46 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Electric Airplanes”

  1. You’d think it’d be cheaper to purchase ROW for HSR than to develop a new industry that will transport fewer people at higher cost with greater risk.

    1. The title made it sound like electric airliners. “General aviation” is billionaires, hobbyists, and air freight. Making them more efficient is a good idea, but expanding their use is bad. It appeals to those who don’t want to ride with strangers, or at least not more than a dozen strangers. But it doesn’t scale and has a lot of externalities.

      The reason we’re not pursuing an HSR network like other countries is anti-rail bias. Trains are seen as old-fashioned, pre-car-and-plane technology, and airplanes are 2-3 times faster than the fastest HSR. People lump together cross-country trips, regional trips, and metropolitan trips and think, if airplanes are better for cross-country trips then they’re better for everything. HSR discussions also get into the rut of “It’s not competitive between New York and LA or Chicago and Seattle,” and then dismiss it for regional transit too, even though it would work great in the notheast corridor, midwest, California, and Pacific Northwest. (That’s not an endosement of the current Washington HSR proposals we have to weigh the cost against other gaps in our transit network; it’s merely a statement that if it existed it would be effective in improving overall mobility.)

  2. Request: Can we see a discussion between this presenter and someone who’s been designing- and hands-on flying- for at least forty years? Will run the video again to be sure, but would like to see some black oily borders around fingernails.

    For some perspective on what-ALL is likely to happen when dealing with the annoying and obsolete cloud of unknowns whose best current example is probably the 737 Max. Whoever Ted is (hope no relation to Bundy), I think it’s time for a Talk about the business plan that mandates wing tanks full of debris on delivery.

    My own neighborhood “visual” is the intersection where SR 101 dives into the curve in I-5 in easy view of our Capitol dome. At rush hour, with traffic moving fast. Add a vertical dimension, wing-overs, dives, and all and your medical examiner will need a fleet of helicopters bigger than a Sikorsky “Sky Crane.”

    Vibe coming off this presentation is less the quiet hum of an electric motor and more the dirty and obsolete jingling of money pouring into campaign chests to make sure that my family, my neighbors, and I have nothing to say about life under a whole sky-full of moving parts with unsue-able owners.

    Thought from aircraft history: Orville and Wilbur Wright would’ve insisted on somebody who knew a sprocket from a spoke on the design team. Who’d crack your skull with a wrench if you DISRUPTed their train of thought while they were working.

    Didn’t STB have a steady contributor who was into bike shops?

    Mark Dublin

  3. One of the worst TEDx presentations I’ve seen. The guy gives no indication that he’s thought through the feasibility or consequences of flooding the skies with flying taxis: dead birds and disrupted migration patterns, noise and visual pollution, drastically increased energy use (see Jevons Paradox), safety issues, increasing inequality, and urban sprawl. While there is certainly a need for electric/clean fuel aviation, we shouldn’t be looking to use it to replace ground transportation except in special circumstances where the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

      1. Yeah, I was thinking this was a typical TED talk for the very reasons Squints mentioned (no indication that he’s thought through the feasibility or consequences of the proposal). Nothing more than a wiz-bang, wouldn’t-it-be-cool presentation.

    1. The idea of prolific flying taxis is a nightmare future. I really don’t think people have thought this though.

  4. Seems super depressing that an UberX from SF to San Jose is faster than CalTrain. Can FAA handle the theoretical number of these VTOLs in the air all at once? Can’t see how it would work when you have hundreds of these running all at the same time.

    1. If electric air taxis ever became a tool beyond the 1%, you traffic jams in the sky would slow things down until the air taxis become no faster than just driving highway 101.

      Of course, it technology ever progressed to the point where it becomes feasible, you could imagine air routes operated with larger planes, carrying 100+ passengers at a time, thereby acting as a legitimate part of public transit. But, in order for that to work at scale in an urban environment, you’d need a 737-sized airplane capable of vertical take-off and landing on the roof of a large building. With current technology, the weight of such a large aircraft would make battery power prohibitive. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that will still be the case 100 years from now.

    1. Odds that the attacker was a repeat offender or homeless criminal? I’d bet $100.

      Appears to be very dangerous to walk the streets of Seattle these days, unless you are a protected species (not the law-abiding, pro-2A kind of species).

      1. There were three to four attackers, not one. Are you insinuating they were all either homeless or repeat offenders?

        The streets of Seattle are perfectly safe. These kinds of crimes are inevitable in any sizable city. You’re just hearing about it and seeing it hyped up because “If it bleeds, it leads.”. Look at the statistics, not the network news.

      2. In some quarters, gambling’s morally frowned on. So instead, will you tell your legislators you’ll pay $100 a year in taxes to bring Western State Hospital back into the modern world? 2-A?

        “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

        Would make it $150 that the drafters of that amendment included combat veterans of our War for Independence and the French and Indian War.

        And $200 that instead of a gun, they’d give the village idiot a corn stalk so the poor lad wouldn’t feel left out at muster. Our country was born in the Age of Reason. Which is why the signers followed up the Second Amendment with the Ninth:

        “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Like the right not to have a bullet break your collar bone when a gun falls out of the pocket of a moron who brought it into a movie because he thought the theme would provoke terrorism.

        Seattle’s current economic numbers have deprived your elected representatives of one excuse for not hiring and training the police and the mental health workers to make you safe: Would take huge laughter-control to say there isn’t enough money.

        Mark Dublin

  5. A few months ago Sound Transit released a report that had stop by stop level data, in addition to reliability and crowded-ness data. The data was organized by coordior (SR 520, I90, I5, etc). STB ran an article about the report coming out, and I haven’t been able to find it. Does anyone know where this article and/or report is as I haven’t been able to find it.

  6. Wait a minute. Isn’t this the exact same thing that Elon Musk wants to do by replacing trains with fleets of electric cars on elevators? Which is what Commissioner Robert Moses did ‘way too much of with sprawl, cars, and freeways.

    Buzzword “disruptive” has a context here. Most effective enemy of the deliberation and concentration necessary for effective work and planning. Have personally watched pickpockets at work- first move is block the aisle and start questioning the driver.

    Also, however, the trait that makes Greta Thunberg such a perfect leader for these times: Being autistic gives you a massive amount of unbreakable concentration. Making her a good match for a generation of evildoers headquartered from DC to Budapest to Manila whose stock-in-trade is diversion.


    But Sam: What do you think we need to do? More foot and bike patrols? Like everything else Seattle needs, the economic boom that dispossessed so many of us did leave the city with so much money it should be able to afford them.

    Or maybe cancel transit service when it’s dark out? Friends familiar with Link tell me the Sheriff’s Department could spend more time on the streets and less over coffee. Not personal observations, so officers can feel free to set me straight.

    Buy a gun? Was a time liberals used to, especially newspaper editors and members of organized labor. From the looks of the particular killer in the attached video, lifetime opposition to capital punishment faded to a vow that if an officer had just shot him, I’d have put the patrolman in for commendation.

    Did write my State reps requesting that we not abolish Life Without Parole. For me, problem with a gun, and especially a hand-gun, is that even with training I can’t afford, aboard transit fate and not justice determines who gets hit.

    Anything else, Sam?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Don’t wait at the MLK and Othello bus stop when it’s dark. If a man was attacked by a school of piranha while wading in Capitol Lake, you would avoid going into that lake, wouldn’t you?

      1. Should go online to my paleontologist and confirm, but think that unless the president of Brazil has taken a formal leave of absence to go back to his beloved real trade of murder and torture, the piranhas’ tribal neighbors still eat more of them than other way round.

        Suggesting to me that if my boss tells me that my family’s income depends on catching the four am bus at MLK and Othello, my best move is to take either ST594 or ST574 to Link to Tacoma Dome. Where more than one curio shop has an authentic blow-gun with a shrunken head for a grip.

        Don’t know clip-capacity, but safe bet is that when the point at the end of “Puff One” drops my first assailant like a gooey boiled piece of asparagus, screaming full-speed head-on collisions with store windows and truck bumpers will take the rest of the load off the court docket.

        Even better, the now-miniature head of my first attacker on a real-teeth necklace should strengthen my bargaining position so I can work from home. Capitol Lake? The miniature snails kill everything without a shell. And eat the rug if you drag them home on your boot.


    2. Will you not wait after dark at Bellevue Transit Center too?

      How many people were not assaulted per year around MLK and Othello? Probably 99.9%. If half the people were being assaulted, the retail around it would not be thriving. The media focuses on sensational vilolence, and that gives people a distorted view of the average situation. I’ve never had problems in RainierValley, and I’ve been threatened in Seattle only a handful of times in the past forty years.

      1. My first answer was going to be … It’s just information. And having information is better than not having it. It’s up to the individual to decide what to do with it, if any. But, I thought that answer was too bland. So I decided to do a hot take using piranhas.

      2. I’ll look forward to your articles monitoring the safety of Eastside Link stations. There must be something wrong with the site; I can’t find your Page 2 articles.

  7. Looks like trailhead direct will be returning April 21 featuring the same four routes which were used last year. Issaquah alps, serving sqwak and west tiger mountains, mount si serving mount Tenerife mount si and little si, mailbox peak and cougar mountain

    1. They already loaded the data on their trip planners (think onebusaway). Looks like it’s a go!

  8. What airports would they use between San Francisco and San Jose? Caltrain stops in downtown SJ and a mile from it in SF and they’re extending it closer. If San Jose airport has general aviation, that’s reasonably close to downtown, the tech headquarters, and VIA light rail. Does San Francisco have a general aviation airport? Or did the author just assume they could land downtown?

    1. There are a number of general aviation airports in the Bay Area. Most private planes go to them because the commercial ones are often busy. San Jose has Reid-Hillview, for example.

      1. VTA is starting work this year on a light rail line that runs next to Reid-Hillview on the way to Eastridge. Oddly, there is no planned stop for the airport terminal as well as the water park across the expressway from it. Riders have to walk around 3000 feet to get there.

        San Carlos and Hayward also contain private airports that are less than a mile from Caltrain or BART.

    1. Thanks, Bernie. Wonderful invention, the Double Decker. Total marvel when they’ve got trolleypoles on top. (Go to “Double Deck Trolleybuses” for some amazing images.

      Good thing they got the windows closed on the one shown so the inside would still be bright and cheerful when Climate Change adjusted the paint job.

      But main thing is that there’s room for another historic piece of inventiveness. At least one waiter. Who can be found an authentic uniform and the title of “Conductor.”

      Who traditionally can not only inspect tickets by reflex, but also give information and maintain order, if great 1950’s memories serve, just by being themselves. Speaking of which, sorry for black-paint-shaming. Just when I need to look “woke” most, I end up “canceled” out the back door.

      Will send a beautiful red drape with a gold pin when I can find one. By the way, CT drivers tell me that the “Double Talls” are, unlike “artics”, just fine on snow.

      Mark Dublin

  9. Idea for a post or Page 2 … What a Sanders Presidency Would Mean for the Local Economy, Transit and Housing.

    1. I just wrote in Bernie Sanders. My thinking is that since he already calls himself a socialist, he’ll be in good position to define the term and shift the conversation to getting my current pill prescription from $500 back down to $17 like it just was for the last six months before its classification changed.

      My choice of title for him would’ve been “Republican” but with word “Radical” in front of it. Look up the link. Always liked their take on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. They’re what you kill slavers with.

      Been urging Bernie and Elizabeth to declare themselves for President and Vice President respectively. Being a former real (see above paragraph) Republican, as Vice President Elizabeth Warren would be the chief of the Senate.

      And in a perfect position to continue to force the bankers to put the debt burden for the Crash of 2008 back where it belongs: In their own lap. Most workable end to The Hooooooomlessss in the world: give them their houses back.

      Headed downtown for espresso pretty soon. Will leave my ballot in the courthouse drop-box when I catch my bus there.

      Mark Dublin

      1. I’d be glad to debate most of what you say in some other place since it isn’t really suited to a transit blog, but I share your love of the Radical Republicans and wish our current politicians could be more reminiscent of them.

        On the other hand, for those of us who haven’t sent in our ballots yet: I recommend holding onto them for another week and a half. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of candidates drop out after Super Tuesday, or at least become clearly non-viable. Since we only have single-choice voting, there’s no use voting early when we can wait a little longer for more information.

      2. Yes, I would wait until after Super Tuesday. I’d still send it in a couple days early so we can get complete results sooner.

    2. Presidents don’t exist in a vacuum. If the Senate remains Republican, or even if it has a non-fillibuster-proof Democratic majority he won’t be able to get any legislation done and it may block all court nominees. The Supreme Court is majority conservative now. So he’d be left with executive orders and regulations.

      Bernie himself is more reasonable than the rhetoric around him. I’m sure he’ll do what a Democratic majority agree to, or a compromise if Republicans are in the majority.

      I still support Warren because she has a more thorough and focused goal of eliminating corruption, which is what most of our problems stem from. I’d trust her judgment most in unknown future situations.

      As to whether Sanders is good or just OK on transit and housing/land use, I have no idea.

      1. “Enact a national cap on annual rent increases at no more than 3 percent or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index”

        That doesn’t sound like an onerous rent control. With inflation at 2% rents could still rise 3%. Most people’s wages have been at or below inflation for years so landlords would still be getting an ever-increasing share of people’s income, it just wouldn’t be these rapid escalations.

      2. FWIW, the only candidate I have seen use the term “traffic violence” or similar has been Elizabeth Warren. No idea how deep that sentiment really goes, though.

      3. Germany has similar rent control statewide, and it doesn’t stop developers from building. The key is avoiding the bad kind of rent control, such as freezing the rent at $650 forever until the person moves, or applying it only to buildings built before a certain year or within the city limits so landlords can easily go around it and the percent of units that are rent-controlled gets ever smaller until only a lucky few can get it. In Germany developers know they’ll get a reasonable profit every year, they just won’t make a killing, and there’s no place they can go to avoid it.

    3. Have any of the candidates prioritized transit, more affordable housing, or a more pedestrian-friendly transit system? All I hear is it’s not a big priority, we’ll keep the grants coming but there won’t be a sizeable increase or a shift from highway-majority, and we love high-speed rail packages but not the ordinary regional and local transit that European cities have — we’re too busy driving or assuming most voters drive and don’t prioritize transit.

      1. I think, for it’s worth, Warren would prioritize housing affordability more than the other candidates. Long before she ran for president, she identified the cost of housing as a major driver of personal bankruptcies. And aside from priorities, I believe her proposals on housing policy to be more effective than those of the other candidates.

        I’m quite sure that whoever wins the presidency this year, Congress’s transportation priority will be building more highways and making driving cheaper. A shift away from cars is inconceivable for all but a few members of Congress. So… I’m not optimistic that the president can do much about transit.

      2. Family history, Mike, that I think is pertinent here. A program developed by the Roosevelt Administration saved her home for my Dad’s mother, a widowed Central European Jewish tailor with five children, living in Denver.

        I’m sure she would’ve insisted on an addition to the Bill of Rights putting strict limits on how far anyone could be forced into debt to remain in their home. For her, The American Dream wasn’t a 72″ TV screen, but the strict and absolute right to live in a land free of creditors.

        She and the Roosevelt Administration partnered the beginning of my father’s career. On Dad’s dinner plate, she handed him an application for a new job with the Bureau of Federal Credit Unions in Washington DC. Train ticket went without saying.

        As was common for second-generation Americans, Dad and his brother and sisters saw no existential conflict between cars and streetcars. Lacking only the accordion hinge and special-work, my first driver’s seat was aboard the family car, a Cadillac sedan about seven years old.

        Denver had trolleybuses, and Chicago….Heavy Rail was the ‘El for Elevated, which included subways, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad had both air-horns and whistles, and The North Shore had ‘twenties vintage streetcars that’d handle both street track and fast intercity, and nobody’d ever imagine it’d class as “Light Rail.” The Electroliner showed the world how to die fighting.

        So transit point I’m aiming at is that what seems to be hard for politics right now has sails that are starting to fill with the proliferation of cars and trucks themselves. Wonder how much pressure for full automation is less to save on labor than romantic possibilities of thick curtains and a great big bed.

        How long ago did “Mighty Mole” break through under Downtown- 30 years? Digging and elevating, I think that expense-wise, the calendar should be on our side. Meaning that the fewer school-kids that we nail for evasion over a missed tap, could turn, or lose, an election. Ball’s in transit’s court.

        Mark Dublin

      3. As far as transit goes, the politics tends to be predominantly local, and the further away you get, the less it matters. For Seattle mayor and city council races, transit is a huge issue. For state legislator/governor races, transit matters (since all local taxing authority exists at the good graces of the state), but is just one issue among many. At the national level, transit is mostly an afterthought, overshadowed by national issues, such as taxes, health care, abortion, immigration, economy/jobs, foreign policy, gun control, climate change, and, of course, having a sane president who doesn’t view the entire government of the United States as a division of his re-election campaign. Even climate change, national-level solutions tend to focus on cleaning up the electricity grid, and making cars run on electricity (or at least, burn gas more efficiently than they do today) – not increasing transit ridership.

        In theory, Congress could pass some kind of massive transit funding measure, but when 90% of the national electorate never rides transit, and the remaining 10% concentrated into a tiny handful of deep blue congressional districts, that feels extremely unlikely.

        So, even though my votes for local races are influenced a great deal by the candidate’s stance on transit (and willingness to fund it), I pretty much ignore the transit issue altogether when voting for President. For this particular race, pretty much my sole criteria is who has the best chance of uniting the party and defeating Donald Trump (I have still not made up my mind on who that is, and probably won’t until after Super Tuesday).

      4. Sanders has prioritized affordable housing. It’s right there in his issues I linked to earlier:

        “End the housing crisis by investing $2.5 trillion to build nearly 10 million permanently affordable housing units.
        Protect tenants by implementing a national rent control standard, a “just-cause” requirement for evictions, and ensuring the right to counsel in housing disputes.
        Make rent affordable by making Section 8 vouchers available to all eligible families without a waitlist and strengthening the Fair Housing Act.
        Combat gentrification, exclusionary zoning, segregation, and speculation.
        End homelessness and ensure fair housing for all
        Revitalize public housing by investing $70 billion to repair, decarbonize, and build new public housing.”

  10. Thanks for the [OT], William. But thing that’s leading to a lot of worse indiscipline is how edgy (old sense) everybody is about talking politics right now.

    This close to a Presidential election, it’s really unnatural to be forced to avoid, of all topics, that one. With this much vehemence. Fact that our country, let alone its flag, is still here, all 300 million of us, shows we’re still not ripped to shreds.

    Type in “Doomed” and “Bosnia” and see what I mean. Thought: see if we can identify mechanical and operational principles and general habits surrounding transit which may have lessons for politics in general.

    In regular life, any time conflict looks likely involving somebody I really need to talk to or work with, I do find that my work experience can turn the conversation toward cooperation.

    Mark Dublin

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