32 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: How Tokyo’s Subway Keeps On-time, Clean, and Safe”

  1. Metro stated that they will no longer carry cops to crush protests.

    Does anyone believe that SPD will no longer use tear gas?

    What happened to Sawant’s no more teargas bill?

    1. I don’t think Metro’s policy really addresses the root of the problem. It just means that the cops coming to crush the next protest will ride there in cop cars, rather than buses. Any changes to prevent tear gas/etc. needs to come from the police.

      1. If the next protest is from the far right as amply threatened and promised, it’s no favor to the police to make them roll in aboard targets that big with huge windows and no armor at all.

        Forget the Counterbalance. If violence digs in either at Harborview Hospital, or more likely that decadent FAKE art receptacle called the Frye Museum on their way to retake “CHAZ”, all the culprits have to do is yank one rope on James and the war’s over. COVID-conscious, would you SWEAR any single bus has its battery charged full?

        So considering the Clarity and Proximity of the danger, might be a good idea for large numbers of plain decent citizens Peaceably to Assemble at the main police station and Petition for training as police auxiliaries. Under the condition that individually and as a group, we’ll intervene to prevent violence from any quarter, as well as report any we see.

        In the times I can see coming, “Power to the People” will have to mean emanating some ourselves.

        Mark Dublin

    2. SPD has a number of old dilapidated buses already. They used to park one in front of the south precinct. There also are several buses parked at the gun range in Tukwila. Give a few officers CDL training and SPD will be fine.

    3. Pork, if you live in Seattle, your city councilmember needs to know your name and either respect or fear it. Just so they e-mail you back. But tear gas?


      If Jenny Durkan tries this, impeach her immediately. Proof that the most dangerous right-winger is a scared liberal with power. With tear gas, we’re talking about a weapon you can’t aim, taking down targets you can’t see, anymore than you can see your shot take effect. And you’ll seriously injure a lot of people who haven’t broken any law at all.

      But Pork, for you and the rest of the electorate you belong to, might be a good idea to start thinking about making city policing a universal neighborhood watch, with your uniformed officers being professional specialists who respect and answer to you.

      And any protest you’re part of, consider yourselves all parade marshals. By the same laws that make tear gas a war crime, whether we’re talking room, building, block, or city, anyplace you bring under your control, every subsequent broken window is “on you.”

      And, one former public services union member to every present one reading this, you’re not doing your brothers and sisters any favor by fighting for their right to disgrace your uniform.

      His fourth time driving a bus away with the hose nozzle still in the fuel tank, my union brother was really desperately telling his assembled brothers and sisters wordlessly that he needed another job. Harborview contacts also testified that the burn ward was full.

      Mark Dublin

    4. pork, just because you inserted the word Metro into your anti-police comment masquerading as a question, doesn’t mean you are talking about transit. You ranted about tear gas the last time you were here, too. Do you have anything to say about public transit?

  2. Oran, you’ve outdone yourself. What a GREAT piece to wake up to. And so rich in lessons for us. For instance, it’s pretty much normal for drunk people to complain for awhile when station staff carry them off the train and lay them on a bench.

    And the precision accuracy of the cartoon characters. I’ve always considered a woman with a long graceful neck to be extremely attractive. And the one legged creature that is basically a very tall tongue, if you’ve never noticed them aboard trains at rush hour, you’re just not paying attention.

    Though the character I can most relate to is the poor boy with all those scratches, whose every incarnation always gets him a smile from the girl. Also known as being the dating scene for the average transit-riding male up to maybe age 70.

    Might also notice that at every single station, every single train gets greeted, checked out, and recorded by an actual person. Though most pertinent statistic here for us is notation I found that the Tokyo subways are 79 years old. New York subways, I think 116. For so many human endeavors, deciding factor boils down to two things: One, experience, and two, what you make of it.

    But to me, most valuable revelation of all: Your new ORCA card is already the cell phone “tapping” against your car-keys in your pocket. (Don’t cry, little Tapmunk. You’re already “Down” to be a Station Agent starting Monday.) Whatever the Japanese want for that technology, we need to just pay them and get it.

    Which could very well be precipitated when one too many Superior Court judge gets cited for Fare Evasion ’cause his “Boop” missed a “Beep.” Forget “CHAZ”. They’ll seize SHORELINE and dare Trump to invade under close-air support.

    Mark Dublin

      1. Thanks, FDW. But either way, we might want to hold off ’till we’re at least a hundred before our next pretty much routine declaration of permanent hopeless failure.

        Mark Dublin

    1. Yes, big thanks to Oran! there are some great best practices shown in the video!

      – Staff that nonchalantly say “thank you”.

      – Transit etiquette training books for kids and videos for adults.

      – “Universal design” as a goal rather than merely “meet requirements” like ADA.

      – The instant lost and found system!

      – What to do with inebriated riders.

      – A concierge at key stations.

      Did I miss any?

  3. My emotional support dog just alerted me to the fact that no passengers in the post video had emotional support dogs.

    1. The allegation that real service animals attack their Emotional Support litter-mates, ARFARFARFAKE NEWS!

      But what really puts them in danger is how often they fall under the control of people who hate airline stewardesses but lack the courage to attack them in the aisle themselves.

      So the rumor better not be true that you’re planning to replace him with a leash-free Alpaca for your next visit to a glassware shop. If it is, for a long time whatever route you ride, you’d better not look cross-eyed at my hamster.

      Mark Dublin

  4. If anyone here has a camera drone, would you take it to the East Link OMF and take some pics?

  5. Apparently Oregon is allowing transit to relax the six-foot distance rule to three feet[1]. Trimet isn’t ready for it yet, but does anyone know if this will be a possibility for Washington, particularly Metro and Sound Transit? This would obviously alleviate some of the capacity problems we’ll have as people go back to work and start taking transit for “non-essential” reasons.

    [1] https://blog.trimet.org/2020/05/15/covid-19-update-face-coverings-required-when-using-transit-starting-wednesday-may-20/

    1. They really need to get everyone to wear face masks though. Handing a bunch out would likely be more effective than a repetitive announcement

    2. From what I’ve read, the six-foot distance rule doesn’t really help much at all. The important thing is to provide masks, and require people to wear them.

  6. On Thursday the Sound Transit System Expansion Committee took action on the following resolution:

    “Resolution No. R2020-12:
    A RESOLUTION of the Board of the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority amending the Adopted 2020 Budget by increasing the Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension Baseline Budget by $35,400,000 from $217,346,000 to $252,746,000.”

    The vote (for a “do pass” recommendation to the full board later this month) was as follows:

    Ayes –
    –Claudia Balducci, Committee
    Chair, KCC Chair
    –Dave Upthegrove, KCC
    –David Baker, Kenmore Mayor
    –Victoria Woodards, Tacoma

    Noes –

    Absent for vote –
    –Nancy Backus, Auburn Mayor
    –Jenny Durkan, Seattle Mayor
    –Kent Keel, University Place
    –Nicola Smith, Lynnwood Mayor

    Vote Tally –
    4 Ayes
    0 Noes
    4 Absent

    Quorum on this committee is reached at four members, thus three affirmative votes are needed to move a measure forward.

    Before the vote was held, Madeleine Greathouse, Project Director for the Tacoma Link Extension project, gave a limited presentation. Committee Chair Balducci also remarked before the vote that “this is a significant action”. Still half the committee members couldn’t even be bothered to attend.

    Let’s be clear about what this resolution does; it resets the baseline budget for the project by over $35M, a budget that was set less than three years ago. In other words, ST has yet again opted to move the goalpost. The cost of this project has skyrocketed since its initial estimate by some 52%. Here’s the history:

    Nov 2014 FTA Ratings Assignment –
    Total Cost, $166M (YOE$)
    Sect. 5309 Grant, $75M (45%)
    ST Tax Revenue, $51M (31%)

    Nov 2016 FTA Ratings Assignment –
    Total Cost, $175.6M (YOE$)

    Nov 2017 FTA Ratings Assignment –
    Total Cost, $214.6M (YOE$)
    Sect. 5309 Grant, $75M (35%)
    ST Tax Revenue, $92M (43%)

    Baseline Budget, Resolution 2017-31, Sep 2017 –
    Total Cost, $217.3M (YOE$)

    Baseline Reset, Resolution 2020-12, Jun 2020 –
    Total Cost, $252.7M (YOE$)
    Sect. 5309 Grant, $75M (30%)
    ST Tax Revenue, $130M (51.5%)*

    It’s worth watching the archived Livestream video to catch the staff presentation that preceded the committee vote. The “lessons learned” slide is just priceless.

    *This assumes that the agency will assume all of the project contingency increase and not ask Tacoma to increase its contribution to the project. Regardless, the increase in the project’s overall cost will most likely be borne by the local contribution component.

    1. Can you tell what it was: (A) rising costs in land acquisition, labor, or environmental issues?; (B) a previous underestimate or an unpredictable/volatile change in costs?; (C) something unique to this project or common in several projects?

      1. Same problem that has been bedeviling this project for years – much higher than expected underground work, particularly with utility replacement. It was described to me as a known unknown that ended up much worse than imagined … you’ll see in the Board deck some of the lessons learned include more subsurface investigations earlier in the process. My reading is these issues are unique to working in pre-war urban spaces, so WSBLE might run into similar issues but unlikely any of the other active projects as suburban construction doesn’t have any many landmines.

        Recall that when ST runs rail through a city street, it’s on the hook for a total street rebuild. At Hilltop, some of the street is basically floating in the air (similar to the raised street-grid in Seattle’s Pioneer Square), so ST has to break ground and then replace everything they find underneath. It’s good policy insofar as Hilltop gets shiny new infrastructure and the street grid only gets torn up once (ST doesn’t want to have to suspend streetcar service when TPU needs to replace a sewer line in a few year, for example). Perhaps not the best use of transit dollars, but given TPU is public this is a reasonable use of public dollars. I’m guessing TPU is very happy all their ancient infrastructure is being replaced on someone else’s dime.


      2. @MikeOrr

        See my reply below. I didn’t nest it here intentionally so as to give myself a wider response space.

  7. @MikeOrr

    The short answer to your question is (B) mostly. This is another project for which ST has badly estimated its cost. The latest cost increase is largely being blamed on unanticipated issues encountered during utility relocations, such as unforeseen obstacles and poor soil conditions under certain sections. However, this narrative has become a bit of a scapegoat and the “go-to” spin by the agency. It ignores the reality of the extraordinaryly poor cost analyses the agency has put forward since the project was identified as an ST2 candidate. The cost projection history I recited above clearly demonstrates this.

    Just as a reminder, ST2 only committed $50M (in YOE$) of tax revenues for this project with the balance coming from other funding sources. ST confirmed this as late as 2013 in its alternatives analysis report:

    “Tacoma Link Expansion Alternatives Analysis Report and SEPA Addenduum, May 2013

    “Ch. 6 Capital Funding Plan

    “Sound Transit has established a budget of $150 Million in Year of Expenditure (YOE) dollars for the Tacoma Link Expansion project. This $150 Million is expected to be comprised of:
    •A $50 Million capital contribution from local revenues received through the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure.  
    •A $50 Million grant that Sound Transit intends to seek through FTA’s Small Starts funding program. The Small Starts program provides grants for capital costs associated with new fixed guideway transit systems or extensions. In order to qualify for a Small Starts grant, the request for funding must be less than $75 Million and the total project cost must be under $250 Million.
    •A $50 Million contribution from a local funding partner or partners. The AA process did not determine the exact source of partnership funds for the project; this will be determined in future phases of the project.”

    The agency and its staff have misrepresented this cost escalation in its presentations to the board. Back in Sep 2017 when the baseline budget was established ($217M), the project director claimed that the new figure was within the range identified in the ST2 proposal when escalated to YOE$. This is just a false narrative, as documented by the aforementioned analysis report. The agency’s misrepresentation wasn’t questioned by the board back then in 2017 and that error remained intact for the ask made during Thursday’s committee meeting (though the ST staff apparently now admit the latest increase goes well beyond that “accepted figure”).

    Again, I would strongly encourage others to review the presentation given by the project director during the meeting, particularly the slide about “lessons learned”. It’s really rather remarkable that this late in the game on ST2 the agency still is in the process of learning such basics (such as having adequate contingencies).

    I know there are far larger projects in the pipeline and that these periodic cost increases for this particular project can most likely be absorbed by the agency’s financial plan. But this was supposed to be a small project and now it has ballooned to a quarter of a billion dollars*. On a percentage basis, the estimation miss is far larger than the misses involved with Lynnwood, Federal Way and Redmond Link projects. Just because it’s a smaller project overall, that fact alone shouldn’t diminish the significance of the problem and what it tells us about where this agency is as it enters yet another “program realignment” chapter. The four members of this committee who couldn’t even be bothered to attend knowing this item was on the agenda says a lot as well. That’s half of the committee saying, essentially, “Meh, I’ll show up at the full board meeting later this month and put my rubber stamp on it this ask then.”

    While I find the noted absences quite troubling, the ST staff’s material misrepresentation is simply unacceptable.

    1. There seems to be a systemic structural problem with the sequencing of ST project development as it relates to funding. It seems to originate from committing to projects too early (not designed completely enough to define costs), and to not allocate enough in contingencies.

      1. Agreed. Funny thing though….that wasn’t explicitly one of the “lessons learned”.

    2. A couple of follow-up points and a minor correction….

      Taking the correction first, the quote should’ve read: “Meh, I’ll show up at the full board meeting later this month and put my rubber stamp on it (this ask) then.”

      Secondly, I forgot to provide the footnote for the inserted asterisk. So here you are:

      *Since ST applied for their FTA Small Starts grant (Section 5309) and was awarded said grant by the Obama administration, the guidelines for such grants has changed. The effect of this is that ST essentially left $25M on the table as the limits were increased in the FTA’s final interim guidance published in 2016. Previously, the Small Starts grant had to be under $75M and the total project cost could not exceed $250M. Under the new guidelines, the grant has to be under $100M and the total capital cost cannot exceed $300M. I do wonder if the grant awarded is now perhaps out of compliance as a result of Sound Transit’s reset of the baseline budget for this project. An updated FTA ratings assignment will be forthcoming and that should clarify the matter. Of course, some of you will remember the hold that was put on the New Starts grant ST received for the initial segment, though the size of this grant probably won’t initiate such a similar review.


      There’s one final thing I meant to include in my main post above. This is the breakdown of the additional $35.4M in project budget that the agency is seeking:
      – LR vehicles, +$2M
      – Construction services, +$2.1M
      – Final design, +$1.0M
      – Construction, +$27.4
      – Agency overhead/admin, +$2.9M

      1. Btw, the agency really hasn’t given any explanation for the last part of this ask, i.e., the additional $2.9M for agency admin. It seems like a buffer thrown in so that in 2022 when the project is finished and the line opens at a final cost of, say, $250M, the agency can claim that they were “under budget”.

    3. After ST’s 2000 meltdown where it seriously underestimated the cost of the initial Link segment, ST became very conservative in cost estimates, and it dropped First Hill Station to avoid what it considered a significant risk of cost overruns. The Lynnwood Link cost increases seem to be mostly due to land-acquisition costs, which i consider volatile and it’s not possible to make an accurate estimate so many years into the future. (Oosts were WSDOT trees and Mountlake Terrace mitigations.) So ST has tried hard to avoid underestimating costs over the past decade. Does this rise in the T-Line extensions (MLK and potentially 19th) indicate a reversal of this trend?

      1. FTA was very aggressive with contingency with Lynnwood and Federal Way before approving the FFGAs, so I don’t think so. What is new is utility work driving cost overruns, rather than general cost increases from a hot real estate and construction market that have been driving cost increases across all ST projects. To me, this suggest the problems with T-Link are unique to the project, not structural.

        I would look for lessons learned to be applied next time ST is working in Seattle, particularly the ID with WSBLE. I could see higher contingencies for the ID/Pioneer Square segments of the 2nd tunnel, which are of similar age and complexity as Hilltop.

    4. Another question. How does the increase in T-Line costs affect the cost-effectiveness of the line relative to the Central Link Tacoma Dome extension? Would Pierce taxpayers get more value if the T-line extensions were canceled or it hadn’t been built and the money reallocated to Central Link? How much do these cost increases and potential similar increases adversely affect the value of the T-Line relative to the Central Link extension (and potential extension to Tacoma Mall)?

      I evaluate transit lines based on their competitiveness with regular buses and driving. There’s a latent demand gap between the travel time of regular buses and driving. More people would take transit if there were a faster alternative than regular buses. This is the gap between local and express buses, or between express buses and driving. Limited-stop overlays are one way to address this, as is transit lanes/stop diets/signal priority that make regular buses faster.

      Link’s grade-separated segments and limited-stop spacing fill this gap. The T-Line has one exclusive-lane segment south of downtown. But otherwise the T-Line, First Hill Streetcar, and SLU Streetcar are no faster than regular buses in that area, and sometimes slower. (The SLU streetcar stops at every intersection between the Westlake hub and Denny Way in addition to its closely-spaced stations every two blocks, making it slower than the parallel 40 and 70.) So I see the additional cost of those streetcars as a waste because they don’t improve mobility over a regular bus.

      Given this background, should Pierce consider replacing the T-Line and extensions with bus route(s) and putting the money saved into Central Link, the way some have suggested for reallocating Sounder North’s money to Snohomish Link?

      1. I think Hilltop extension is far enough along that the project should be finished. Like the CCC, the extension is worth more as a whole, so I’m willing to wait and see if it can match the success of, say, Portland’s streetcars in improving mobility, place making, economic development, etc.

        But Phase III has, is, and always will be a terrible project and should be canceled in favor of either bus investments (akin to Pacific Ave BRT) or plugging holes in TDLE. There is zero improvement in mobility, so aside from rail vs. rubber benefits, it’s just an expensive project to rebuild 19th Ave.

        Phase III is in the 3rd wave (along Issaquah Link) of ST3, so planning is still years away. I hope that America’s streetcar phase will have fully died by then and Tacoma & Peirce’s leaders will realize they have much better things to spend money on. These cost increases simply reinforce that further extensions of the streetcar are a bad investment.

        Repeating the Pacific BRT investment on 1 or 2 east-west corridors within Tacoma would be a much, much better project.

      2. “I hope that America’s streetcar phase will have fully died by then and Tacoma & Peirce’s leaders will realize they have much better things to spend money on. ”

        Amen to that.

        Admittedly, my knowledge and experience regarding the effectiveness and/or efficiencies of streetcar systems is a bit limited. I’ve only used trams (for the sake of simplicity I’m just going to lump streetcars, trolleys and trams under the same banner) in a select few locales, such as several European cities, Toronto, ON and Portland, OR. In all of those places, particularly in Toronto, they seemed to do a pretty good job with mobility in the area and with providing access to locals’ and vistors’ desired destinations alike. All good. Of course I have no idea of what all it took to get these various lines built (Portland’s tram being the one exception to this possibly.).

        With the Toronto and Portland examples, I’ve been to both cities often enough to have both “before and after experience” to draw upon. Overall I think these two cities have done pretty well with their systems as far as the resulting network improvements, unlike the situations here in Seattle and Tacoma. (Fwiw, I haven’t advocated for the completion of the CCC, another tram project that has seen significant cost increases.)

        We shall have to wait to see if the Tacoma Link Hilltop extension pans out and actually reaches the ridership levels that ST anticipates. I know that you’re more hopeful in this regard than I am. Let’s just hope there are no more surprises on the cost front.

      3. Portland’s streetcars are interesting because they are tied to the redevelopment of the Pearl District. There’s always a chicken & egg argument – does the streetcar investment pull along further development, or do cities (Portland, KC, Cincinnati) simply place streetcars in up & coming neighborhoods that would have grown/gentrified with or without the streetcar. This is why I find T-Link’s current cost overruns so fascinating. Needing to spend a bunch of money of utility work seems like a distraction from transit investment because it doesn’t improve mobility, but if a key policy goal of the Hilltop extension is to make the Hilltop neighborhood more vibrant, rebuilding a bunch of public infrastructure both at and below street level may end up being money well spent.

        The CCC, on the other hand, goes through downtown Seattle, which does not need a development boost (recent history notwithstanding), so the CCC has to stand on its merits of improving mobility.

        For Toronto, their streetcars blur the line into “trams,” where you do have a significant increase in carrying capacity over buses and therefor real value in high ridership corridors. The Tacoma streetcars are modestly larger than an articulated bus, but not as big as Toronto (I believe), and so from a strictly capacity standpoint a bus could have done the job.

Comments are closed.