36 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Baltimore’s Metro”

  1. I did! I learned about it on urbanrail.net I highly recommend the sight! It’s too bad it’s so small. To the very present, the state has been unsupportive and has even deliberately stood in the way of expansion in favor of expanding…roads. Big surprise, eh?

    1. It looks very BART-like, although the silver trains look like the NYC subway, but with forward-facing seating. Why is ridership so low?

      Baltimore’s stadium looks like the Kingdome.

    2. Doing a little reading about this line makes it look like an albatross. It only has 18K daily riders!

      I understand Baltimore’s system envy of nearby Philadelphia and DC. Still, I wonder if choosing light rail for this would have enabled a longer system and some interlining with Baltimore’s other light rail lines would have been better.

      Side note: Maryland has a statewide transit department like New Jersey and Rhode Island. I’m not sure if that makes things better or worse for transit.

  2. What’s the status of the Pt Defiance Bypass? Last word from WSDOT:

    Point Defiance Bypass
    There is no set date to return to the bypass. We’ll post updates as they become available.

    It sounds like nothing is going to happen until the existing Talgo train sets are replaced. That doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. From what I can tell PTC is fully implemented. Are they still testing this portion? If there’s an issue with the Talgo why wouldn’t they just limit the speed?

    1. They are one trainset short from being able to operate the increased schedule originally planned for the bypass. That isn’t a very good reason, since they could just run the normal schedule on the bypass.

      The communication on this has been piss-poor. It’s almost like WSDOT doesn’t know what they are doing.

      1. Thanks for the response. There really doesn’t seem to be any reason they haven’t returned to the by-pass. Could be they want to let the memory of the disaster fade a little farther into the past. Another reason could be the agencies/departments involved in doing the required paperwork just don’t have the available staffing to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s. That would also explain the lack of information.

        Unknown are the financial implications. Is there a discount for not using that section of BNSF track? Seems like there should be but wouldn’t be surprised if not. Is there an increased cost topay ST to use the section of track they now own? Someone has to pay the cost to maintain this section of track.

        I’m considering taking the train at least as far south as Olympia just to experience the view on the old route. It would be nice to have an idea of how long I have before that opportunity is gone.

      2. They need to come up with something else to do between Portland and Eugene anyway. The Talgo increased speeds around corners isn’t allowed on the Union Pacific anyway. A couple of Bombardier commuter cars rebuilt with a bistro area could easily meet the need there.

  3. The subway was built through what was then the retail district, cut and cover, and pretty much destroyed the retail district it was built through.

  4. When I read my ballot, I was surprised at how misleading the text for I-976 is. I had to read it several times to understand why Sound Transit and Transit Benefit District funding would be gutted. Quoting here:

    > Initiative Measure No. 976 concerns motor vehicle taxes and fees.
    > This measure would repeal, reduce, or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees; limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges; and base vehicle taxes on Kelley Blue Book value.

    The focus really seems to be the $30 fees, unless voter approved. Both Sound Transit 3, and at least all decisions about the Seattle TBD through 2014, were voter approved. The devil is really in the details and the part that’s too easy to gloss over: that the measure would “remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees”. Why the fact that “voter approved funding for Transit Benefit District will be eliminated” doesn’t appear in the summary is a mystery to me.

    1. The focus is on the tax amount, not on what it goes to. That’s how the proponents see it: the revenue just goes to unnecessary bureaucracy. The effect on Sound Transit and transit benefit districts is in the first paragaph: “repeal, reduce, or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees”. That apparently overrides the part about “except voter-approved changes”.

      It’s ironic that the two taxes that are most concerning to Seattle transit fans were voter approved. Eyman would probably say that’s collateral damage. And he would probably say voters don’t have a right to approve taxes for multi-billion dollar rail packages, especially not from car tabs, because that taxes a necessity to pay for something only war-on-cars elites want.

      1. What really bums me out is that most people will read it and see “tabs are $30 except in cases voters approve something higher”. I wouldn’t fault someone for voting for that, even though I wouldn’t.

        But in reality, it’s “tabs are resetting back to $30, even where voters already approved them being higher. And if you want to vote them back up later, there’s tons of restrictions and you’ll never get them anywhere close to where they are today.”

        At the end of the day, it removes choices from the voter, but it’s worded under the guise of letting voters decide.

      2. As I understand it, we couldn’t reauthorize ST or TBD MVETs even with a revote because transit would be categorically ineligible for MVET. Eyman said in an interview that sales tax would still be available for TBDs. Yes, all this is under “certain vehicle taxes and fees”. That’s typical initiative-speak for summarizing minor details. I’m not sure who wrote the summary, the proponents or the secretary of state. If it was the proponents, they have an interest in misleading people about the impacts. If it was the secretary of state, it’s a little odd that these would be considered minor details. But maybe that’s because the main point of the initiative is the tax rate, not what would be cut.

    2. I don’t like the way ST played the game and think the courts agree. What I like even less is Tim Eyman and his profiting by manipulating the initiative process. That makes it an easy decision for me; Eyman sponsored initiative == NO. Don’t know how it’ll come out (polling seems to be non-existent) but I’m not the only person who feels this way:

      Eyman’s last stand? Latest car-tab initiative is shaping up to be a referendum on Tim

      Car tabs, $300. Getting rid of Tim Eyman, priceless ;-)

    3. I don’t really see an issue with the initiative’s summary as written. Now, the initiative itself is a whole other matter. Frankly it’s an utter mess and, imo, it will not survive judicial review on the single-subject requirement.

      On the matter of whether an initiative can repeal the underlying tax authority previously granted by the state and subsequently approved by local voters, there is already precedence for this. In this regard, the courts have been quite clear that legislation created by initiative are on an equal footing with measures drafted and approved by the legislature.

      A fellow commenter posed a similar question as yours regarding I-976 in a weekly news roundup post a couple of weeks ago and the following was my reply then. I hope you find it helpful.

      https://seattletransitblog.com/2019/10/17/news-roundup-football-brings-better-transit/#comment-833489

  5. Am I wrong that with Tim Eyman’s first try, the State Supreme Court ruled his language unconstitutional for having too many subjects? Whereupon the Governor and the Legislature passed I-695 (have I got that right?) into law themselves.

    My own quick count this time tells me same thing could happen this year. I think business Tim is really in is professionally intimidating legislators. What’s everybody else think?

    But my real subject here while I’m on the subject of too many subjects, is that I made a special point of attending public comment at Sound Transit’s board meeting this last Thursday and telling them that the way they feel when Alex Tsimerman calls them each a nazi, I’ve got same sentiments about being called a thief.

    Luckily, rest of the commenters stayed on Link’s choices of approach for West Seattle and Ballard. My own record with “tapped-out justice” is so scanty – two warnings in ten years- that even if I could afford a $124 test case, I can’t afford the travel time to get anywhere near Link.

    Would take another whole posting to describe my ST history last Thursday post-meeting: Left King Street Station on Sounder at 3:17 or so. Suicide south of Puyallup turned my train back north to King Street. No Fear: espresso at Station Cafe on Beacon Hill, Link to Sea-Tac, perfect connection to 574, beautiful brand new bus- which got me within ten minutes of my car at Tacoma Dome before a forty minute wait near Fife re: collision. Where’s State Supreme Court when I need to get home?

    Because I really do care so much about ST’s good name, and honestly believe chicken-droppings are needed for fertilizer, and because I remember Sound Transit’s campaign pledge about a seamless fare system, I want the “tap crap” gone. But since nobody’s keeping records on how many fines are simply about “legal possession but bad tap”, impossible to make the case politically, let alone per the law.

    So am going to ask as many people as possible to “Open Thread” their own instances of being actually fined for “Wrongfully Tapped Lawful Possession.” Oran, you’ve got my permission to make this comment [OT] if the [GN] (Good Name) of STB requires.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Yes, the courts threw out I-695 but then the legislature imposed its terms anyway. They did it because anti-tax fever was in its initial ascent and they were afraid they wouldn’t get reelected if they weren’t tough on taxes. This was also the period of initiatives 600 and 601 which limited state and city budgets to a 1% increase per year plus an amount for population increase. 1% is below inflation, but that was intended to put the governments on a diet that would gradually get tighter and tighter. There were also moves to get the legislature to require a 2/3 vote for any tax increases, although that never succeeded. Eyman’s initiatives won most of the time at the beginning but in the 2000s they had mixed results. This one probably has an unusually good chance of winning because (1) it’s about car tabs and (2) the summary avoids mentioning the transit effects. I wonder if it could be overturned on having an incomplete summary that left out vital facts.

      I watched the ST board meeting and I was kind of glad Mr Tsimerman was first to get it out of the way. I also tried again to figure out his message. He never says what he wants the ST board to do. After his first warning you’d think he’d insert a one-sentence statement to make sure they’d hear it but he never does. It’s like what he wants the board to do is tolerate him calling them names. That reminds me of some of the protests like WTO. The daytime protesters are union people who made policy demands. The evening protesters just want to provoke the police into reacting so they can claim police brutality. But the incidents wouldn’t have happened if the protesters hadn’t provoked them. That seems to be Tsimerman’s strategy.

      I heard your comment about not wanting to be called a thief when you have a pass. That’s what the board needs to hear directly.

    2. Even if I-976 is ultimately thrown out in court, what happens to our bus service while the lawyers are busy fighting over it?

      Agree, the ballot language is very deceptive, and when I read it, I was incensed. He’s going to get a lot of yes votes from people who just skim their ballot and don’t bother to read arguments for and against in the voters guide. Some of these ballot skimmers may, in fact, be supporters of transit, who would never vote yes, if they understood what they are voting for.

      I am surprised this wording has not already been challenged in court. It is also worth mentioning that, despite Washington being known nationally as a blue state, its secretary of state is a Republican. She was elected back at a time when most people, include myself, didn’t think the party of the secretary of state made any difference. If she has any control over the ballot language on initiatives, that election could be coming back to bite.

      1. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Legislature decided to implement the spirit and put WSDOT’s road financing on a diet, while leaving ST3 alone, because voter-approved? The STBD is also voter-approved, but expires after next year.

        Maybe the Lege will exempt transit, because they can’t get the votes for any bill that doesn’t exempt transit, so transit agencies get saved. This requires solidarity among the agencies, but that coalitional body already exists.

        The road diet part won’t happen, but maybe calling for the public vote on the package will get the Lege to finally have that referendum, and the Sunrise Movement and allies will run a successful campaign to vote it down.

  6. Thanks, Mike. You also noticed my opening sentence, which was to thank the Board for finally making at least a little effort to limit the amount of abuse to which they are subjected by a certain individual every single meeting.

    Reason I made it a point to speak up on that score is that I’ve had people whom I respect tell me that on account of one particular individual, they’re not going to come to Public Comment anymore.

    Individual we’re both discussing has for a long while signed up first at every meeting, delivering the same message verbatim, content-free abuse and all. To me, this is a serious limit on literally dozens of people’s freedom to speak to their public officials.

    “Edit” I’d give my own delivery would’ve been to dispense with trying to lighten things up with some personal ethnic history -true, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had some wonderful tramways- and substituted, in addition to resentment over a slur on my personal honor, the real unforgivable about this policy:

    From all I can see, nobody is forcing the Sound Transit Board to apportion fare revenues to the penny among its component agencies. And least of all by enlisting the criminal justice system to punish me for a mistake with a card-reader that is impossible to avoid when being pushed past the reader in a rush-hour crowd.

    Hate to get this close to advocating privatization, and don’t know Veolia’s handling of this matter. But using another well-known private handler as an example, it’s very hard to imagine Macy’s sending me to District Court to be fined for paying for a pair of shoes at the wrong register. Or in the wrong store.

    Probably good I didn’t have time to give my statement its best-deserved summary: In just a few days, the whole voter roll of our State could very well be of a mood to put Sound Transit out of its existence out of spite for precisely this treatment. “Death Before Dishonor” isn’t just in French.

    Accurate analogy would be the Sound Transit Board levying punitive policy like a poor opioid addict watching their last bottle of fentanyl roll away down the platform. “Oh No! We can’t help it! We’re Government! The Policy Is Not Going To Change!”

    Would’ve also liked to advocate in favor of an imaginary public relations character who’s already got a relative working aboard Link. Everybody’s got a place in our hearts for the little Seat-hog whose only fault is putting his luggage on a seat.

    So let’s give him a furry relative named “Tappy the Tapmunk”, whose whole endearing focus in life is to make sure her little ones don’t get cheated out of their ‘munk food because everybody’s in too much of a hurry to think of them. As Christmas approaches, her pettable likeness could yield us a lot of revenue at fare outlet counters.

    Something else that keeps me from just letting this one go. I sense I’ve got some good numbers in one constituency. The Fare Inspectors themselves. Really doubt they like having to let a well-known regular evader get away while they’re writing up a passenger whose money they’ve had all month.

    My own problem here is generational. Since I can’t even make a touch-screen work, I know I’m missing out on a blizzard of well-deserved embarrassment that any fifteen year old could unload on recalcitrant injustice.

    Living outside ST’s district, doubt the Board has much time for me as individuals- some of whom I really like. Could be frustration-danger, but in a month or two when the Legislature opens for business…..Bob Hassegawa and I shared the driving trade, and he is for Bernie Sanders.

    Any help, appreciated. But let me finish here with a request. Anybody who can spare the time, especially if you work in easy ride of IDS, please see if you can spare the time to sign up for ST Board Public Comment as often as possible.

    Could say our form of government’s at stake here. Sheriff’s deputies have their limits. Intelligent, knowledgeable transit people….not so many.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I do have to give ST credit for implementing the double-beep for tap-off almost a year ago (and the ORCA pod for going along with it). Yes, it should have been obviously-needed from the get-go, but the right ombudspeople did eventually listen.

  7. Mark Dublin, you say you live in Olympia, yet I rarely see you write about Intercity Transit. My gut tells this is because you rarely take IT, and get around by car, instead. I think you need to explain yourself.

    1. Sam, interesting you should ask right now, when I’ve just walked through the door from my pretty-much-customary ride to late-afternoon espresso, which because today is Sunday has to be the Route 12 because the 42 doesn’t run.

      Also need to understand that Olympia being considerably smaller than Seattle, more things are within walking distance. But also conversely, since Olympia is currently in transition between a small town surrounded by suburbs much larger a pack of razor blades means a half day ride. Certain regular trips right now, car/bus/walk decision is a matter of which mode is less time and hassle.

      When setting policy, along with the rest of Government, transit needs to understand how many passenger choices break along that line. But in the five years I’ve been here, have increasingly had to act according to a choice I really hate.

      In 2014, my first year here, I could get a very enjoyable ride on transit back up to Seattle, sometimes more than once a week. Routes 12 or 42 from my door to Olympia Transit Center, 600-series to Tacoma Dome P&R, and either Sounder to King Street or ST 574 to the Airport and Link downtown.

      Always avoided the 590/594 because they invariably get stuck on I-5 around Spokane Street.

      Unfortunately, over last five years the residential forces that shoved me down here from Ballard have turned every inch of I-5 between SR101 and Seattle into a potential hours-long hair trigger trap. Sorry nature’s so often in bad taste, but suburban transit industry had better get used to a bathroom on every bus real fast from here on out. Trains without saying.

      Scariest of all is number of region-wrecking collisions involving professional truckers. Week or so back, four big-rigs in the ditch at once. Well, different closely-spaced ditches. Recalling my old profession driving other 60′-long objects, my guess is unfamiliarity+management-enforced sleep deprivation.

      Some foresight I’m grateful for: The week I moved down here, a collision-related explosion on the Nisqually River bridge, which is southern border of ST, totally cut I-5. Persuading me to take at least a year learning every single conceivable piece of two-lane blacktop between home and at least Tacoma. Can still pride myself on how often I’m only car on an empty road, though situation’s now starting to slip.

      In a comment above, I detailed some Sound Transit rush hour travel between the Ruth Fisher Boardroom and my own bedroom. If I’d had to depend on two transit systems I strongly support, I’d still be a sleepy bus-zone-dwelling right-wing example of proof that Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia is Dying.

      Any. Day. Or. Night. of the Week/Month/Year. For transit political front, looking to get active in bringing Thurston County or at least Olympia into Sound Transit. Some demographer might give me some stats on how many Ballard neighbors I brought with me over these last five years and adding. Know two.

      My choice route concentration is to start the ST 574 out of Olympia Transit Center, definite stop at the Capitol just uphill, and stop at Tacoma Dome on the way to Sea-Tac. By any fair measure of mentality, adolescent fare for card-carrying legislators fully justified.

      Where possession of my pass will guarantee a crap-free tap for my every move on LINK as far as Everett Airport or mortuary classes at Lake Washington Technical College.
      So keep checking in, Sam. Situation fluid to the max.

      Mark

      1. Getting the whole of Thurston County into ST scares some who think the county as a whole votes Republican.

        Getting just Olympia into ST seems too small of a tax base to pay for services of which many in Tumwater and Lacey will partake. The upside is the city votes overwhelmingly Democrat, so ST won’t be afraid of voters from the Thurston County subarea providing the difference in voting down ST4.

        Getting Intercity Transit into ST might be about right-sized, but still doesn’t reach to the Pierce County border.

        Any option that comes with an expectation to have bus routes from Olympia to Tacoma or beyond have to serve the long loop-de-loop diversion stop at Hawks Prairie P&R makes it not worth the effort.

        I have trouble seeing interest from IT in joining the ST taxing district if they find the ORCA project, by itself, too expensive. And then some riders in Olympia may still see ORCA as the One Regional Card to rule them All. Actual rings coming with ngORCA will complete the conspiracy theories.

        For the 574, the Red Line’s extension to Federal Way is scheduled to open in 2024, making it slightly cheaper to get all the way to Olympia.

        What would the actual capital project list for Thurston County be if it were to join ST? Building tracks all the way to the Capitol for Sounder?

      2. Things to do while in Olympia … Take the IT route 41 out to Earth Shoe U, home the award-winning Cooper Point Urinal. Famous Alumni … Kramer from Seinfeld, and Matt Groening from the Simpsons.

      3. South King and Pierce consistently vote no to ST measures, so the yes/no “isogloss” is somewhere near SeaTac, not the Pierce-Thurston border. Adding Thurston County would just increase the number of discontents, and it’s not necessary. ST and IT can have a bilateral agreement for IT-funded services to Olympia. IT can worry about its own tax cap or asking the legislature for specific permission to raise a TBD sufficient to extend the 574. (Although with Thurston-area traffic, that might hinder its reliability. If so, maybe it would be better to increase the IT express routes and time them to the 574.) And there should be attention to not just traditional commuters but also reverse commuters and those visiting the state capitol for the day.

      4. Also, the ST district is unbalanced, with Pierce having more exurban land than Snohomish or King. In particular, Marysville and Covington were excluded, while Spanaway and Orting were included. If a Thurston subarea is not tightly drawn, it could lead to an even larger south-end imbalance.

      5. By most funding in ST3 going to build and operate Link (yes there are other investments but most is going to Link), any one not getting light rail is going to feel cheated no matter where they live. I’d argue against ST boundary expansion for this simple reason. Even Sounder and STRide projects are tiny investments when compared to Link.

        Yes to a separate agreement with Thurston County operations in some way. I’d like to see a state-funded study analyzing and costing out a self-propelled EMU from the Capitol to Tacoma Dome with at least hourly service all day and half-hourly during peak times.

    2. When you’re largely going places that aren’t in Thurston County, IT isn’t terribly useful. Mark’s talked about using IT a fair amount, but as most of his experience is from his long career as a Metro driver and resident of Ballard, he can be forgiven for focusing on what’s closest to his heart.

      1. Ness, thanks for this critically important piece of insight. Familiarity and affection are powerful forces in matters of public choice, and carry a lot of weight for future action if carefully understood.

        Really would be good to get some demographic readings as to how many of my present neighbors share my experience and sentiments. Which we share constantly with kids and grandkids both regular and great-.

        For what it’s worth, IT has just announced a new express bus to run limited stops across the Olympia service area between West Olympia and Lacey. Like all winds, the one that blew us down here might seem ill in the short run, but still blow Thurston a fair amount of good.

        Mark Dublin

      2. IT may be better for intra-Thurston trips, but any small city on the edge of a metropolitan area should make sure it has good all-day transit to the metropolitan area. Kitsap’s main transit routes integrate the ferry terminal, so a regional trip is not worse than a local one. Of course it’s easier for KT because the ferry terminal is right at Bainbridge’s downtown, while Lakewood or Tacoma Dome are miles outside Thurston. Still, its service level should be the same as IT’s core routes.

  8. I’ve looked through the recent articles and comments and not seen any mention of the recent series of articles in Willamette Week about e-bikes and how they might change the urban landscape. Those wanting more on that subject might want to rummage around and find them.

  9. Saturday night, I participated in the Light Rail disruption, where we took a bus from SODO station to downtown stops. I thought, in advance, “oh, what a pain that will be,” but it was quite efficient. A bus was waiting, there was an Orca reader right there to tap off, and Metro staff could answer questions. The bus let us off at a number of downtown street locations. I think I actually got home more quickly this way (although it’s debatable), and there was not stress.

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