On the first day of 2021, New York’s Penn Station got an expansion that tries to recreate the grand feeling of the old Penn Station before it was demolished in 1963.

68 Replies to “Weekend open thread: Moynihan Train Hall”

  1. Whether or not a light rail system is justified can be determined before it is built by answering this question: Do enough people residing within a quarter mile of each station need to travel frequently enough to destinations within a quarter-mile of other stations? https://www.manhattan-institute.org/economics-urban-light-rail

    Sound Transit used to assure us the answer was “yes” by pointing to all the existing and planned dense worksites near its existing and planned stations, and insisting employers always would demand armies of their workers commute daily to and from those worksites.

    Our involuntary, widespread, and successful experiment with remote working over the past ten months destroyed that argument underlying Sound Transit’s ridership demand projections.

    Let’s assume the worker density near the station areas never approaches the levels Sound Transit was assuming. Planning for the ST3 light rail extensions should stop immediately in light of the gargantuan sales tax costs they would entail, right?

    1. Time for a “Block” button, Frank. Thanks in advance.

      And yes, I know many will block me. It’s worth it to get rid of the Pizzaphile’s emesis.

      1. Yes, please add a block function. Mr. Obviously Anon would be at the top of my list too.

    2. That’s a start. But how much is “enough”? If a 4-car train holds 500 people at the density Seattlites are willing to pack it (which is below the capacity ceiling), then how many of those spaces must be occupied to justify the train? If the train runs every 10 minutes, how full must it be midday?

      Second, many people transfer from train to bus for the rest of their journey, both for a last-mile extension and for a five-mile extension to a neighborhood that doesn’t have Link. If all the seats are occupied by people living within a quarter-mile of a station, there would be no room for these thousands of riders.

      Third, ridership will increase over the decades as the population increases, people get less enamored with driving and parking everywhere all the time, and people get more environmentally sensitive as the climate worsens. There must be spare capacity for this emerging demand.

    3. Agreed. There’s only one part of ST3 that’s actually good and that’s the part that’s the Ballard – DT Seattle portion. To me the question is whether the rest of the systems shortfalls make up for the one good line. In my opinion that’s a hard no. Light rail to Everett, Tacoma, Issaquah are all absolutely ridiculous and should just be BRT. We should listen to the experts at the Manhattan Institute on this one.

      1. Agreed, but my point is that working from home has nothing to do with it. What you wrote was the case before the pandemic, and it is the case after it. Ballard Link is a strong line because Ballard/Lower Queen Anne/South Lake Union/downtown has a lot of combinations that are not easy to serve on the existing roads, any time of day. Everett, Tacoma, Issaquah and even West Seattle are the opposite. Nothing has changed.

      2. Thanks, axe. Perfect example of why any serious discussion needs to start with a careful check of every source in sight. One [CTS] for “Consider The Source” avoids a lot of [AH] ill-will.


        Thanks for the reference, axe. Ever think how many people moved to the Seattle area precisely to get away from this tone of thinking?


        Paul N. Weyrich. So far to the right he would have executed King Louis XIV for liberalism. But in his Spring 1993 issue, he did indeed publish something I co-authored.

        More or less life-long, in my own mind, an electric train that could run both street track and 90 mph right of way personifies my definition of the term “Conservative.”

        Same for starting a regional electric rail with dual-power buses. Though the final development that I’d class as completely ideology-free, would be to govern the resulting system as a worker-owned cooperative.

        How does the saying go….”If you want to get something done right, do it yourself?”

        Mark Dublin

      3. There is already “BRT” all the way to Everett, and most of the way to Tacoma. The proper replacement for the Link extensions beyond Midway and Lynnwood is “express bus” running in well-enforced HOV lanes which are 3+ during peaks where necessary to keep the buses running.

        “BRT” is for all-day urban service with lots of short-haul trips.

  2. Let’s assume the worker density near the station areas never approaches the levels Sound Transit was assuming. Planning for the ST3 light rail extensions should stop immediately in light of the gargantuan sales tax costs they would entail, right?


    If you are building a subway/metro for 9 to 5 commuters, than you are doing it wrong. We’ve repeated this point many, many times — even on the previous post:

    So, either they are building it wrong (and don’t care) or it is a normal subway/metro, and isn’t dependent on those riders. Working from home doesn’t change things (or rather, it changes things only at the margins).

  3. Thanks for the posting, Oran. But given my own span of years, not all the memories in this connection are good ones. For blind, wanton destruction in the world of transportation, Terrorist chieftain Osama bin Laden was just a copy-cat.


    But something else. Since our country was founded in The Age of Reason, I know that the Ninth Amendment protects me from being fined or quarantined for ignoring people.
    So, there’s little trick I’ve developed over the years that seems to work.

    The louder somebody yells and the more vehemently they demand obedience, the less attention I pay to them at all. “The Manhattan Institute?” Go ahead, everybody, take a sec and look them up. And then write in and tell me their percentage of the vote in either Manhattan or any other borough.

    But for a [TOPIC] I would really put my name to, I not only want to have this region RIDE on streetcars, but even more, manufacture them ourselves. World’s best guarantee of quality. Maybe sharing plant-space with the dual-power buses it’d take a Coward of the Year contender to be afraid to build locally.

    We’re not talking rocket-ships, we’re talking streetcars and buses. Keep your fingers clear of the cutters and they don’t bite. Please let’s just start hiring each other to build them.

    Mark Dublin

  4. Wow. The history behind Penn station is amazing to me. The complex nature of a multi state train and subway mega structure are cool enough. But this one has been evolving and decaying back and forth for several generations. Really makes the future interchanges of ST3 seem very simplistic in comparison. Can you imagine an interchange underground in the Puget Sound area like that? Not Westlake or IDS.

    That station has seemed to have gone full circle. The old head house, original street level building is torn down in the sixties. Then 70 years later, part of it is daylighted again. Amazing.

    1. I read that the destruction of the art deco building was controversial at the time, and that many people who wanted to keep the building didn’t protest to save it because they thought it wouldn’t really happen, and then it did.

      1. It is not the exact same thing, but it reminds me of the history of King Street Station. Somebody wanted to modernize it. I don’t remember the year. Probably 60’s or 70’s. Just like the Penn Station timeline. They lowered the ceiling, put in modern lighting and covered up the beautiful, but worn out architecture. Plus other uogrades at that time. About 10 years ago, I think Seattle bought it. Spent millions to renovate it to look like the original building. Adding modern environmentally friendly technology as a bonus. Now it looks like the original building, years later, even if some of it is retro. Expensive, but kind of cool.

        Plus the creators of King Street Station were also the creators of Grand Central Terminal. And King Stree Station is older.

      2. It’s outrageous!
        The City of Seattle paid 10x what the State of Washington would have gotten it for !
        Plus for the cost of the renovations, just think of all the highway improvements that could have been made !

  5. Now that Oran has given us an example of the inter-reaction between fine buildings and time, I’m going to use the opportunity to postulate another one.

    I do recall a recent period where Union Station had some activities I’d really like to see come back. In Seattle, there should be at least one operative espresso machine. But more important, I’d like to see the return of the technical library that used to be on the fifth floor in The Exchange Building.

    I know that, functionally, it’d be a toss-up just to leave these entries and materials on the tenth floor of the main city library Downtown, where I think they are located now. Something in me just wants to make this area of knowledge a working construction site.

    Good post, Oran. Just something to think about.

    Mark Dublin

  6. https://www.theurbanist.org/2018/04/16/better-transit-hub-people-union-station-see-trains/

    Well how ’bout that! “The Urbanist” beat me to this a couple of years ago. But here’s the usage I’d make a priority out of. A place where a card-tap could officially register its owner as somebody who’s actively interested in transit itself.

    With lifetime admission privilege to the Ruth Fisher Boardroom. And everything else that my generation can give them to make them feel welcome. Just time, that’s all.


    Mark Dublin

  7. Jimmy James, especially regarding Seattle’s Central Business District, we all need to develop the habit of thinking in at least four dimensions: Length, width, depth and time.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Northern_Tunnel …..
    It’s been where it is for 115 years. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel has been here for 30.

    The reason that I want to see our every similar project kicked off by somebody in a hard-hat, instead of office clothes. And also why I think our public school system, especially in Seattle, should start to incorporate this whole subject to make students feel comfortable with calculations like these.

    Do it right and our classrooms will never be empty.

    Mark Dublin.

  8. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2019/11/29/penn-station-robert-caro-073564

    Really wish I could’ve at least sniffed this information before I put it out here. I don’t doubt that younger generations will finally get it together to either get this mess swept up or at least buried deep enough that its odor will come out the other side of the world.

    For my part in calling attention to it, I’m sorry. Good thing it’s time for bed.

    Mark Dublin

  9. What little I might be able to do to make up for this:


    “Robert Moses at one point held 12 titles simultaneously (including New York City Parks Commissioner and Chairman of the Long Island State Park Commission),[4] but was never elected to any public office (he ran only once, for governor of New York as a Republican in 1934 and lost to Herbert H. Lehman in a landslide).”

    “Nevertheless, he created and led numerous public authorities that gave him autonomy from the general public and elected officials. Through these authorities, he controlled millions of dollars in income from his projects, such as tolls, and he could issue bonds to borrow vast sums for new ventures with little or no input from legislative bodies.”

    In other words, at least force the person to run for dog-catcher so we can at least get an idea of how they handle power in general. Fortunately, in Nature’s own four-legged world, She’s made it really hard for somebody really evil to impersonate a “GOOOOOOOOD Boy” and get away with it.

    Bark! Mean, Mark Dublin.

  10. Throwing this out to the horde: is it possible to use Seattle’s monorail taxing authority to create a gondola route for the Metro 8 route (essentially Sculpture Park to Cap Hill (and beyond)? Would property owners file enough lawsuits to stop it from happening?

    1. mdnative, you might want to be proud your sense of transit hasn’t faded. Even if a conveyance like this tends more to Pennsylvania, a sense-of-slopes is especially important to KCM Route 8.

      Just trying to envision this route, an elevated structure the whole length of the run down to Seattle Center, I can see a lot of opposition to its just being there. But a counterweight mechanism same as the original Queen Anne counterbalance, there could be room.


      Not a question of terminology. It’s a question of what fits. This one? Worth a walk out to where East Denny Way crosses the freeway. Average cell phone should handle all your photography.

      Mark Dublin

    2. There couldn’t be a worse time in history to propose a gondola. People don’t want to be confined with others in small spaces. And, city gondolas often become novelty ride for tourists. We have no tourists right now. Wait until covid is in the rear view mirror before bringing up this absurd, tone-deaf idea.

      1. It takes a while to build things, Sam. By the time they actually started construction, the pandemic would be in the rear view mirror (as you put it) and people would be fine riding a gondola, or a bus, or a train; they might even be willing to hang out in a bar!

    3. I prefer tracked cable technology (a sideways elevator) over a pure gondola. They can move faster and seem to handle wheelchairs better. The Oakland Airport BART shuttle line is a good example. They are much cheaper than a full light rail with power and heavier vehicles. A variation is a counter-balance or an incline or funicular.

      The right fixed-track system can even be single track except for the bypass tracks in the middle.

  11. With the recent talk of gondolas, I started looking at areas that could make sense for them. I think there are very few in Seattle. One possibility is from the Northgate Station to North Seattle College. It is about a quarter mile (or 400 meters) from College Way/Meridian to the station. That is a very good distance for a gondola — any shorter and walking is much better; much longer and other (faster) modes make more sense. Depending on the type of gondola, that is somewhere between 30 and 45 seconds. Given the very high frequency, the trip would take less than a minute.

    The low travel and wait time of a gondola make it an attractive option. Getting from the college to the station would take about as much time as getting from the transit center to the station (since the gondola would terminate at the platform level, high above the ground). Not only would this make the trip to the campus (and surrounding apartments) much nicer, but it essentially make the college part of the transit center (or a twin transit center if you will). It would be faster to get off the bus and take the gondola rather than “rounding the horn”. This could alter the bus network in significant ways.

    If layover space could be found (which seems quite likely) then the 40 and the 345/346 could terminate there, saving about 5 minutes per route. This savings would be put into the system, increasing frequency. You would lose service on 1st and 92nd, but that could be covered with a new 61. Decoupling the 345/346 and 347/348 might actually cost time (more than is saved) but it would open up more useful extensions and add flexibility. My guess is there are very few people that round the horn beyond Northgate (a trip made faster with the gondola) making the pairing less than ideal. One possibility would be to extend the 345/346 to Green Lake. It could take over the old 63 route (5th, then Weedin).

    Of course this is unlikely to happen, given the expense of the new bridge, and plethora of similar projects in the Seattle area (e. g. NE 130th could use a new pedestrian/bike bridge). It might have made sense to have the gondola *instead* of the new bridge (again, given the cost of the bridge) but the bridge does have its advantages (it is open 24/7 for one).

    While walking (or riding your bike) on the bridge will save a lot of time versus going around, I don’t think it would change the dynamic with the bus routes. I doubt the 40 would end at the college, for example. It would be a quick gondola ride, but a five minute walk, making it too far (in my opinion).

    1. I always thought a good gondola route would be Pioneer Square Station to Harborview – short but very steep hill, major destination, heavy traffic makes the bus very slow, and pretty good locations available for stations on either end.

      1. Yeah, that would be good — it certainly has enough people — but I think I would start with just adding bus lanes on James. That would benefit not only folks who are going between those two places, but anyone on the 3/4.

        The main reason Northgate Station to North Seattle College makes some sense is that there is no direct way to drive there. Even when there is no traffic it takes a while (unlike going up James, where the biggest issue is traffic). This gives a gondola an advantage, overcoming a natural (or man made) obstacle. It also means it won’t be part of a larger bus line (once the gondola is added).

        There are a lot of potential gondola routes, but none of them seem to work out. For example, Westlake to Eastlake looks good on the map. You could run a gondola at roughly Crockett, saving quite a bit of time for people there. The problem is, there just isn’t that much at Crockett. Almost all of the big development on Westlake is further south. At that point, you are better off just “rounding the horn” on buses, even if it means a transfer. Likewise, the top of Queen Anne to Expedia. There just aren’t enough people in either spot. Lower Queen Anne has the huge numbers of people, and it is (more or less) on the way.

        Even the route from Capitol Hill to Lower Queen Anne to the Seattle Center competes with the 8. There are enough people to make both work (especially since the gondola would be further north). But as improvements are made to the 8, a lot of people would find the 8 more attractive, especially since it has a lot more stops.

        Gondolas remind me a lot of ferries. You have to have a physical advantage — it has to be a shortcut, if you will, versus the street grid. You also have to have really strong demand in each location (as opposed to a strong corridor, like Aurora). If you don’t have that, you are better off with land based transportation. The latest plans for passenger ferries fail for the same reason gondolas fail — it would be faster to just run a bus, or put the money into making the buses faster.

      2. And you don’t want to take the streetcar, or the route 3 or 4 between Pioneer Square and Harborview because … ?

        And don’t even think about mentioning you need a gondola because the other two modes require you to walk a block.

      3. I’ve long advocated for a study to look into cable-pulled technologies for this corridor.

        Technology options include a gondola, a funicular or inclined elevator, a cable car, and an elevator or escalator system with a moving sidewalk — below ground, above ground or a hybrid.

        A study is the first step to define the requirements for such a system. That’s all for now — a study. Only then can the merits and costs be assessed for viability.

        Portland just did one and settled on an “inclined elevator”: https://trimet.org/swcorridor/route/marquamhillconnector.htm

        Ironically, the Pioneer Square Station has the historic wheel the cable car service that used to run. The technology concept was identified over a century ago. When it was built, no one designed for wheelchairs and bicycles — two important new considerations in these times. Does anyone think a wheelchair passenger enjoys riding the 3 or 4 to and from Harborview?

    2. Unless there is a major elevation difference, a ped bridge would always be preferable to a gondola. The capital cost difference is small, while the operating cost difference is enormous. It’s like the difference between stairs and an escalator. Frankly, it would be more useful and cost effective to just bolt on a escalator (or elevator) to the east approach, if your goal is to shave off a few minutes. Same for anything going up/down Queen Anne – just install a series of escalators, like in Barcelona or HK. An escalator would work well along Galer down to Westlake, or as a direct connection to a Smith Cove station on the east side.

      How long will it take to cross the Northgate bridge, as currently designed? It might still be useful to extend the TC across I5, if it does save significant bus hours. Is it a longer walk than needing to transfer from, say, King Street Sounder station to the FH Streetcar?

      A example where a gondola might be better than a ped bridge could be a connection between Eastlake and Cap Hill, perhaps connecting SLU and FH streetcars (with FH streetcar extended to Aloha or Roy) to complete the ‘loop.’ There is both a physical barrier (I5) and a major elevation change. Could do an Aloha, Thomas, or Harrison alignment. But a gondola along Denny itself isn’t as compelling because people can walk/bike that exact alignment, and it would duplicate the 8 and we’d be better off investing in 8 priority.

      Maybe a gondola in lieu of a Magnolia car bridge? Again, major elevation change so perhaps preferable to a ped bridge, and a direct connection to a Link station could generate sufficient ridership to merit the O&M cost? Probably not, but as an alternative to replacing the car bridge, might be compelling.

      1. *Smith Cove station on the West side. As we discussed in a prior thread, that’s too steep for most people to take a stairs, but an escalator would resolve that barrier.

      2. For the cost of a gondola, it seems you could just build a moving sidewalk on the ped bridge, for similar effect. Although, I don’t think either justifies the cost. It’s not that far to walk, and if it’s taking too long, you can always just walk faster.

      3. How long will it take to cross the Northgate bridge, as currently designed?

        A little over six minutes for a fast walker, near as I figure. The gondola then, would save about five minutes, although you could have bunching on the station side. It would largely benefit those who are differently abled.

        This, in turn, would mean that buses like the 40, 345 and 346 don’t have to do that time consuming loop. Even with that very expensive bridge, those buses will make that loop. Six minutes of walking (and twice that if you are in a wheel chair or use a cane) is just too far. But if there is an alternative that works for people of all abilities and is faster than making the loop, people would be OK with the change.

      4. For the cost of a gondola, it seems you could just build a moving sidewalk on the ped bridge, for similar effect.

        Yeah, maybe.

        Although, I don’t think either justifies the cost.

        No, not since we are building the (quite expensive) bridge.

        It’s not that far to walk, and if it’s taking too long, you can always just walk faster.

        Except, of course, for the fact lots of people can’t. I mean they are literally incapable of walking, let lone walking faster. The obvious way to serve these people, as well as people who just don’t want to walk, is to continue making the buses loop around. This is why they will — I guarantee it. There is no way the 40, 345 or 346 are terminating at the college, despite the addition of this very fine pedestrian bridge. They aren’t even talking about it. If they had built a gondola, though, it would definitely be discussed, if not be the preferred option.

      5. An escalator would work well along Galer down to Westlake, or as a direct connection to a Smith Cove station on the west side.

        I don’t know why you think a massive escalator in a slide prone area would be a lot cheaper an effective than a gondola. Gondolas aren’t that expensive, and escalators aren’t that cheap. In the case of the escalator, you would still have to get to the pedestrian bridge to get over the railroad tracks and perhaps Elliot. Then you would walk to the base of the hill, and take the escalator up to a relatively low density residential neighborhood (https://goo.gl/maps/KsUeSosZKYLSrLtb8). It makes my wacky gondola from Upper Queen Anne to Expedia sound downright sensible. At least there is something at the top of Queen Anne, and this would be a fairly quick way to make the trip (significantly faster than on foot, both directions). Still not worth it, as you could stay on the bus/train, and just take a bus up Queen Anne Avenue.

        That’s the thing with almost all these ideas — they just aren’t worth it. For example, I was thinking about an escalator/funicular just south of the Yesler projects. It could be built at 10th, where there is the zig-zag path up the hill (https://goo.gl/maps/C2qmc17tSpwTYGnp9), or maybe to the left (west) of the building there. I’m sure it would get a fair number of users. But the alternative (to walking up the hill) is just to walk over to the 12th and catch the 60. Either way the 60 is going up the hill.

        Waterfront elevators make sense, though. There is no transit on the waterfront, and adding it is problematic, with the railroad crossing. So solving that “last mile” problem with an elevator is quite reasonable and effective (which is why they are there).

      6. Unless there is a major elevation difference, a ped bridge would always be preferable to a gondola.“

        I agree eholehardedly. There is also the extra staff required to provide wheelchair assistance.

        I view a gondola as a last-resort choice. Other cable or belt technologies can provide vehicle stability and enable faster speeds.

        An urban setting is not a seasonal ski slope! The system had to be designed for continuous urban use and abuse. We recently learned this already with the UW Station escalator debacle.

      7. The main purpose of the bridge is not for people who are headed to Northgate Station and are already on the bus – under typical traffic conditions, most will probably do better just by staying on the bus. Rather, the bridge is about people who live, work, or go to school in the NSCC area who are spared having to wait for a bus for an additional connection. Once wait time is factored in, walking becomes a lot faster.

        If the bridge were supplemented by a gondola, it would cost an inordinate amount of money – not just to build, but to operate (paying an employee bus driver wages to stand there all day at each end is expensive). And, for what? The vast majority of college students are able bodied, and could walk across the bridge in at most a minute or two longer than the gondola would take. Those who can’t walk across the bridge have the 40/345/346 available as an alternative; while it’s slower, they’ll eventually get there, and it’s good enough for a small group of people. Even wheelchair bound people probably wouldn’t need to wait for the bus; lots of wheelchairs are motorized these days and driving a motorized wheelchair over the ped bridge is as quick and easy as an able-bodied person walking, and has got to be much faster than a bus connection with the additional overhead of needing to deploy the wheelchair ramp at each end.

        Nor am I convinced that even a gondola would actually allow buses to be truncated. It adds overhead for people already on the bus. It makes people who board the bus at 92nd St. have to walk further to get to their stop. And the labor cost of operating the gondola would inevitably mean that it’s only running for limited hours, which means a confusing mess where buses terminate at different points, depending on whether it’s weekday or weekend, or before or after 7 PM.

        If there’s any place in Seattle where a gondola makes sense, it would be capitol hill->SLU, not here. Capitol Hill->SLU has a large vertical gap that would provide a gondola with a permanent travel time advantage over walking, even if a ped bridge existed (which it does not, and building it might not be much cheaper than building the gondola).

      8. @asdf2 — I’ll admit my comment is long, but I addressed all these issues when I first wrote the comment.

        I wrote that the existence of the bridge makes a gondola unrealistic. As far as cost, the bridge was extremely expensive — probably as expensive as a gondola. Yes, the bridge offers plenty of advantages, as I noted.

        But this statement ignores one of the key advantages of a gondola:

        Those who can’t walk across the bridge have the 40/345/346 available as an alternative

        Except the buses wouldn’t make that loop! That’s my point. The buses would terminate at the college (saving service hours) or keep going to 65th (providing an an additional connection). The point is, the loop sucks. It is both wasteful (eating up valuable service hours) and also painfully slow for riders. The only way you get rid of it is to have a fast, frequent transit alternative (like a gondola).

        You also wrote this, which was addressed as well:

        It makes people who board the bus at 92nd St. have to walk further to get to their stop.

        As I wrote, the 61 would cover those stops, and do so in a more logical fashion.

        Meanwhile, after dismissing the gondola idea for Northgate, you suggest a different one:

        Capitol Hill->SLU has a large vertical gap that would provide a gondola with a permanent travel time advantage over walking

        The same is true of the other gondola.

        , even if a ped bridge existed (which it does not, and building it might not be much cheaper than building the gondola).

        The same is true of the other gondola.

        There is no fundamental difference. Its the same thing. The only major difference is that the 8 exists, and provides an alternative that doesn’t involve buses going in a loop. It is a route that keeps going in the same basic direction, even if it eventually uses Harrison (thus cutting across the middle of the South Lake Union neighborhood) — which is the long range plan. Likewise, a bus that uses Belmont, Lakeview and Aloha is also quite straight forward — it doesn’t loop around.

        Again (just so you don’t make the same, incorrect assumption again) I’m not saying that we should now build a gondola from Northgate to the college. Nor am I saying that we should have built a gondola instead of a bridge. I’m saying that it would have offered some significant advantages from a transit perspective, and some disadvantages otherwise.

        It seems crazy to spend a bunch of money to save riders about five minutes, but West Seattle Link will be lucky if it saves anyone five minutes, while there will be plenty who experience a delay.

      9. My concern about a Northgate->NSCC gondola is not just construction cost, but operations cost. Unlike a ped bridge where, once it’s built, it’s built, a gondola costs money every hour it runs in the form of electricity, wear and tear on moving parts, and staffing at each end. Even if the gondola were already there – even if there were no ped bridge as an alternative – the cost of operating the gondola would likely only pass cost/benefit muster during weekday daytime hours when NSCC students are going to/from class. The rest of the time, everyone would have to walk or bus the long way around.

        While truncating buses a half mile to the west would theoretically save money to pay for it, that’s only really the case (if at all) during the weekday daytime period. When bus frequency drops, extending a route another half mile often costs nothing, since the longer route can be operated with the exact same fleet of buses and drivers, just with a slightly shorter layover time.

        Capitol Hill is different because there’s a lot more activity going on there evenings and weekends (once COVID ends and life returns to normal), which would justify running the gondola for more hours each week. Even if gondola construction cost was free, I doubt a Northgate->NSCC line could justify running much beyond 7-7, Monday-Friday. The Portland aerial tram, for example, stops running at 9:30 weekdays, runs only 9-5 Saturdays, and doesn’t run at all Sundays. A capitol hill line, on the other hand, might be able to sustain longer operating hours because of the capitol hill nightlife. If extended to Seattle Center, it could even run late on event days to get people home from hockey games.

  12. Mark Dublin, I told you I expected regular Intercity Transit reports from you. Where are they? You do take transit in Olympia, don’t you?

  13. Houses in Cleveland cost 5 to 10 times less than houses in Seattle. And Seattle has twice the density as Cleveland.

    1. Both Cleveland and Seattle have won the NBA championship once. Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while Seattle has the Museum of Pop Culture.

      Find out more fun facts as we compare these two cities for some unknown reason.

      1. Transit not so fun facts: Cleveland has an excellent BRT line that connects to the two primary job centers in the city, a subway to the airport, and traditional streetcar suburbs that still have their streetcar(s)! Ridership is mediocre on all three lines, confirming there’s more to good ridership than good alignment.

      2. Ridership is mediocre on all three lines, confirming there’s more to good ridership than good alignment.

        You mean like density and frequency?

      3. Actually, no. Jobs density is good, and housing density is OK, which is what I meant by a ‘good’ alignment. Frequency was actually pretty good on the HealthLine (the BRT) and OK on the rail lines, pre-pandemic. Per the RTA website, 10-minute frequency service during peak travel periods and 24/7 span of service.

        Instead, abundant parking and no time competitiveness means negligible ‘choice’ riders.

      4. Sorry, but no. Job density and population density is fairly low. Likewise with the frequency. Ten minutes freak is mediocre (and it implies less than ten minute outside of peak — which is very low, especially for BRT). You can say all of it is pretty good, but then I can say ridership is pretty good as well.

        Here is the density: https://arcg.is/f94ir. Notice that like other Great Lakes industrial towns (Detroit being the obvious example) it is a hollowed out city. In 1950 there were over 900,000 people within the city itself. Right now there are less than 400,000. This is terrible scenario when it comes to transit. It is difficult to generate all day ridership when the urban core is so low density.

        From an employment standpoint it isn’t quite as bad, but it still isn’t great. It is just relatively small. It looks like Spokane, except that it has a good secondary employment area in the Cleveland Clinic area. That, and the fact that it has more suburban employment. I wish this website (https://onthemap.ces.census.gov/) allowed me to link to the data it generates, but if you look up Spokane and Cleveland, you can see how similar the peak employment in Spokane is with the peak employment in Cleveland. Cleveland has a very attractive downtown, it just doesn’t have that many jobs (https://goo.gl/maps/z2bA2ENqfw5ub3Wz8).

        This makes it unlikely that any transit line will get a ton of people. With few exceptions, population density is fairly low, and employment density is too small to make up for it. From what I can tell, ridership for the BRT lines has been excellent, and should be considered a huge success. The Health Line has 20,000 riders a day (http://www.riderta.com/overview). The Cleveland Line is second, and while I can’t find the ridership, is better than expected (https://www.masstransitmag.com/bus/press-release/12099987/greater-cleveland-regional-transit-authority-rta-ridership-up-28-on-cleveland-state-line) suggesting this performs far better than many RapidRide routes. My guess is it is underfunded (since Cleveland doesn’t have the money) and thus doesn’t run especially often. This would also explain why the numbers surprised people. Thus with just a little bit more money, they could run those buses (as well as the other buses) more often, and get better ridership.

        As it is though, I think they are doing quite well. It just has a lot lower density than Seattle (and just a lot smaller overall).

      5. How do you pull employment from that census link? Are you looking at CBD employment or total city?

    2. Why an I yammering on about Cleveland? I read a story in the NYT about its troubles in 2020. Something about more crime and stuff. So, I was curious what houses costs there. (I’ve been zillowing like crazy during covid). And, I was kinda shocked at seeing so many $100K – $200K single family homes there. Seems like a cool town except for the crime and poverty.

  14. https://www.bestplaces.net/compare-cities/seattle_wa/cleveland_oh/people

    Most interesting is the change in population for each city since 2010 and 2000. Cleveland today has 5004 residents per square mile to 8004 for Seattle, although based on population totals density was around the same ten years ago, certainly 20 years ago.

    My guess is the difference in housing costs is directly related to population gains or losses, which are based on many factors.

    If I were Seattle I would be a little perturbed I was being compared to Cleveland to begin with. Austin ok, but Cleveland?

    1. Yes, it follows population, because population changes the vacancy rate. That changes the relative supply, so that more or fewer people are competing for each unit. Construction can’t change as quickly or as much, both because it takes more than a year to site, finance, and build a building, and because zoning regulations severely restrict what can be built.

      When the population is increasing, construction is high in areas that are permissive about infill (=increasing density) and sprawl (Chicago, Houston, Dallas). It’s medium in areas that are more restrictive (Seattle). It’s low in areas that require a zoning variance for every multifamily building and these are often rejected (Silicon Valley).

      When the population is decreasing, construction is presumably zero. But that’s OK because there are plenty of inexpensive existing homes to choose from. Seattle was like that in the 1970s and 80s. Population peaked in the early 1960s at 550,000′ fell in the late 60s and 70s, started coming back in the 80s, but it didn’t reach its previous peak until the 2000s. So there was little construction between the late 60s and early 90s because there was no need of it.

    2. One problem that can occur when population is not increasing and construction is stopped, is that you’re limited to the kinds of housing that were previously built. That makes it doubly important to build them right in the first place. That means walkable houses, grid streets, small, blocks, easy to serve by transit, etc. If you’re left with cul-de-sacs, large setbacks, strip malls, and surface parking lots in front of everything, that’s the worst of both worlds.

    3. There was an interesting 30 for 30 ESPN documentary about Cleveland, called “Believeland” (https://espnpressroom.com/us/press-releases/2016/05/next-documentary-espn-films-30-30-series-believeland-premieres-may-14/). Like all of the 30 for 30 documentaries, it explores the interplay between society and sports. For a city like Cleveland, that means not only big ups and downs for the sports teams, but the city and region. The general arc is well known, even if you have a cursory understanding of American history (Cleveland is an industrial city on the Great Lakes — need I say more?). But the particulars, as always, are interesting.

      By the way, the two best 30 for 30 documentaries I’ve seen are “Bernie and Ernie” (great insight if you are new to this country, or just weren’t paying attention) and “Once Brothers” (about the breakup of Yugoslavia and its effect on some great basketball players).

      It is interesting reading the Wikipedia post about Cleveland. I didn’t realize Langston Hughes went to high school there.

      In this century, it would make sense for cities like Cleveland to grow much larger, as they have good natural resources (water) and plenty of existing infrastructure. Of course, that would assume that we, as a society, have our act together. It probably won’t go down like that. We’ll likely sprawl into various suburbs, put more pressure on western water supplies, and otherwise thrash the planet, as if we are toddlers handed the keys to the house. Because God forbid we subsidize the very cities that helped us defeat the Nazis and then build the greatest middle class the world has ever known. There are just a few too many black lives in Cleveland to matter to the rest of the country, I’m afraid.

  15. Best way to put it, Sam, is that Intercity Transit will get me back as a passenger when they can once again give me the service both my years and my health jointly dictate.

    And when passengers and transit drivers with their whole lives still ahead of them no longer have anything epidemiological to fear from me. My car, I look at as a reliable mobile quarantine chamber. May she remain so.

    So meantime, what I’m trying to do in these pages is to research and put forth for discussion, things to be remembered, researched, and subject to constant discussion as to their future use.

    And also, do whatever I can to pass along to the world of public transit, my only real “stock in trade:” which includes memories of actual ridership on a lot of Chicago CTA rolling stock equipped with ornate compressed-air propelled gates like out of a cowboy movie.

    Which is nothing, though, compared to a “clean” lie-detector statement under oath that the “Electroliner” not only did exist, but certainly can do so anyplace else a new generation of ridership can raise the taxes and pay for it.

    Because, though it’s unlikely our nation will ever again be invaded “On the Ground”, possible exception being across The Mason Dixon Line, somebody wealthy, intelligent, and numerous will sooner or later demand a 90 mph streetcar ride seen over the lip of a demitasse.

    So, no harm leaving some research results lying around. Now that software with names like AutoCAD and SolidWorks can put the creation of these machines on a Lake Washington Tech’s computer in the hands of a freshman……

    Look at it this way. If somebody’s designing in a double case of homicide on any airliner’s drafting board, there’ll be even less chance than now that next time they’ll get away with it.

    Mark Dublin

  16. As I said before, someone told me the reason Metro had a dramatic spike in cancelled trips in Demember was because employees were told one of their two week Covid leave offers was expiring at the end of the year. He made it sound like a free, no questions asked, paid, two week vacation. But, if the employee didn’t take the leave before the end of the year, they lost it. That’s why, he said, there was a scramble for everyone to take the leave in the last few weeks in December.

    Anyway, if what he said was true, Metro should start to see a lot less cancelled trips in January.

    Sam. Passer-on of gossip.

  17. Moynihan Station is such a waste. The problem with Penn Station (and I used to walk through it about once a week) is not lack of sunlight or even aesthetics in general, it’s the poor passenger circulation. It’s the fact that the platform for boarding the train is not known until a few minutes in advance, so everyone has to crowd around the departure boards and then rush toward the newly-known platform as soon as their train shows up.

    The solution to the problem does not require a new station at all. From the point of view of most passengers – the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit passengers, who far outnumber the Amtrak passengers, it will in fact have no effect at all. For many of the Amtrak passengers, it will be worse, because now they have to walk farther to get to the 1/2/3 subway trains, which have more ridership than the A/C/E.

    It only makes sense to someone who has never had to take the train on a regular basis in New York. Which somehow, even in New York, the only place in America where most people ride transit, describes precisely the people making the decisions about transit.

    1. I agree, as someone who has been using Penn Station and its Zaro’s Bread Basket for 39 years now. You would think that by now they would have come up with a solution to better manage the crowd circulation, signage, and such.

      It seems to me that the Moynihan building will just be patched on to the existing complex, further creating a confusing mix of passageways and spaces across multiple levels.

      Is it known if Amtrak passengers will *have* to use the new Moynihan entrances to access their tracks, or if they can continue to board from the easterly staircases as they do now? Could you imagine the trek over there from the 7th Avenue subway with luggage?

      I must differ from all of the critical press Penn receives: the station is brighter and cleaner now than it has ever been (including the restrooms), and it must be said that it is highly efficient to move so many people each hour through such a small space.

  18. The thing about Cleveland that everybody involved with transit around Seattle has to be aware of. If it weren’t for the presence of Ron Tober, our regional transit project would still be litany after litany of flipcharts and public meetings.


    Want to know what a character-defining minute looks like? When Ron tapped the gavel on the first of several years’ worth of meetings for which drivers were detailed as advisors, this exchange stays in my recollection.

    Ron: “You are here to be advisors to me personally. When I think you have information I need to fulfill my duty in the design of this project, you will tell me what you know.

    “AND I WILL MAKE THE DECISION!” Notice he didn’t say “The decision will be made.” Career-wise, I would’ve rather taken a reprimand bordering on termination from him than a commendation from anybody else in the company.

    Too-many-movies come-down for me. What I envisioned was that after opening day, Ron and I would have finished out our working lives in our respective “drivers’ seats” at Metro and the regional outfit the evolved from it.

    “Real-World”, people of Ron’s caliber only stay to see Operations into existence. And then head on out to where the air is fresher, and there’s a NEW transit system to be built. If memory serves, Ron went to Hawaii.

    Given his service time in Carolina, when the time comes, those of us who admired him might give him a pedestal to look down on from under a Grand Army of the Republic visor-hat.

    Across the Slave States, the hill people like the Carolinians and the Kentuckians thought that fighting pro-slavery was a rich man’s war become a poor man’s fight. Know how we should take care of the monument problem?

    Leave the confederate statue where it is. But maybe fifty feet away, install a real civil war cannon, surrounded by its entire gun-crew, with plaques nearby revealing their names. I know that somebody into antique armaments can fix it so every nearby car-line can arrange many hours of historic honesty.

    But to get back to your question about how Link operating crews deal with assignment and compensation matters, what business is it of yours?

    Mark Dublin

  19. In a brief scene in a new show, Hollywood portrays regular public bus riders as crazy low-lifes. It’s a short clip, (from 0:44 – 0:54) in a show called Mr. Mayor. Some of the bus riders are: A drunk and/or mentally ill man who believes he is the mayor, and want to fight. A woman eating an entire roasted chicken. A little boy in pajamas with what looks like a strip of scratch-off lottery tickets in his lap. And, a bus full of riders who want to see a fight. Is this how non-public transit users view people who ride the bus?

    1. It’s how Hollywood sees transit users, and the working class (these are people who don’t even drive themselves).

      As befits most new TV shows on the major networks it is devoid of nuance, meaning or pathos, let alone the most difficult of all — humor, which is why we are paying ( we already have all the other emotions in our regular, ordinary lives, that amazingly to Hollywood are meaningful, and as my father used to say reasonably happy).

      If you want to see Ted Danson is a really good series (Danson generally does better in a supporting role) watch Bored To Death.

      1. I’m surprised you let this real piece of dynamite get past you, Daniel. Hard to know which comes off worse, your view of your fellow citizens, or your appreciation of the characters they portray.


        Since the theme of this whole enterprise is transit, what we desperately need is an update on a whole world not ruled by a politician, but by A BUS DRIVER!

        Whose best buddy is a…c’mon, c’mon, what other civic service did my fellow Metro employees perform for the tax-payers? But here’s the real metric you have to look at. Anybody who even remembers who Jackie Gleason was:

        Could anybody of your generation ever imagine anybody attacking a bus driver, let alone a sanitation worker…let alone thinking it was funny? Do me a favor, somebody with the combined talent and money to bring back somebody really wonderful from the dead.

        Cast it and shoot it the way the man wrote it. So at least we don’t think entertainment could ever generate fortunes from material which along with everything else wrong about it is also not even a little bit funny.

        Mark Dublin

  20. Sound Transit’s priority tonight? How much would it cost, and how long would it take, to see to it that the loss of a major part of its intercity railroad does not wash itself out of service every time it rains?

    Could be my own problem just remembering back all these years, but it’s not like there’s any mystery about the problem. And what to do about it.

    “Gondolopolis?” My call is to put the mainline north-south service in place and let it run a few years, paying constant attention and keeping notes as to choices.

    Those 19th century platform contraptions that could carry a perfectly horizontal streetcar, horses and all, really also carry a lot of transit-building authority as well. Might even be able to handle a ‘quake, which is always a consideration here.

    Capitol Hill Station to Seattle Center? Just thinking about it, an east-west gondola system seems like a lot of hardware in the air for the passenger loads. Might be better handled with a system of lanes and signals that would keep a Route 8 trolley-bus constantly in motion.

    Seeing to it that a bus approaching the I-5 crossover in motion stays that way ’til it gets across the freeway. At the Northgate end, I’m sensing a seriously un-discussed imperative:

    North Seattle College, Northgate Shopping Mall, and Lake City are going to need to become the same integrated and co-functioning place. Though again, this is something that’ll just have to be watched through a few years of motion to see how it all works.

    And again, not just “watched” but experienced. Reason I won’t trust live passengers (who I’d kind of like to keep that way) to anything that can’t feel the results of a command. The way the world works, what you can’t feel, you dare not try to control either.

    Mark Dublin

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