39 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The Trains of Half-Life”

  1. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, Oran, a moving picture, especially under real-time control like a video game, could be worth a thousand times that for the era of passenger information we’re now entering.

    For one thing…..”Problem Solved” for anything to do with translation. And while it may not be strictly necessary to treat viewers to the windshield viewpoint of a Link train that’s turned itself into a wolf or a beaver…

    Tell me the world of commercial advertising hasn’t been doing that since TV was invented. Tell me also that instruction in these skills is not already being offered, either online or in our community college system.

    One piece of necessary action that present emergency should not hinder or prevent: Whatever Transit has to do to be sure nothing happens to Oran.

    Mark Dublin

  2. Is there anyone here who will admit to violating the essential trips only rule on transit?

    1. Other day, called King County Metro Transit information as to who makes the decision, and was told that the sign on the bus says it all to whoever’s interested.

      So when seized by a fit of conscience, first problem could be- where to turn in my confession? Starting when the sign was programmed, the bus itself has already had the last word on the subject.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Everyone here who rides transit is doing so for the purpose of reporting on it. Journalism is not one of the businesses that has been temporarily banned.

      Sam has ridden a bus for the express purpose of getting a picture of the new barriers between the front and rear section of a bus. Do you need a permission letter from us in case someone mistakes you for a black person getting out of the house, and reports you to the police or on NextDoor, Sam?

      1. I’m just taking a poll. You’re reading too much into my question. I wanna see if people are starting to take transit again for reasons other than essential trips. I’m just curious, that’s all.

    3. I ride the bus 6 days a week even when I am not going to work. I did get passed up by a half full bus last week. I was pissed, but I get it. I also wasn’t headed to work that time. My bus line is still 15 minute headways, so it worked out.

    4. I have ridden the bus a grand total of 3 times since March 13, so I think I’m in the clear. Lots more driving, since I don’t have a working bike.

      1. Just out of curiosity. I know you are a major dedicated bus rider and transit enthusiest. Do you think you might get a little spoiled being able to go to exactly where you want with no transfers? Listening to your own music at high volumes? Being able to get supplies for your home without making a special trip? The reason I ask is I think it takes dedication to ride transit. Others may not come back to the bus when this is over. If you have the time, I would like your opinion. I didn’t ride the bus for 18 years after I got a car. Now I finally do again.

      2. Driving around without traffic and to areas where parking is plentiful is indeed easier and more convenient. I normally split between driving and transit for in-town errands, but if I need to travel down to the city or beyond I opt for transit because of the fuel savings and the inconvenience of in-city driving/parking. That’s all it really takes to tip the scale for me, besides the moral/environmental arguments.

        As for music and hauling supplies, both can be done on transit with a little pre-planning. I have a pretty hefty side bag for my camera and always carry a reusable tote for extras. Music is easily solved with a pair of comfortable headphones, especially with a noise-cancelling feature.

      3. Re Sam: I take transit only for food or once to take food to my fixed-income relatives in Bellevue. Some of my food can be considered luxuries: I won’t go without cheese, wheat thins, or tom yum soup ingredients because they make things taste better.

        Last week I went to Frank’s Produce in Pike Place and looked for the jam stand run by the guy at the Broadway Farmers’ Market: Woodring’s. I found it, and he was also selling flowers for another farmers’ market vendor, and can forward tomato orders for pick-up for a third vendor (Kittitas Valley Greenhouse). One of the fish stands was also open although I didn’t shop there; its chain-link fence is down and you order through the fence.

        Re Bruce: I always take a book or magazine for longer trips or waits. I used to take a music player but I got tired of listening to the same hundred songs and it didn’t seem worth it. I tried taking a laptop or smartphone but I spend enough time on screens that I don’t want to add to it. I haven’t started taking earplugs for quiet, but I have started sometimes taking them for walks near the freeway, so I might take them on the bus at some point to muffle annoying cellphone conversations. (I’m most sensitive to the morning. Not that they happen often.)

  3. Oran, is there any way I can get hold of the Half-Life software for my own computer?

    Mark Dublin

      1. On that note, I just wanna say, Alyx is by far the best VR game I’ve ever played. They totally raised the bar.

  4. Seattle Times has a great article about the long term impacts of the pandemic on King County Metro. The system will be changed forever. More companies are promoting work from home through the end of this year and into the next. My company has 2,000 employees in Downtown Seattle. They announced on Friday that all employees will be working from home permanently. Our lease was ending in January 2021. The company has decided not to renew the lease and is moving to a full time remote model. Ridership will likely never come back to 2019 levels and the local economy of downtown will take years to recover. I don’t think Sound Transit will do anything beyond the Lynwood and Redmond Light Rail Extensions. Expect the 2020s to be quite bumpy in terms of urbanization and urban lifestyle.

    1. If ridership does dry up for a few years, ST can still get the ST3 projects through the EIS process and perhaps do some strategic ROW acquisition. But the timeline of the rail projects is far enough out in the future that they are building for a post-pandemic world. Teleworking may have it’s day but commuters will return in the long term.

    2. Could be a long space of time between “the end of next year” and “permanently,” William. Pretty much like the projected lifespan of any company. Or anybody working for, or doing business with it.

      Considering the amount of money that’s gone into Seattle, Downtown and Ballard both these last few years, which is reason for my own present address in Olympia, I would be extremely surprised if the forces calculated to keep it forever beyond my reach aren’t already planning a boom that’ll make last one sound like a “bloonk.”

      Somebody once told me that like with the Titanic, the first Boeing 707 was laid out with drafting pens on the floor of a hangar. “‘Computer? Oh yeah. Typewriter with a TV screen, isn’t it? And are you talking about the thing, or the guy who runs it?”

      Icelanders have a saying: “Your cattle die, your kinfolk die, and you won’t live forever either. But I know one thing that never dies: the reputation your conduct leaves your kids.” Just sayin.’

      I really hope a streetcar will connect the Nordic Museum with the station in the park by the Library. Oakland Airport cable-powered people-mover, ok too.

      Mark Dublin

    3. The system will be changed forever.

      The system always changes. No one knows what will happen in the future.

      Twenty years ago, Boeing headquarters were in Seattle, and Amazon was a still a relatively small company with headquarters in the old Merchant Marine hospital on the north end of Beacon Hill. Paul Allen — having lost the votes to create a commons in South Lake Union — kept working hard to produce his dream of a gigantic biotech hub in the area (which never happened). Speaking of biotech, Immunex was supposed to be part of the same boom, having secured a taxpayer paid for ramp (in a helix shaped, of course) leading right to their beautiful headquarters, on the waterfront. Eventually they were bought by Amgen, which closed the Seattle location, for good, a few years later. Now, it will forever be a rotting corpse of empty office space. Oh, wait, it turns out Expedia is moving there. Unless, of course, Expedia goes bankrupt, and a new video game company moves in, making software as mindless as the video of this post.

      The point is, no one knows what will happen in the future. You can’t tell what companies will move where. Yes, Seattle could suffer a huge downturn. Amazon could ditch us. But guess what. They didn’t. Cities and states were ready to screw over their children (and abandon the very social welfare state that leads to successful companies like Amazon) to give the company the tax breaks they desired — but Amazon stayed here. They didn’t even split their location, but instead did what many companies do: create satellite offices here and there. This is likely a future trend. I expect more companies to spread themselves out, with more satellite offices. That means if Amazon moves out, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Flürgle (a company that doesn’t even exist yet) will move in. But that is just my prediction.

      No one knows what will happen in the future.

      1. There’s a lot to be done for urbanization and urban lifestyle with a more balanced density model. Packing a million people into downtown everyday does it no favors for livability apart from lunch spots open from 10-4; likewise for emptying out the suburbs everyday. Revolutionizing zoning across the metropolis and improving urban livability in the suburban centers will be the challenges of the decade.
        Going with that, we’ll also need to better distribute services for the homeless, mentally ill, and very low income from downtown, especially as our rail transit improves. It’s illogical, unfair, and inefficient in terms of negative side effects to cluster everything into downtown to protect high-income suburban residents from having to view poverty.

      2. This is the issue. All neighborhoods should be walkable, mixed-use, transit-rich, and with a diverse variety of goods and services. This is how other countries are, and how the US used to be before the 1960s. The neigborhood can be dense like Capitol Hill, medium like Kent or Renton, or a small town like Arlington. We probably need all three because different densities work for different people. But all of them should be walkable — not car dependent or single-use. New Urbanism and old urbanism are the same: all neighborhoods should be walkable and connected to frequent transit, and regulations that discourage this should be repealed.

      3. No one knows what will happen in the future.

        Well, maybe the Gyspy Queen. But the point that another business will fill the void has been shown over and over again. Classic not mentioned by RossB was the demise of WaMu. Russell Investments bought the building pennies on the dollar and moved to Seattle from Tacoma. Based on inside information from the Gypsy Queen, the work from home boom will result in a consolidation of business “offices” in the DT core(s). The net losers will be suburban and ex-urban office space. Nodes like Totem Lake will be fine. DT Bellevue will continue to attract business just because Seattle is so Socialist adverse to companies that pay the bills. Tacoma? Needs to get over it’s Seattle envy and find its own Destiny for the City.

        With more people working from home there will be more demand for geographically diverse stores. The big box stores will suffer the most from home delivery; unless they adapt and become distribution centers (something Sears was on to but much too late (Macy’s?). Since all day transit isn’t really viable in the suburbs I foresee in my crystal ball homes withing walkable distance of these stores will bring a premium resulting in a number of “walkable villages”.

        I’ve been wondering what’s become of the Merchant Marine hospital. One plan was to rent it as biotech space for which the high ceilings seemed well suited. Another was to convert it to high end apartments (I don’t think it can be condos because of the restrictions on the deed).

      4. The US has an oversupply of department stores and big-box stores per capita compared to spending and to other countries. This is a long-term problem and some were vulnerable to downsizing or folding even before the epidemic, as in Macy’s. Covid will accelerate it.

        Bernie, I’m curious why you think offices will consolidate to downtown. Does that mean that non-downtown businesses will move inward, or just that those who already have downtown offices will close their non-downtown ones? You say Totem Lake is still viable. What about Federal Way, Lynnwood, and Issaquah? What other happy destiny could Tacoma choose, and Everett for that matter?

      5. “I’m curious why you think offices will consolidate to downtown.”
        DT is the place to be as shown by it having the highest rents. The density creates a synergy. An architectural firm for example may be in the same building as a major client. Even if they are the other side of DT you’ve got Link. Plus there’s just a certain prestige to saying your in DT Seattle. So, yes businesses will move inward just as Russell and Weyerhaeuser have done.

        Totem Lake has the hospital as an anchor and all the new development at the old Mall. It has decent access via I-405 and I expect transit will improve as all the housing being built starts to fill. What about Federal Way still hasn’t filled the huge void left by Weyerhaeuser leaving. Lynnwood and Issaquah will start to see less demand for office space. Tacoma and Everett for that matter need to get back to their blue collar roots. The high tech boom isn’t going to happen if Seattle and Bellevue can soak up the demand.

  5. I am sharing this recent video on rail expansion in Los Angeles. I think it’s an interesting summary of the good and bad of the expansion. There are several cautionary tidbits in here.


    I’m optimistic about LA’s transit ambitions. I’m also impressed at the graphics created by a mere rail advocate. Diagrams can be much better explainers than mere words.

  6. Wondering if transit systems here or around the world have come up with any physical measures to reduce coronavirus transmission. Maybe plating those stainless steel handrails/grab bars with copper (it kills viruses), or improving ventilation airflow (I guess we have some aerospace engineers around here who know about cabin airflow).

      1. Agencies boasting about cleaning is mostly a form of safety theater. Back in March in Mount Vernon, 60 people attended a church choir practice. 45 people got coronavirus. 2 died. If the choir area was thoroughly cleaned the night before, it would have made zero difference.

      2. There’s evidence that the act of being loud (singing, shouting, etc.) contributes to more respiratory droplets, and projecting them to a greater distance. I don’t see many choirs performing on buses and, if everyone wore masks, it would go a long ways to containing the respiratory droplets that are formed through normal breathing and speaking, and reducing the distance traveled by the ones that do escape the mask.

        Surface transmission is not as big a risk as direct transmission, but it is a vector and even if cleaning suraces is “theater”, if it makes people more comfortable before a vaccine or better treatments, it’s a good thing.

      3. @Sam — The virus is mostly spread through the air, not on contact. So yeah, cleaning surfaces is not the most important act. Still, it is better than nothing. A lot better.

      4. I’m for cleaning. But early on, companies and agencies would tout cleaning as almost a panacea. When some companies were asked why they weren’t giving their employees masks, they would avoid the question and start boasting about nightly cleaning. That’s the theater I am speaking to.

      5. The virus is spread through exposure and time.


        From that link:

        “The main sources for infection are home, workplace, public transport, social gatherings, and restaurants. This accounts for 90% of all transmission events.”

        People in confined spaces with other people for lengths of time is the issue, not surfaces. Offices, churches, concerts, bars, restaurants, buses… put 10, 15 or 20 in the same confined area, with one sick person… that’s the problem.

      6. So I bounced the copper idea off a plating equipment vendor and got a rough estimate that all the grab rails & stuff in a bus could be copper plated in place (“brush plating” process) with about 4 man-hours & $250 of materials. If it is actually effective, this doesn’t seem like an impossible expense. I found one study estimating 50% of SARS1 transmission in an aircraft cabin was via surfaces (“fomites”) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7165818/ , though I would have guessed droplets in air were much more important. I don’t know if modifications to airflow patterns in a bus could help but I’m sure they would be more expensive than the copper idea. Who would you talk to at Metro about this, anyhow?

  7. Now that contagion’s On Topic, Brent, you want might want to add a little wider proximity to the ideas that cling to the company you keep. Or at least adjust for wind-direction.

    Since I rode Chicago CTA at age three and the Electroliner at eight,- wish we’d bring back the Metro library so people could stop in and look things like that that up, never know what “light raiI” variant might become useful…

    I invariably ride transit for whatever purpose I damned well please, which can change by the minute if I remember Empire Espresso’s not open yet.

    No surprise I’ve got doctors telling me my train ride helps me relax- but if the I remember I’m late for my appointment, can I tell Fare Enforcement on cell-phone, or do I need to do Link to ST574 to IT for a letter from Kaiser?

    Sam, I am warning you. That hideous story of the journalist’s dismemberment on the orders of the King of Saudi Arabia is true. And by that Chief of State’s reputation, not likely an isolated incident.

    One more Essentiality-disputing word, and any northbound Link ride out of Sea-Tac, carrying any arriving traveler showing signs of prosperity, in a loud voice I am going to tower over him and demand proof that the murdering surgeon washed his hands before hugging his American friend goodbye.

    And also that the stolen shares of Pharma’s entire Pennsylvania opioid release aren’t stuffed in his wheeled luggage for his dash from University Street (NOT UW STADIUM!) Station to the Victoria Clipper to escape to Canada.

    So just go sulk and live with the fact that for all wheeled Essentiality, I’ll either call an ambulance or let my team call the coroner.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Problem with fury, especially when really justified, is its interference with clarity.

    From the beginning, I’ve been strongly supportive of the Governor’s attempts to persuade people to voluntarily limit their travels to avoid contagion.

    Which, from what I was told this afternoon, last night visited my neighbors with personal threats from motoring non-resident demonstrators, and online, who think law- violation reporters are snitches who deserve to die.

    If working Americans carried the Government medical protection that’s political Center-Right in the rest of the industrial world, it’d be right, fair, and uncontested that people be ordered under legal penalty to stay home.

    Because the System would see to it their groceries were brought to them, and their expenses paid. ST and IT service area? Fairest WE can do is: “Out of common decency, Please Keep Your Travels Short If You Can.” “E” word in the sign, a reminder, not a threat.

    Dublin Dogwhistle here: using trip purpose to decide who’s not allowed to ride, judgment made by….c’mon, c’mon.. You know, we’re really leaving out an easy step here. Just put it in Private Corrections where it belongs.

    Or even better…have read that on cruise lines before the plague, ordinary passengers were forced to watch the richer tickets board first. Air travel, class consciousness goes with the wings.

    Know our ridership’s got a few of us left who remember First Class on US trains and buses. At this stage, lot of us would trade a lot of principle for a even a little bit of Class.

    Mark Dublin

  9. @Sam. I think you are correct in saying that cleaning may not prove to reduce infections. Nobody can really argue that. But calling it “safety theater” is kind of dismissive. I am sure you di not mean it that way. I know many bus drivers so they told me there is much room for improvement. But this is what I found out. Metro has a really complicated weird way they go from dirty at night to disinfected in the morning. The people that fuel the busses, also spray them down with chemical every single night. But the thorough cleaning of the interior is done by someone else. (Every 15 days as of now from what I have heard). But even that is weird because they have 2 or 3 levels of interior cleaning. The fanciest one does not get done every 15 days. But I have dispatched a fleet of trucks at my job, and understand the cost and time to do all these things. It is enormous. It may never exactly be done to yours or mine expectations. But I know several hundred hours and probably by now millions are put in to it. It is not just for show. They are trying. But I understand your frustration. As well as mine. I climb on a bus and it does not look clean. I get on with 3 people who come out of their tent and run to the bus. They have no masks. I cringe when I have to touch the grab handles. They are spending much more money to clean and taking in less. I do not know how to solve it but I just want you to hear what I was told. I hope that helps. Can’t really back it all up, but I trust the drivers that told me this.

  10. Is it a car or a motorcycle? ($) The Solo has a full surround, car-like styling and controls, a hood and trunk, elecrically-powered engine, one seat, a stereo, air conditioning, and three wheels (one in back). It costs $18,500. It’s technically a motorcycle.

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