28 Replies to “Podcast #96: 40mph trains”

  1. Walking through downtown today, it’s a ghost town. It’s possible that downtown will remain a ghost town all the way into 2022. If a vaccine is delayed , recession deepens, etc…. It’s interesting that this is happening near a time when link was completing it’s first round of expansion.

    1. I think the local political climate concerning the CHOP might have something to do with that. I was in Wallingford yesterday, and it was over half as busy as I’d normally see it. People were avoiding mass transit though.

      I’d expect downtown and Capitol Hill to be ghost towns today.

      1. Equally likely, A Joy, that the two are part and parcel of the same piece of History. Which could share this in common with the COVID pandemic:

        Thanks to the very presence of thousands of very good people of all ages and walks of life, however long the cure takes, we really will at least get a vaccine.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Downtown is busier than during the lockdown. I went to Pike Place for produce and saw three pairs of tourists taking selfies in one block. The loud crowd at 3rd & Pine was bigger than usual.

  2. For passenger rail, would consists of one or more DMU’s (Diesel Motor Units) help solve anything? But for me, main thing I think can justify improved passenger rail’s cost is to take the rubber-tired motor-driven load off of Highway 2 over Stevens Pass.

    On The Connector, my own “call” is that Seattle’s business community is seeing what I do: It’ll more than pay for itself when First Hill/IDS, First Avenue Pioneer Square to Pike Place Market, and Westlake to South Lake Union finally do CONNECT.

    Into a linear business, visitor, art, and culture district which Link via IDS can very profitably connect with the rest of the visitor world. And there’s a lot less than no reason not to share maintenance and substations with a Waterfront car line. About which there’s no rush at all.

    I should also say that the late Tom Gibbs told me it was critical I redirect my own every Benson Line effort to the CCC. Bad enough to lose George Benson’s work to such a masterful campaign of misdirection. Let that happen to Tom?
    Out of the question.

    Mark Dublin

  3. Is sound transit running Sunday service on July 3rd? Is king county metro running Sunday service on both July 3rd and 4th. Huh, that’s three days of continuous Sunday service. Not that ridership is high these days.

    I have to take the bus tomorrow, route 512, do I board via the front now?

    So many questions…

    1. Yeah, when a major holiday falls on a Saturday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are all Sunday service. That’s the way it’s always been.

  4. San Francisco Muni is facing a dire financial situation. They will need to eliminate most of their bus routes. San Francisco chronicle had an article today about the apocalyptic transit future they will be facing.

    1. I heard. It’s a serious situation down there, and one can only hope Muni + BART + ACT and the ferry systems down there can be held over a barrel to integrated to recover seamlessly.

  5. https://www.amazon.com/Peoples-Railway-History-Municipal-Francisco/dp/0916374424

    And San Francisco’s not the only city in our country whose People can do it again if we have to. Like there and also Anchorage Alaska, in recent memory Seattle’s city, county, and region have rebuilt from an earthquake too.

    And something Apocalypses have in common? They’re all both predicted and self-inflicted. SF’s already proved its repentance on one score: Siemens got MUNI Metro’s latest streetcar contract instead of Breda.

    Mark Dublin

  6. When I clicked on the Metro Cuts link it took me to an old post rather than that point in the Pod Cast. Turns out there were several good points I hadn’t read. RossB proposed this replacement for the 249, “3) Run a bus from Overlake to Kirkland, like so: https://goo.gl/maps/GLuk3GDbZDwNyYHe6. That is short enough that it could easily be extended through Microsoft campus and on to Redmond Technology Station.

    I like that a lot. It was mentioned it resulted in duplicate coverage on Lk WA Blvd. Although it adds run time it could turn on Lakeview replacing the 235/236 coverage area. Key is getting run time such it can provide 30 minute service. The core purpose is Overlake to S. Kirk P&R so adjust any “tail” accordingly. With that in mind another great option that serves a ton of need high density apartments would be to use 156th to Northup instead of 148th.

    Another possible route would be S. Kirk P&R to Overlake as above but then continue through campus to DT Redmond. It costs money to move RR stops but I’d suggest the “249” follow the current RR-B route down 148th to Willows and come in through the back door to Redmond. Then re-route RR-B from 148th at Old Redmond Rd and put the premium service where it’s faster and I believe more ridership. Or, until Redmond Link opens run shadow service from RTS to DT Redmond on 520. That’s a quick trip and would start building ridership for Link.

  7. Regarding Metro cuts, has there been any mention of layoffs? With looming service cuts there’s going to be less driver hours, less maintenance and less need for administrative overhead. Senior drivers are unlikely to choose early retirement or take less than 8 hour shifts. While still a hardship I guess the ability for some to retain at least PT hours beats being out of work. Of course there’s plenty of work for delivery drivers but you really need a class A CDL to get the good paying jobs. Mechanics likewise should be able to find work albeit not with the great benefits that come with working for Metro. What this sets up though is another driver shortage when all the Senior drivers start retiring around the same time demand starts to return.

  8. I took another look at the East-West report that was referenced in the earlier post since it was discussed here: http://leg.wa.gov/JTC/Meetings/Documents/Agendas/2020%20Agendas/Jun%2023%20Meeting/DraftFinalReport_EastWestPassengerRail.pdf

    What I found most significant is Table 2.2 on page 8. Every other segment can have at least 43 mph except between Auburn and Cle Elum, which is listed as 26 mph And takes 2 hours and 56 minutes to traverse. This clearly is the biggest trackage issue. It’s so slow that it would be faster to have new tracks with electrified locomotives and starting here and switch them out in Cle Elum. Finally, all the other segments appear much faster (many over 50 mph) so that if this segment speed challenge is overcome, the obstacles to east-west service seems much less,

    That begs the question for me whether a follow-up assessment of costs to make this segment operate faster is needed. Would simply electrifying locomotives with a switching yard help? Where could new longer tunnels help speeds, assuming electrification is available? The study also references snow blockages — so how could re-engineering this segment with tunnels avoid these problems? Is there a 50-50 cost sharing possible for two tunnels (port or private sector funded) enabling directional tracks and frequent freight operations as well?

    To me, the report here just highlights the need to get more specific on whether Stampede Pass is viable as an upgraded rail corridor or not.

    1. Building an all new line is out of the question for passenger only service. If anything near that much money was available it would be put into Seattle to Portland HSR. The issue with Stampede Pass is that BNSF doesn’t keep it open in the winter because it can’t handle double stack containers. Until that long standing issue is resolved the only reason BNSF maintains the line at all is for seasonal grain delivery to the ports and deadheading empty coal trains back east. BNSF wants WSDOT to contribute a sizeable portion of the cost for this upgrade. That’s not going to happen any time soon; think after the CRC is complete.

      1. Oh I’d agree it doesn’t make sense for passenger-only service. However, a passenger-freight strategy may work.

        I disagree that the RR would have already unilaterally done it if it was viable. Several ports in the US have provided funds to enlarge or replace rail tunnels to allow for things like double-stacked trains. The few slow Cascades crossings that exist surely pose a challenge for future port expansion.

      2. And this brings us back to the real issue which is BNSF wants WSDOT to contribute a chunk of change to increase the clearance of the Stampede Pass tunnel. It was a WSDOT priority before the great recession nuked the WSDOT rail department. When there’s money it’s probably the best bang for the buck and the justification for public dollars is probably much easier to argue based on the increased capacity to our ports than passenger rail. When Cascades service between Seattle and Portland is competitive with flying then we can look at expanding service to other areas. Eyes on the prize.

      1. All of the viable routes across the Cascades were surveyed a century ago. If there’s ever demand for an additional east/west line it would be over/through Snoqualmie Pass. Steven’s was originally electrified. Faced with the current bottleneck being time it takes to clear the tunnel if electrification was economically viable the RR would do it. There’s no money to improve the current Stampede tunnel so the idea of building a new longer one is pie in the sky. Remember, we’re talking about an inherently low ridership route to begin with.

  9. Regarding the opening of streets, there have been a lot of parks that formerly had tables and chairs for people to sit and eat at, but those have mostly disappeared. Many parks also have tables roped off with caution tape.

    I get the need to discourage large groups from gathering, but considering there are not a lot of other places where someone can sit and eat outside if indoor dining may not be available, seems like it would be easier to just put back the table and chairs at the parks that already had them

  10. A few thoughts on a particular part of the podcast:

    1) Martin, plz make an editorial your thoughts on Everett Transit & Community Transit as you gave them in the podcast. Helps when I agree with you.

    2) As the good guys keep making CT Board transparency an issue, got a good recording of yesterday’s meeting up at https://youtu.be/5pZlnIlYxmI

    3) The Urbanist just dropped an editorial in support of an ET-CT merger.

    4) I got back to “Transit Rider” in the past thread. As I said there, I wish ET Route 70 (Boeing Plant – Mukilteo Ferry Terminal) ran midday. To me, it’s sad it doesn’t and should be transferred to Community Transit. Preferably with a state grant since the route connects the state ferry terminal & a major transit center. But I don’t see the state able to afford much in transit grants for expansion dreams.

    1. When I went with my friend to the Mukilteo Ivar’s to meet his dad who came from Whidbey for lunch, we took the 512 from Seattle to Lynnwood where we expected to meet the 113 to Mukilteo. It wasn’t listed on the bus bay so I asked a 201 driver who was about to depart where it was. He said it goes to Ash Way P&R now. (This was during the 2014 cuts when it was truncated. It was later restored to Lynnwood.) The 512 had already left so I asked if there’s another way to get to Ash Way. He said he was going there so we took the 201 to Ash Way. There was a 45-minute wait, during which I discovered the nice Viennese cafe there. We took the 113 to Mukilteo and had lunch. On the way back we found the 113 was good for catching the ferry westbound, but eastbound there was a 50-minute wait between the ferry’s arrival and the bus’s departure. I also saw there was an Everett Transit route to Everett, but only on weekdays. I thought it should run weekends too.

    2. #3 Has Community Transit committed to serving all the routes Everett Transit is serving now? (Or maybe reorganizing them but still substantially serving all the corridor pairs?) CT’s network in other cities seems less dense than ET’s so consolidation could lead to a reduction in Everett’s transit corridors.

  11. “This will serve zero choice riders, minus a few rail fans” is very on brand.

  12. Good commentary on the politics & history of ET vs CT. I think the history is interesting, where CT was created to connect Snohomish to Seattle, but post-ST2 CT is really getting out of the commuter business and focusing on mobility within Snohomish (evidence by both the Swift network and the Paine Field alignment), and so the difference between CT and ET really fades away.

    I’m in the camp that Seattle and the rest of King County could be better served by two separate agencies, given both the ‘political gradient’ and the clear geographic barrier* (Lake Washington), neither of which exist between CT and ET.

    *barrier is less clear on the south side of Seattle, which is a good argument in favor of KCM as-is.

  13. re CCC Streetcar: yes, it is dying of its own fiscal weight; the tax on TNC will not produce much revenue and folks also want it for housing. Your comments continue to focus on the capital cost; two other important opportunity costs are the right of way and operating subsidy. All three could be better used elsewhere. The council has two new members who explicitly opposed the CCC; all nine see the fiscal cards. Frank mentioned transit priority. SDOT could help move buses faster on 1st Avenue. If we want transit circulation on 1st Avenue, and we should, already funded bus routes could be shifted there. Bus routes were taken from 1st Avenue to make way for the AWV replacement project (2011, routes 15, 18, 21, 22, and 56), AWV related congestion (2012, routes 10 and 12), and the CCC utility work (2014, routes 62, 99, and 125). Those reasons have disappeared; we have been waiting for Godot. If the CCC is dead, SDOT and Metro could shift bus routes to 1st Avenue and could provide many more trips per hour than planned by the Murray-Kubly SDOT (12). All three Seattle local streetcars have been boondoggles and obviously so.

  14. Very late to this, but there is a bus serving the Toppenish to Yakima route, as a subset of a longer route to Prosser (where a timed transfer to the tri-cities via a BFT route can be made). They both run three times a day on weekdays, for free, operated by a non-profit called “People for People,” and funded largely by WSDOT. I have no idea what ridership numbers look like, but the one time I rode on this service, it was a small coach, about 2/3 full.


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