19 Replies to “Podcast #88: It’s always Festivus”

  1. I completely agree that the complaint about not planning ahead is spot-on!

    I’ll add this: ST even had until September 2016 to drop in the switches. Buses still in the tunnel could have handled the riders more easily around switch construction in 2015 had it been done before U-Link opened and Link was carrying half the number of riders that they have today. The 2009 option is understandable but short-sighted; a 2015 option is just bald-faced incompetence about understanding light rail construction.

    I’d also agree that more frequent switching is needed for operational emergencies. ST keeps saying that they have planned on going from 8 minutes to 6 minutes peak — but seem to imply that the only impact is buying and storing vehicles.

    1. Link has been at 6-minute peaks since the mid 2010s. Originally it was 8 minutes but it was augmented to 7 minutes for increased capacity until U-Link, and later it was augmented further to 6 minutes until Lynnwood Link. So any strains would already be occurring.

    2. Yes, but there would have still been buses on the tunnel! Those buses could have bypassed the very short distance required for installing either a crossover or a switch.

      1. Yeah I don’t see the big problem… sure it’s a small inconvenience but the transfer is easy and the trains don’t seem to be as packed as they thought they’d be. Even at rush hour. It’ll be back to normal before we know it

      2. To Martin’s point, ST has the reputation of poor operational planning. And while this construction incident is only 8 weeks, if you add it to the other ridership issues, which are many, one begins to wonder what’s going on. Is it incompetence? Is it a culture of indifference? In either case, people in charge of these matters need to find new jobs.

      3. There is a Seattle Subway expert, who also coincidentally works for Sound Transit who could maybe shed sone lifmght on this problem. Can he help us other than nice maps?

    3. “Trains every 3 minutes during all service hours. ” We don’t have that many trains.

      “why not hire 5,000 laborers for the special project?!” – they aren’t building a ditch. The limiting factor is not volume of labor hours worked.

      “trains running every 5 minutes from 1am to 5am.” – so you want better headways at midnight than we having now during peak? Does NYC have 5 minute headways at night on any lines? In my experience, late night headways are usually 15 minutes at best.

    4. OMG, I thought the “Tom” was trolling us with this 3500 station fantasy. Apparently not. He has a tenuous connection to reality, that’s a certainty.

  2. Given our State’s own labor history, why is nobody (nobody cubed to the tenth in the workforce) advocating and implementing public transit under worker ownership? Look up “Industrial Workers of the World.” With a copy to Spokane’s current State representative.


    Answering a question with a question is usually as necessary as it is rude. Example here: what percentage of the population would be willing to work that hard at gun-point, let alone coercion free? What’s max percentage of the population who are really up to full bore 24-7-365 ownership of anything like a regional transit system?

    So something to think about this New Year: Where in our educational system is anybody trained to build, operate, and manage the kind of enterprise under discussion this afternoon. Considering present cost of ignorance, can anybody argue the program won’t pay for itself?

    Every high school diploma in the State should be accompanied by an application to run for the Legislature- age 18 in Washington. And meantime, just to set generational thinking in the right direction, every citation, and warning, should carry the words: “Any problem with a rule, in a couple of years you can get yourself elected to fix.”

    Mark Dublin

    1. French train operators get to retire at 50 with full pension, and strike whenever that is threatened. So while owned by the French state, you get to see what would happen if the workers literally owned the transit agency, rather than metaphorically.

      1. Well, AJ, since 2008, the mouth-to-mouth (which should definitely never be inter-species) resuscitation of our country’s banking system with taxpayers’ own compelled contribution needs to be checked for comparison.

        Never seen stats, so anybody’s welcome to tell me how many French train operators were unquestioningly restored to position, paycheck, bonus, and retirement after personal involvement in our equivalent multifatality nationwide blizzard of train wrecks.

        Could be a light shade forgivable if not for lingering result that could very well destroy what’s left of any resemblance to democratic government here. What the real ancestral memories of Old Europe show is how fiercely the promise of a lifetime of debt turns a neighbor into the neighborhood killer.

        Just hearing that in Detroit, majority of the population has been converted from long-time owners to permanent tenants, on terms as punitive as if they’d been the ones who invented sub-prime loans.

        As final step in their passage to being homeless, which of course is final evidence that their whole lives were just a barely-concealed dream of at last getting to use the most elegant public street for a sewer.

        Be patient…given actual condition of our economy whose trillionaire deficit trajectory makes its trumpeted success as solid as our last few weeks of diplomacy, end of anybody’s bathroom bondage could be a half paycheck off.

        In politics and public finance, I was raised into cooperatives- as used to be common from farms to bus companies. And banks. The ones of my father’s working life are still called credit unions, but with this fiscal shift of emphasis:

        Now, single loan officer checks out Equifax (its own record sort of fragrant right now) and adjusts my interest accordingly. Aided by series of inducements to persuade me to borrow even more. In Harry Truman’s average CU, I’d sit down with a committee of people who worked at my same factory.

        Empowered and encouraged to tell me that the reason they weren’t going to loan me the amount I wanted was that they couldn’t afford it either. Finding me the car I could afford…plant had a lot of employees. Any bets on how long any credit union would survive that approach now?

        Because in every pertinent sense, we weren’t customers, but owners. Same as the bus drivers in less Socialist places than Tel Aviv. Dan Cooperative calls itself something else now. Seems like In the average worker’s world long term, an owner has never gotten any union protection.

        Would like to hear from the Uber/Lyfft front. Whatever advantages and protections you seek, how many of you drivers are ready to re-organize as a member-owned cooperative?


        Considering how long this concept has been around – it’s really a natural development from clan societies ages-long evolved from families- it really could strike some inter-generational chords so badly needed now. Inter-ethnic too.

        But truly useful to the Democrats could be the real core of the co-op concept . Loan committee of your fellow workers, not risk un-averse credit bureaus. The more liberal your goal is, the more conservative your balance sheet needs to be. Other people’s sex lives- Terminally Off Topic.

        After these last four years’ TV, radio, and internet content, think at least two political generations might find change of subject refreshing. Liz, let Bernie be President, The country needs you for VP, heading up the Senate. For America, life and death.

        Mark Dublin

  3. How was the DC Metro planned and how did it avoid the pitfalls we fell into of serving 30-mile exurbs and phantom growth centers while neglecting many existing urban neighborhoods? My impression is that the long-term plan was designed by transit experts in the way Canadian, German, and Asian networks are, and funding was mostly by the federal government so that, while there was a vote to approve it, voters didn’t have in the back of their mind, “I’m paying a lot of money for it, so it damn well better come to my suburb even if it’s less populous than DC neigborhoods it misses that would have higher ridership/modeshare.” How accurate is this?

    DC also has unique factors in the tens of thousands of federal commuters, so that if they didn’t build it robustly, it would directly affect Congressional staff and Pentagon workers, while other cities’ subways are seen as an insignificant issue. There’s also the need to keep up with other countries’ capitals to impress foreign diplomats. Other cities don’t have these advantages when arguing for an urban rail network.

    So as far as I can tell as an outsider, the DC Metro goes to the right places, and suburban extensions/stations are based on their real value to overall mobility rather than on which cities have members on the ST board. But how comparable are they? Is there anything comparable to Everett and Tacoma’s distance such as Tyson’s Corner or Dulles airport? Are there neighborhoods in DC that should have been on the network but weren’t? Georgetown is well-known; its residents fought against a proposed Metro station so the line bypassed them. Did it intentionally exclude poorer/nonwhite neighborhoods, which I gather are in the southeast? Are these being retrofitted now?

    I’ve always been impressed that the DC Metro is busy at 10:30pm like PATH is, in a way the Chicago el is not.

    Two things I’ve found questionable about the network:

    1. The way the lines converge downtown seems like a mass of spaghetti. They have many arbitrary turns and meet other lines in seemingly random places. It’s good enough that you can transfer to every other line, but the transfer locations are non-predictable and are different for each line-pair. So different from London’s Circle Line or San Francisco’s Market Street. Did the locations of the destinations and trip patterns somehow force this? Is it really the best spaghetti for the city?

    2. I usually stay in Adams Morgan and use the Woodley Park Station. The station is on the far side of a ravine from the density concentration. Was this necessary due to geography, or was it an existing railroad right of way, or did they just not think about putting the station at 16th & U in the middle of the businesses and apartments?

    1. Like any area, there were a number of points in WMATA history that caused decisions. I found a summary page from the regional planning agency : https://www.ncpc.gov/about/history/

      The dispersal of Federal offices coincided with a period of Federal government office expansion. As the summary describes, the combination of height limits set lower than the Capitol dome combined with a real concern about having too many close-by offices in the event of an atomic bomb were catalysts to evolve a system to disperse jobs and build a rapid transit system to connect them.

      Surely there were underlying racist and class-based choices, especially when it came to station locations and construction sequencing. I’ll also add that views were typically not a concern.

      I can’t s peak too much about Woodley Park Station depth except I’m pretty sure it has to do with protecting Rock Creek Park’s ravine.

  4. Martin Duke,

    After two weeks of Connect 2020 construction at IDS as a rail operator traveling though there several times a day, it appears that the rail coming into IDS from the south will cross over into what used to be the bus staging area when this phase of construction is complete, instead of the routing we have been used to. It would have been impossible in my opinion for construction to enable this when the DSTT was retrofitted for Link in the early 2000s unless the staging area was removed at that time. Unless we could have done joint operations without a staging area at IDS this probably would not have worked.

    This will probably become obvious when the next phase of construction starts early next month.

    I am not posting in any official capacity. My views are my own.

    1. While I’m not sure why one couldn’t stage buses on tracks embedded in cement, I very much appreciate the knowledge.

      1. FWIW, I believe staff did say one of the reasons they did not want to do the full shutdown was they didn’t think they could stage the sheer volume of buses needed to shuttle people from SoDo (or wherever Link would terminated temporarily) into & through downtown. So it’s plausible bus staging may have been an issue.

        OTOH, Link ridership was much lower in 2008 so would have been less of an issue then?

    2. Staging may have occurred elsewhere, and so buses coming from the SoDo busway may have still been able to use the DSTT.

      Perhaps a more relevant factor is the switches themselves are not bus compatible? I don’t know if the switch could have been built in cement? This may also explain why there are no switches between ID and Westlake, because all those rails needed to be bus compatible?

      So then the key issue the closure of the D2 roadway … the new rails being laid in D2 will not be set in cement, because buses will never use the D2 in the future. Speculating, but perhaps building the switch in 2009 would have required closing the D2 roadway? Keeping D2 open for another 8(?) years is clearly superior to avoiding single tracking for 10 weeks.

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