websites. It’s not in stock at SCW, and I was debating whether to buy it at Macy’s given my annoyance with it. Maybe I’ll buy it there as a goodwill gesture given the closing announcement, even though I don’t want my money to go straight to out-of-state investors.

        So I won’t shed many tears for Macy’s, although I will for the Bon Marche. I just hope the remaining floors or at least the ground floor remain some kind of widely-appealing retail.

    2. If you bought $100 of Macy’s stock 5 years ago, you’d now have $25. If you bought $100 of Amazon stock 5 years ago, you’d now have $550.

      1. You’d only “have” $500 if you sold the stock today. If you held onto it, it might go higher.

        –Mike, Sam Fact-Checker

    3. The 2016 application to the Dept of the Interior for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places describes the building as follows:

      “The eight-story Bon Marche Department Store features a rectangular plan with chamfered corners and measures 250 x 360
      feet. The chamfered corners both opened the visual space at the street intersections and provided an excellent location for signage. The 1929 portion of the building reflects the Art Deco style, utilizing predominately geometric and naturalistic motifs. The 1955 addition complements the 1929 building, but is characterized by restrained ornamentation, in keeping with the clean lines of Modernism.”

      The Bon Marche Building is on John Graham’s long list of local architectural projects. Here’s the summary from the aforementioned registration application (but the entire 89-page document is full of nice tidbits of info that even this late 1980s Seattle transplant wasn’t aware of, and, in my humble opinion, worth a look):

      “Summary Paragraph

      “Designed by noted Seattle architect John Graham, Sr., construction of the four-story Bon Marche Department Store (known today as the Macy’s Building) commenced in February 1928 within the heart of Seattle’s downtown retail district. After
      eighteen months of construction, the department store opened for business in August 1929. When the Bon Marche needed to expand their downtown store, they approached John Graham & Company, an architecture firm led by John Graham, Jr., the son of the original architect. Construction began on the four-story addition in April 1954 and was completed in October 1955. The restrained Art Deco of the original 1929 building and the more modern style of the 1955 addition were appropriate for the two periods of construction and the Modern addition is compatible with the original design, resulting in a handsome downtown building.

      “Alterations to the building’s exterior since the 1955 addition have been minimal and interior renovations have retained key character-defining features, showcasing the building’s design, workmanship, and materials. The building continues to operate
      as a department store in the city’s shopping district, retaining integrity of location, setting, feeling, and association.”

    1. My theory is that Lyft and Uber and undercutting Car2go, at least for the market of trips under one hour. Even all day trips, Lyft and Uber are often cheaper if you’re just visiting the suburbs, rather than going all the way out of town.

      If regulations change, for example, if Uber and Lyft are forced to start treating their drivers as employees, pay them a guaranteed minimum wage, and collect sales taxes on their rides (like Car2Go does), expect many of the Uber and Lyft trips to shift back to Car2Go again.

      1. And they’ll need to figure out how to stop burning billions of dollars every year. The business model is not sustainable.

      2. The business model is not sustainable.

        The “business model” was for the initial investors to hype this and then cash out when the company issued an IPO. Job done. Lots of people bought in to the ponze scheme. Making this profitable, tuff row to hoe. And don’t expect Uber to keep dumping money into the autonomous car shtick.

      3. Yeah, I read the article, and it’s depressing. I can say that when the Lime-E rates went up from $0.10/min. to $0.15/min. I cut back on my rides significantly, and when they went up again to $0.25/min., I eliminated by usage of the service almost entirely. It’s now gotten to the point where, for many trips, a Lime car actually costs less than a Lime bike. (The car costs more per minute, but it moves faster, so that the same trip requires fewer minutes).

        According to the article, the break-even point for a shared scooter ride is $2.55/mile, which puts the scooter ride on par in cost with riding a taxi. If this figure is accurate, this means that the overhead of operating a shared fleet is so high that it brings the cost to rent a $400 vehicle that you operate yourself on par with the cost to hire a paid driver, operating a $20,000 vehicle.

        With Uber and Lyft, we’ll have to see what happens. I am already noticing the rates up 30-40% since the companies launched their IPO. They also increased the “wait time” for a pool ride from 2 minutes to 5 minutes, in hopes of reducing the number of unmatched trips.

        Ideally, transit would be good enough that you just don’t need Uber and Lyft, but in many corrdiors, we’re still not there yet. We’ve made big strides in Seattle itself, thanks to the city-wide TBD. But, the service in the rest of the county has barely improved at all the past 10 years. What new budget has become available has mostly been sunk into operating the same rush hour schedules with more buses and more schedule padding, to try to compensate for worsening traffic.

        I’ve heard musings about a county-wide TBD, and I have mixed opinions. On the one hand, it could make a big difference in the quality of transit service in places like Kent, Renton, or Bellevue. On the other hand, the electorate county-wide is much less pro-transit than the electorate in Seattle itself, and I’m concerned that tying the renewal of the Seattle TBD to a county-wide ballot measure may simply mean that the county-wide ballot measure fails, forcing Seattle to make big service cuts, as all of the Seattle TBD service improvements get rolled back. Like it or not, I think Seattle has to look out for its own interests first. To have Seattle transit service rolled back to 2014 levels in 2021 would be a disaster for citywide mobility.

      4. When bikeshare bikes were $1/hour I could consider riding one. When they’re $6/hour I won’t. That makes a single trip from the U-District to downtown for $3, or from the U-District to Magnuson Park for the same, or a tour from the U-District to Golden Gardens, the waterfront, and back for $12. I can get a used bike for a couple hundred dollars and it would be paid off in a handful of trips. Yes, you can use them for short 3-5 minute trips but I wouldn’t; I can walk or take a bus for those.

      5. The county has been planning a transit levy and a highway levy, and is trying to avoid Seattle running its own levy that would compete with it. The transit levy is to fund Metro Connects, which needs money for those RapidRide lines. Seattle’s Prop 1 came about because the county voted down the last two Metro measures, so it’s an uphill battle for a third one unless county residents are more desperate for transit (which is possible). Transit measures fail consistently in South King County because they think they’re too poor to afford them. Never mind that the lack of transit makes people more dependent on more-expensive cars. They believe the improved transit still won’t be enough to get them to work or to their errands, and for those who live and work in odd places it’s true.

      6. Re article, where does somebody work in San Francisco a mile from a BART station that has no transit better than walking or biking? I mean, they could work near the Caltrain depot or Chinatown, but there are frequent Muni trains and buses and cable cars that go there.

      7. If there’s still a car2go to shift back to after Uber prices go up and change behavior. They will now only be in about 5 North American cities.

        I am however curious how car2go does now in Seattle after going from 3 competing one-way carsharing operators down to 1.

        I was in Sacramento earlier this month and they still have cheap e-bikes and scooters and everyone was on them. Don’t know if that’s because they are an introductory trial there or because the city isn’t trying to tax and regulate them out of existence, but regardless that is a very auto-centric place.

      8. Driving for Uber really doesn’t make much economic sense. I’m still wondering how drivers believe they are making money. Most can’t be making much of an economic profit once car depreciation is considered. Yet somehow the drivers think this is worth it?

        Many other jobs are much easier and better paying. Certainly true in Seattle given the rates Uber/Lyft are offering to drivers.

      9. Why do people work at fast-food chains for decades? Often because they can’t get a higher-paying job. Also, the benefit of driving for Uber is cash now, while the cost in terms of car wear is years in the future. And people don’t always have an understanding of how much of the wear can be attributed to using it for work as opposed to expenses that would have happened anyway. Just like they think of a choice car trip as the cost of gas, and future repairs as a fixed cost of owning a car.

  2. I can’t confirm it, but I was told that Calgary’s entire light rail system is powered by emissions free wind power.

    No small trick since the system serves over 300,000 boardings per day and 45% of downtown workers use the system. All at zero emissions.

    1. Sounds plausible. They have about 37 miles of track. The trains aren’t extremely frequent (frequency is about ten minutes in the middle of the day). There is a fair amount of wind power in Alberta (it is very windy). The agency could have a special deal with one of the wind power producers.

      Of course that could all be for show. At best it helped the wind power producer survive in a competitive environment. That in turn could lead to more wind power. At worst it just shifted power from one part of the grid to another. Most of Alberta’s power comes from fossil fuels (which makes sense, given its location) and this didn’t alter things much.

      1. No. Calgary is moving 300,000 people per day and 45% of their DT workforce without burning any fossil fuels. And that does not mean that other parts of the grid are automatically burning more. That is simply not true. People only pay for power when they need it.

        I get it. You love Metro. That is fine. I love old steam engines. But that doesn’t mean I think all of society would be best served by steam engines, because clearly technology has moved beyond the age of steam. And that is the right thing.

        And when is Metro going to go to 100% zero emissions? What is their plan to catch up with Calgary and their Light Rail system? I’d like to hear it.

      2. Good God, man, what is your problem? As I said from the opening paragraph, I think it is quite possible that “Calgary is moving 300,000 people per day and 45% of their DT workforce without burning any fossil fuels.”

        Who gives a fuck. No one is disputing that, despite your lack of evidence. What we do know — for a fact — are that:

        Together, coal and natural gas are responsible for 87 percent of the energy generation in the Alberta electricity market. As an illustration, electricity in cities such as Edmonton and Calgary is mainly generated by natural gas.

        So what if the train runs on wind? It could run on my farts and it wouldn’t matter. It hasn’t changed the fact that Calgary (and Edmonton) and the rest of that area are as much responsible for the impending demise of the planet as any community on earth (or do the words “Tar Sands” not ring a bell).

        None of this is the least bit critical of Calgary’s fine light rail system. It works. But you are really delusional if you think that this tiny bit of electric mass transit — which doesn’t even manage to get half of the commuter share of trips to downtown, let alone a majority of trips in the city — somehow makes up for all of that.

        By the way, our light rail system also runs on electricity (imagine that). So does just about every subway. A good portion of our buses also run on electricity as well. Just about as many people ride Link as ride our electric buses. Should we throw a party for them, because 80% of that power is clean?

        Of course not. Like all energy, it is fungible. They could gobble up 100% of the wind farm energy, and it wouldn’t matter. They could use up the dirty 20% and it wouldn’t matter. Either way, the power goes into the grid, and is used.

        You really should stop being an asshole, and assuming that I’m somehow attacking trains at every turn. I wasn’t. I was attacking the idea that it mattered where CTrain gets its power. Unlike the folks in the video, they don’t generate it themselves. They buy it, and if they didn’t buy it, others in the area would use it. That is the difference. The train actually generates the power. There are solar cells on the top. If the train didn’t exist, there would be no power. If CTrain didn’t exist, then energy from Halkirk, or Wainwright, or wherever fuck you think this wind energy is coming from would still be fed into the grid, and easily consumed by the province.

  3. https://newenergyeconomy.ca/our-stories-1/2018/4/17/calgarys-wind-powered-lrt

    Bad way to start my day. Great posting about very appealing transit development overseas, using best of transit’s past, present and future.

    Contrasted with comment announcing that Downtown Seattle is losing a major department store. A block from departure of a tenured drug store. A very short distance from where somebody got shot and killed on a Link station platform what, two weeks ago?

    At the the peak of the richest economic boom in the city’s history. The way I feel about Sinclair Broadcast makes the whole thing worse. Like starting Sunday morning watching somebody feeding a pet hyena.

    Given this blog’s strong transit connection, let’s concentrate on Westlake Station’s purview. In what could be Link’s most critical service area, what can anybody that cares about that transit system do to feel safe getting off the train I usually take in from my 574 transfer at Sea-Tac?

    Not my fault I don’t vote in Seattle or King County. Six years ago developer John Goodman turned down my best offer. So what do I tell my state delegation? And Federal? Jay Inslee’s work schedule’s developed some space too, hasn’t it?

    What I’d like to start this afternoon’s reading list with is something like a Waterfront replacement of the George Benson streetcars with conversion of Metro’s historic trolleybus fleet to combination solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. Jay Inslee, this one’s in your very clear court now.

    If nothing else, I think it’d be a lot harder to blame Seattle’s complete degradation as a place to live on a newly-solar-powered Pullman trolleybus than on a Ballard-to-West Seattle Link expansion.

    And to turn this noon’s fit of temper in a positive direction- could I please see some first-hand information on what’s needed to make Westlake Station a safe place to get off a train? From somebody whose work duties make conditions at that station seriously a matter of life and death.

    Much appreciated.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I’m not sure much can be done to make people “feel” safer at and/or around Westlake Station. Things can be done to make people actually safer. Westlake is perfectly safe as is, however. One shooting in how many years? With how many people moving through there on a daily basis? You’re probably more likely to be bitten by a shark and struck by lightning than be shot at Westlake.

      People who feel unsafe at Westlake now will always feel unsafe at Westlake. Because it isn’t about Westlake. It’s about them. People’s minds are not Metro’s or ST’s purview.

      1. Reason I’ve addressed all today’s requests for action to people actually working for transit. Having personally been there and done that….their feelings, I’ll take as solid grounds for action.

        Mark Dublin

  4. During my August vacation, I stayed up-to-date on Seattle news by faithfully reading STB. While I was gone, STB informed me that SDOT was re-channelizing Rainier Ave. S. between Graham St. and Henderson St. to reduce crashes and improve safety. Apparently, car drivers aren’t understanding the part about reducing crashes. Recently, there have been 2 major crashes just south of Othello St., one of which closed all lanes for several hours and another that wasn’t as severe, but it did cause massive back-ups in the southbound lanes. Eventually, there may be fewer crashes on the southern part of Rainier Avenue, but this latest lane striping, safety project hasn’t gotten off to a good start.

  5. This is where some input by actual transit personnel, drivers, supervisors, and Safety, could help me out a lot. Frequency is bad enough, but traffic held up for several hours? On one single city arterial? If I were a would-be terrorist, I’d definitely take credit.

    So might somebody who knows how to draft, and read, an accident report please give me some facts and perspective? In addition to being appalled, this one really has got my hundred percent curiosity. And please also leave off the “Die Infidel Dog.”

    The heat got him when nobody let him out of the car in the hundred degree heart.

    Mark Dublin

  6. I just survived a Lima BRT. Wow, what a trip being the last one trying to board. With one friend pulling me in and the other trying to hold the door open, it became a harrowing experience. Those damn doors are powerful and don’t let go once they have you in their clutch. The bus driver finally realized something was amuck and opened the door. Moral of the story is use Uber. Those things run way more full than they should, and not a lot of time or space to maneuver when entering or exiting.

    I also saw a lot of Lima bikes and a lot of Lime bikes. Which came first, good question.

  7. Ohio or Peru? Important to me, because of danger I see that right now our own country honestly doesn’t seen to be working very hard to maintain the difference. Transit or politics.

    Glad none of you got seriously injured. Have read that in Mumbai, the regional rail system maintains its own morgue- pray to Heaven we’re not approaching the day when King County’s Medical Examiner’s office is in same agency as….will let that one go right now.

    Except to note that our two countries’ difference or similarity is, day to day and minute to minute, in the hands, hearts, and minds of the citizens of ours. Since I’m speaking so directly today to our own operating personnel: how are we doing on the question of crush loads and vehicle doors?

    Also curious about labor-management matters on the two comparative sets of systems. Lady ride-share passengers are starting to register some claims of mistreatment at the hands of ride-share drivers I hope I never hear from any US transit system.

    Also curious where the transitworkers’ union is stronger. Just a thought.


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