,_2021.jpg”>Tacoma Narrows Bridge and Mount Rainier, 2021

This is an open thread.

164 Replies to “News roundup: all caught up”

  1. I’d like to thank the STB contributors, new and old, and especially Martin for bringing the blog back to life after the unplanned summer hiatus. I have STB on a bookmark list of news sources that I use to keep up with the stuff, and the fresh fodder for discussion in comments, while heated at times, is greatly appreciated.

    1. Thanks for the link! I was just talking about this recently with one of our Chicago friends (who lives in the Andersonville neighborhood and works downtown). His response was, “It’s about f***ing time.”

      Now if they could only come to agreement on the spelling of Lakeview (vs. Lake View). Lol.

  2. 2008 article covering “Save our Valley,” southeast seattle crime prevention council, and mount baker community club.
    “NIMBYs of the fighting Southeast!”

    They forced link off rainier, ensured the line was at grade instead of elevated, and enlisted the fire department to make it less safe. Then, once it was approved anyway, tried to triple the cost by forcing tunneling.

    These groups were less sincere than the Bellevue Inspiration Line proposal.

    1. Link wasn’t on Rainier because ST said it was too narrow and congested.

      ST’s default was surface, which was the norm in previous light rails (MAX, VTA ,San Diego Trolley). It said tunnels/elevated were justified only when hills or water barriers made surface infeasible, as in Capitol Hill and the Ship Canal. ST’s original plan was surface all the way from International District to SeaTac, and presumably Federal Way and Tacoma. (They didn’t think about what it would do to travel time if it was limited to the speed of the adjacent car lanes.) One Rainier Valley faction argued surface was best, while another argued for underground. Save Our Valley wanted ST to build the north end first and come back to Rainier Valley last They also wanted P&Rs so that people in eastern Rainier and south of Rainier Beach could drive to the station. ST never seriously considered these because Seattle has a law against new P&Rs.

      The original plan would have gone around the northeast side of Beacon Hill like I-90. That changed when Paul Allen wanted a Stadium station, and then the city wanted SODO station for industrial workers. That led to the Beacon Hill tunnel.

      1. This comment “Save Our Valley wanted ST to build the north end first and come back to Rainier Valley last They also wanted P&Rs so that people in eastern Rainier and south of Rainier Beach could drive to the station. ” is giving a bad faith group undeserved credit.

        SOV did not want light rail. They used the available excuses to try to cancel the thing, to delay construction, to make it more expensive, and to reroute away from Rainier Valley.
        The South Seattle Emerald is generally good, but quoting SOV doesn’t help any discussion.

        “a tunnel would be terrible” 1999

        and the federal lawsuit:

      2. Yes, their first choice was never, and their second choice was last. They might have been hoping Link would collapse before it was built or it would never get past the first phase. Before Link opened there had never been a successful metro in Seattle and there was no example on the ground of it, so people were more skeptical of it.

      3. There may be limits on who is worthy of asking for a quote, but it is standard journalistic practice that a story about a group like Save Our Valley will ask a spokesperson for the group being so maligned to give its side of the story.

        The South Seattle Emerald is a newspaper, not a political action committee. Did they fail at fact-checking SOV’s claims?

  3. While I can see the case for Seattle->Portland high speed rail as an economic development tool (although I’m not convinced the economic benefits would be sufficient to justify the high construction costs), I struggle to see how it would make much of a dent in carbon emissions. People just don’t travel between cities nearly as often as they travel within them.

    At best, I see a huge amount of money spent for a relatively minor reduction in CO2. Other measures, such as a cleaner electricity grid or electrifying government-controlled vehicles such as transit buses, school buses, ambulances, police cars, and fire engines, I suspect would result in more CO2 being saved per dollar.

    A better and more realistic focus for cascadia rail should be incremental upgrades to existing service. The Point Defiance Bypass is a good start. Now, we need trains to Portland to run more often, so that it’s possible to take a daytrip there without the expense of an overnight hotel stay.

    1. Yes I agree that Cascadia HSR would be more useful if it served the urban areas with faster service first. California is doing the exact opposite and the project is struggling to be relevant. Had CA HSR built Bakersfield to Burbank first and Gilroy to Madera second, I think the multiple benefits would have made the project significantly more popular and useful because more commuters could use it .

      The drawback is that most HSR are separate systems not used by other trains to allow for safe operations at higher speeds.

      The big market question is how fast should Cascadia HSR be as that guides the design and phasing. I see the ability to have dedicated track (as opposed to shared with freight) as the most important design feature as reliable train schedules could be kept — and the difference between 120 mph and 180 mph is probably less consequential.

      1. Beightline is calling itself “High Speed Rail” even though the only difference between their equipment and the Cascades corridor is a bit of extra sheet metal on the locomotive to look cool.

        So, using their definition, we’ve already got high speed rail.

      2. Yeah – I feel like a broken record on this but the best option for “Cascadia” is what the train nerds call “higher-speed rail”. Somewhere between 110 and 125 mph is fast enough that it clearly beats driving or flying between Seattle and Portland. You can do it for a fraction of the cost of HSR. You can have it up and running years earlier than HSR. You get the added benefit of improved connections for places like Vancouver, Longview, and Centralia, which would most likely be bypassed by a new HSR route. All of this more or less holds true from Seattle to Vancouver B.C. as well.

        As far as I can tell, the advantages of HSR are super-fast day trips for business types and beating out flying between Portland and Vancouver, B.C. There may also be some political upside to the aspirational nature of the project – it’s a lot more exciting than improving the current corridor – but I struggle to believe that it outweighs the political difficulties of the increased cost and the problem of acquiring land for a whole new corridor.

      3. “Cascades was billed as HSR when first proposed using the Talgo technology.”

        The definition is slippery in the US. People who have never seen high speed rail don’t really know how fast European and Asian trains are so if somebody says 70 mph or 90 mph is HSR they believe it and think it can’t be faster. They’re already impressed it’s above 65 mph because that’s what their freeways are. But a more reasonable definition is that regular speed is 79 mph (as Cascades’ maximum currently is), medium speed is 90 or 110 mph, and high speed is 125 mph and above. That corresponds with quantum levels of costs to build it.

      4. Branson / Virgin stopped being involved with Brightline quite a while ago, so that article is a bit out of date.

        At some point, they’ll find out that operating something as heavy as a Siemens Charger at 110 mph is really expensive due to the track maintenance incurred.

        Every other country makes a profit on its high speed lines, but no other country requires they be so heavy either.

    2. It’s part of a network; if we had rail everywhere then people would use it like they do in Europe. There may not be many Seattle to Portland trips but HSR would also also serves Seattle to Tacoma, Tacoma to Portland, Seattle to Kelso, etc.

      However, I don’t think the northwest needs anything faster than 110 mph, which is medium-speed rail. There’s no plan for HSR in the gap between Eugene and Sacramento, so why is it so important to get to Portland in 30 minutes? If it takes 1.5-2.5 hours to get to Portland, that’s still faster than driving or the overhead of airports, and allows people to go comfortably to Portland for a day meeting.

  4. The criticism about this poll on streets has been the questions are leading (which they are), and a form of push pull. Interesting joy is so low on the scale, but this group tends to be pretty down on joy.

    When you do these kind of polls the the responses — like in this poll — claim they want everything. Who isn’t going to favor safe streets or accessibility for the disabled or safe streets for minority communities, except those who see the underlying purpose of the poll, limit cars and street parking.

    It is only when you get to the trade offs like limiting car access — like the debate over 35th — that you get a representative response. Responses like “somewhat” support or somewhat don’t support are almost meaningless, and you have to look at the strongly support or don’t support to get any feel whether there is support for an idea. Less than 50% of strongly support or strongly don’t support is the benchmark.

    For example, the following poll questions drew the lowest support, because they require a trade off, or negative action.

    “Allowing schools to close their adjacent streets during the school year to create a safer environment for kids to get to and from school.” (The one question that explicitly asked whether to close streets as a trade off, and even for safe routes to schools it got a tepid response).

    “Creating low-traffic, low-speed neighborhood streets where people can safely walk, bike, run, and play in the street — and car traffic is limited to deliveries and local access only.”

    “Requiring property owners to repair sidewalks when they sell their property to make the sidewalks safer and more accessible for people with disabilities and the elderly.”

    These options also drew at best a luke-warm support:

    “Giving buses their own lanes to speed up bus trips”.

    “Bike lanes that are physically separated from cars to make everybody safer”.

    “Creating low-traffic, low-speed neighborhood streets where people can safely walk, bike, run, and play in the street — and car traffic is limited to deliveries and local access only.”

    However these options received pretty strong support:

    “Allowing shopping streets such as the street next to Pike Place Market to limit vehicle traffic to loading and unloading so that people can walk comfortably and safely.” (Unfortunately the main retailers — especially Nordstrom — are opposed to this idea, and if Nordstrom leaves as it threatened during the revitalization of this area under Norm Rice if Pike was closed to car traffic retail in this area will truly die).

    “More space for outdoor dining and retail to support small businesses”.

    The organizations performing the poll, its unscientific manner, large margin for error (according to the organizations putting on the poll), and wishy washy answers tell the mayor and council almost nothing. Some of the answers, like a 61% strongly support safe streets for kids (although the intent of the poll question was to close streets to cars) tells me the demographic for the poll was skewed towards those without kids, who tend to be urbanists.

    This poll, the organizations conducting the poll, and the intent of the questions is too transparent to influence anyone.

    1. Yeah I read the poll and rolled my eyes at the biased line of questioning. I’m surprised they didn’t ask if multi-colored maps are prettier than black-and-white ones.

    2. Are you insinuating that Nordstrom would leave if Pike Place (not Pike Street) were closed to passenger traffic? Or are you just that ignorant of the basic proposals being polled here?


        Nathan D. Here is a 1994 article about the proposal to close Pine St. Of course the intent of the poll was whether the ban cars and parking from streets. Nordstrom is only one of a dwindling number of retailers along Pike and Pine (and surrounding Westlake Center).

        In fact proposals to close the Pike Place Market from car traffic have met resistance from the retailers.

        No one looks at this poll question as applying solely to the Pike Place Market. Here, let me quote the question for you, again:

        “Allowing shopping streets such as the street next to Pike Place Market to limit vehicle traffic to loading and unloading so that people can walk comfortably and safely.”

        Do you see the “such as the street next to Pike Place Market”? “Such as” is a qualifier, identifying one possibility out of many.

        Considering closing Pike or Pine has been a proposal since at least 1994, and the areas surrounding Westlake Center, you should understand that.

        Look, I have advocated for a pedestrian only boulevard from the Convention Center to Pike Place Market, which has always been the goal beginning before 1994. It would require safe streets, and some kind of parking along the perimeter for folks to reach the boulevard, and of course retail density which will be the big ask. But retailers, notably Nordstrom, are adamantly opposed, and as Norm Rice learned those are the folks to poll.

        The question was a general proposal. Should streets SUCH AS THE STREET NEXT TO PIKE PLACE MARKET (whichever that street may be) be closed to vehicle traffic.

        At this point, with the current state of Seattle streets, the closure of Macy’s and Bartell’s, and the old Sam Israel lot not being developed at 1st and 2nd and Pike and Pine, I think this argument is pretty much moot. I think Nordstrom will leave anyway, along with a host of remaining retailers, and at that point you can close whichever streets you want.

        But in the future, before insulting someone publicly, do read the question more carefully, because I am pretty sure just about everyone except you understood the “basic proposals being polled here” were not exclusive to the street(s) adjacent to the Pike Place Market.

      2. Eyeroll.

        I know the pedestrian streets proposals being polled are blocks like Comstock on Queen Anne, a few blocks of Ballard Ave, and others around the city. Just go to Andrew Lewis and Dan Strauss’ twitter feeds to see that action. I don’t know of any existing interest in fully pedestrianizing Pine or Pike in Downtown – likely because the idea was successfully shot down by retailers almost 30 years ago, and the advocates have moved on to more achievable goals. Pike and Pine are getting bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and better bus lanes.

        The Pike Place Market retailers support keeping vehicle traffic open through Pike Place because they like that people are forced to walk through the market instead of walking through the street. They don’t give a shit otherwise about the Pike Place street-side parking or the road traffic.

      3. Pine street was closed to traffic. In the late 80s. The new Rice administration debated how to reopen it. The Benson compromise passed the council five to four, but was vetoed by Rice. Benson favored opening it for transit only. Then, Pine Street was open to transit and general purpose traffic. A controversial aspect of the period was municipal subsidy of the Pacific Place parking garage.

      4. “Considering closing Pike or Pine has been a proposal since at least 1994”

        Not an official proposal, it’s one of those activist ideas like Seattle Subway’s vision that only some pedestrian/transit/urbanist activists agree with. Saying that it has a significant movement behind it is false. I was initially for it but over the years I’ve turned against it. I live on Pine Street and walk through that area almost every day, and I have friends and relatives that drive to my apartment or we take a car to Costco in SODO, etc. 5th & Pine is not a remote edge street or minor street like Pike Place or University Way that could more easily be closed. It’s one of the only ways to get between Capitol Hill, downtown, SODO, etc. The next good through street is really Madison, and that’s several blocks away To get from Summit to SODO, you either go down Pine and 5th or 2nd, or down 12th to Beacon Hill and Holgate Street. That’s pretty out of the way. Seattle just isn’t flat and open-gridded like midwestern cities, and Pine Street is one of the few throughfares between downtown and East Seattle, so expecting everyone to go around a pedestrianized block at 5th & Pine is not very reasonable. I’ve never heard of closing Pike Street so I don’t know if anyone else is thinking about it.

        By the way, they’re about to install 4-way stop signs on Pine at 10th, 11th, and 13th, Pine at 13th, and Union at 10th. In a second phase they’re considering adding them to both Pine and Pine at Summit, Belmont, and/or Boylston. That means 60% of the intersections on Pine between Bellevue and 14th might have 4-way stops, almost every block, and 40% on Pine. I’m mostly for this, although I wonder if it’s reasonable to make drivers and bicyclists stop every block going up a hill. Anyway, I just wanted to mention it for those who didn’t get the postcard.

      5. Thanks, Mike.

        Drivers can and should stop more often at intersections. The “Idaho Stop” law went into effect for bicyclists last year, so bikes can treat stop signs as yield signs when appropriate.

      6. The three stops are on Pike, not Pine. Pine and Union get only one stop each.

        The phase 2 concept, which is still being evaluated, has three stops each on both Pike and Pine. I don’t know if all three would be built or only some of them.

    3. Every issue poll should always be viewed with skepticism because the result can be almost anything depending on how the question is asked.

      In some ways, the issue of bike lanes and transit is like a parent ordering dinner for four children. 3 want pizza, the other wants a salad. What does the parent do? Order pizza and a salad and throw leftover pizza away? Order just one big pizza and tell the one kid that wants to eat healthy that they have to eat the pizza because it’s too expensive and time consuming to order separate meals? Or try to make the other three kids who want pizza eat salad (good luck!)

      If transportation is like dinner, cars are like pizza, biking is like salad. Ordering separate meals is like building protected bike lanes on city streets. And telling the kid to wants to eat healthy to just eat the pizza is like the city that refuses to build bike lanes because not enough people will use them. The final solution, making all of the kids eat salad, would be like banning cars from the city completely.

      1. This analogy…

        Um, couldn’t the family order a *smaller* pizza? Imagine there’s a medium, with salad on the side… The pizza industry has evolved far beyond the transportation industry, it would seem.

        Or, ya know, put the leftovers in the fridge? Or have Americans stopped doing that? I’m not sure what a fridge would be analogous to in transportation, maybe a Master Plan?

        At any rate, the vegans in the family (increase the sampling size) won’t even agree on the vegan option.

        Veganism 2010: Why is the vegan option always a salad?
        Veganism 2020: Why is the vegan option always a burger?

        Door-ing lanes seem to have become the Impossible Burger of street planning. Salad? That’s a swervy bike trail. You go eat your salad over there. We made that salad especially for you. So, you better eat it. Oh, and you’ll be sharing it with your vegetarian brother (the pedestrian who sometimes drives), so don’t eat too much.

        A good tasty veggie stir fry the whole family will enjoy? Now that’s a (Stay) Healthy Street!

    4. Your comments are inaccurate Daniel.

      The first section of the poll was about values. Is that leading to ask people about values? People tend to value many different things, seeing which values resonate is interesting. Where they tradeoff when making decisions is often critical, which is what the second set of questions gets at.

      The second section of the poll, explicitly asked voters about tradeoffs. “Please indicate whether you would support or oppose making each of the following changes in your neighborhood as the state recovers from COVID-19, even if it means removing a lane of traffic or parking spaces.” That’s explicit and not leading. And it found voters support outdoor retail, safe routes to school, wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit lanes EVEN IF it means removing a lane of traffic or parking spaces.

      “The organizations performing the poll, its unscientific manner, large margin for error (according to the organizations putting on the poll), and wishy washy answers tell the mayor and council almost nothing”
      This was a scientific poll, conducted by respected firm Change Research, and had a 4.1% margin of error. Read more on the methodology:

      And the results weren’t wishy washy, they were overwhelmingly supportive of walk/bike/transit projects even when there is a real tradeoff. Your assumption that the results aren’t meaningful because not enough people strongly supported is unfounded.

      Clearly the results did not support your vision for Seattle and so you are trying to attack the merits of the poll.

      The poll results are clear, accurate, and compelling.

      1. Gordon, it was Tisgwm who stated the poll was “utter crap”. I simply tried to point out the criticisms of the poll others had already raised, with a few specific examples, with which I agree. I highly doubt any decision maker would take this poll seriously, especially after the bruising fight over a protected bike lane on 35th when SDOT was assured by urbanists and bicyclists the residents and local businesses wouldn’t mind.

        Your statement “And the results weren’t wishy washy, they were overwhelmingly supportive of walk/bike/transit projects even when there is a real tradeoff. Your assumption that the results aren’t meaningful because not enough people strongly supported is unfounded…” simply repeats the bias and errors of the poll. The results were at best mixed, and if anything suggested folks don’t support closing streets to cars, which of course was the sub rosa theme in the poll. The use of “somewhat agree” in a poll is almost meaningless. Your bias affects your view of the poll results, which is common.

        I have no vision for Seattle because I don’t live in Seattle. But Seattleites own 460,000 cars, and around 2% use bikes, so I am sure SDOT is aware of those statistics, and the daily pressure they receive to reopen the West Seattle Bridge.

        The debate over the use of the roads in Seattle will go on. I disagree “walk/bike/transit projects” are all the same thing, and somehow in opposition to car traffic or open streets. Often bike lanes are in conflict with transit lanes, and pedestrian travel. In my city it is the bikes on mixed use trails through the parks that are the problem. Bikes and pedestrians don’t mix well.

        In another post Tisgwm raised some complicated issues when it comes to freight and restricting car/truck capacity on roads, the closure of the West Seattle Bridge highlighted how that community at least views car capacity, and of course the bruising fight over 35th, plus the election of Harrell.

        I think these kinds of projects have to be handled one by one, like the proposal for a bike path around Green Lake. Most folks don’t follow this blog, or any blogs or urbanisty polls, or even the news, until a project like this reaches the actual planning stages, and then you find out the vested interests. I am sure Harrell’s internal polling can tell him whether the “influential” bike groups mentioned in the PI article I link to voted for him, or whether bikes were even in the top 10 issues for voters.

        Ironically, one of the biggest hurdles for any of these projects is losing street parking, because Seattle does not require adequate onsite parking. I know a lot of urbanists think that will force residents to get rid of cars, but it just forces them to park on the street, which crowds out retail parking, and leads to residents who actually live there and local businesses to object to losing that street parking, and those were overwhelmingly Harrell voters.

        If I were advising Harrell, however, I would tell him he has bigger issues than “walk/bike/transit projects”, in part because all of those cost money. If I were to add one word to your list it would be “bridges”, because that is a $3.5 billion unfunded liability.

        My advice to Harrell would be: 1. no one objects to sidewalks, except they are extraordinarily expensive; 2. the pandemic is blowing a hole in transit so better figure that out; 3. none of the bike groups voted for you and it is a fringe issue so ignore it; and 4. you have bigger fish to fry.

  5. Personally I think the Cascadia proposals for high speed rail are where some progressives or urbanists jump the shark, and where Gregoire has sold her credibility.

    Here basically is the article’s rationale for running Amtrak or high speed rail to Yakima or Portland or Vancouver WA, or any number of small towns between Seattle and Portland that have low ridership routes:

    “The long-awaited federal infrastructure bill set aside $66 billion for Amtrak, plus $10 billion specifically for high-speed rail. That could be what launches the Cascadia megaregion high-speed rail project into reality.”

    What this quote fails to ask is why does Amtrak — that currently runs between the highest density east coast cities and corridors — need $66 billion in federal funding, when the rail is already built?

    Because in the densest, highest ridership corridors Amtrak is a money loser, just on operations and deferred maintenance.

    The article ends with another non-sequitur:

    “Not only are more federal dollars expected to flow toward rail, there’s also broad public support for these larger projects, she [Gregoire] said, pointing to a poll that found a majority of people would support a high-speed rail project, as well as robust ridership on public transit in the region pre-COVID.”

    No, there is no poll supporting Gregoire’s comments “pre-pandemic”, it is post-pandemic, the Republicans are expected to take one or both houses of Congress in 2022 and hold them for ten years based on the census and redistricting, and right now R’s look like they will take the White House in 2024 if gas remains at $4+ per gallon so don’t plan on more transit funding, any money for rail in the future will likely go to aging east cost rail systems and Amtrak, and people post pandemic are travelling at record numbers this holiday season, but they are flying and driving.

    Follow the market, because that is the best polling. Gregoire is just like a spokesperson selling pain relief on Fox News. Look at what people are doing now, post-pandemic, or almost post-pandemic, and how they are travelling. If you can’t operate Amtrak between NYC and Washington D.C. without huge subsidies (and those subsidies may be warranted for that route) only a nut would propose mimicking Amtrak from Seattle to Yakima or Portland.

    Since Gregoire is not a nut, I assume there is a financial angle somewhere in all of this for her and her backers, which generally comes down to buying land cheap along one of these massively subsidized routes, and of course upzoning.

    1. Honestly, if the real goal is affordable, not driving options between Seattle and Yakima, what’s wrong with simply running a bus? A bus is much cheaper to set up and operate, and doesn’t share a lane with incoming traffic, which means it can run more often. A bus is faster, taking 3 hours instead of 6.

      Instead, politicians obsess over the rail option for the same reason they do the CCC. They make a blind assumption that anything that runs on rails is automatically better, whether it is or not.

      For the Link corridor, rail makes a lot of sense. For a long distance route to Yakima, it just doesn’t. There’s no reason to justify spending tens of billions upgrading the rail route when you can simply run a bus down the highway that’s already there.

      1. Greyhound runs a bus for $22; takes 3 hours. Driving from Seattle to Yakima is 140 miles, or about $77 solo. Alaska (via Horizon) flies 76 seats from SEA to YKM twice a day for $120 each.

        The train proposal is to provide an attractive, electrified alternative to driving or flying. Medium-high speed rail from Vancouver to Portland makes sense. Reopening Snoqualmie Pass to passenger rail doesn’t really make sense, but if you could get BNSF to split the cost of re-grading, bridge reconstruction, and electrification, then it might be worth it as a freight decarbonization effort.

      2. If the goal is electrification, just buy electric buses. The only reason to run a train on that route is to avoid freeway congestion, either within metro Seattle or over the pass.

      3. Where did you get the ridiculous figure of $77 for an auto trip to Yakima? Are you using the IRS’ mileage deduction figure? For most trips that is a complete non sequitur. They aren’t deductible business trips, and the owners of the cars in which they’re making the trip completely ignore the depreciation and lifetime mileage of the vehicle. The only POSSIBLE vehicle that would require $77 of fuel would be one of those bus-chassis RV palaces.

        Get real. For the average driver in a late-model sedan getting 30 mpg highway would be about $35 round trip.

        And it’s not “Snoqualmie”, it’s “Stampede”.

      4. TT, unless you’re driving an electric car, the IRS driving rate is pretty close to the true cost of driving per mile. You’ve got oil changes, tire wear, brake wear, and general depreciation. If you assume you’ll get 200k miles out of a $20k car, that’s $0.10/mile right there. Any resale value left is probably less than any significant maintenance that’s required in that time. The only costs that aren’t mileage based are registration and insurance – but even insurance will increase your premium if they find out you’re driving more than average. Do the math, and you’ll find that the $0.56/mile is pretty close unless you’re driving a remarkably reliable and/or efficient vehicle.

    2. “Because in the densest, highest ridership corridors Amtrak is a money loser, just on operations and deferred maintenance.”

      “In Amtrak’s financial statements, services are divided into three subgroups: the Northeast Corridor, State-Supported and Long Distance routes.

      The Northeast Corridor—connects Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston through high-speed rail. By calculation, its most profitable type of service yields an average of $90 of profit per passenger.”

      Try again.

      1. Nathan D.’s link focuses on Amtrak’s operational costs and recovery, and Amtrak’s claims that its Northeast (or Acela Express) Line is profitable (in part due to increasing passenger fares that in some cases cost more than flying to the same destination,take%20a%20train%20than%20it%20is%20to%20fly.

        And to be fair, Amtrak has claimed in the past its Acela Express routes cover operational costs, if not capital costs, and this has been a long time issue.

        “Then the thought occurs to me: Has the NEC in recent times ever covered both its total operating and capital costs from revenues? today cannot provide the answer. But the Wayback Machine, an internet archive at, takes you to as it existed at various points in time years ago. And in the monthly report covering fiscal 2008, which ended just as the economy topped out prior to the Great Recession, I make a remarkable discovery.”

        “That year, the Acela Express cleared all its costs with $220 million to spare, and the other NEC trains cleared their costs as well, with $149 million left over. That adds to $369 million, or a million bucks more than the corridor’s normal capital needs. That’s an important fact and worth remembering. In a sparkling business environment, the Northeast Corridor is capable of making a profit, any way you want to state it. Maybe that will be one year in five or 10, but it’s possible. Take heart, folks. — Fred W. Frailey”

        See also, noting the Acela Express does not cover capital costs, and probably does not cover operational costs.

        Which of course raises the question why Amtrak requires $66 billion in the new infrastructure bill.

        The answer is the same for just about every public rail system: ignoring capital and maintenance costs, and possibly lowering fares.

        “The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $66 billion in new funding for rail to address Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, along with upgrading the high-traffic Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston. It also proposes several changes to the legal mission of Amtrak, which rail experts hailed as a win for passenger rail.”

        The bill includes new language that would change Amtrak’s goal to “meet the intercity passenger rail needs of the United States” rather than achieving “a performance level sufficient to justify expending public money.” It would also add language that prioritizes service in rural areas in addition to urban ones.

        “That is a really significant change because implicit in that is that we’re not trying to make Amtrak into a profit-making venture,” said Jim Mathews, the chief executive of the Rail Passengers Association. “We’re using it to create services that are needed by the taxpayers of the country.”

        It is a fair argument whether the federal government and states should subsidize Amtrak, and what passenger fare recovery should be. However, based on the Acela Express routes there is no rationale for running high speed passenger rail from Seattle to Yakima, or Seattle to Portland or Keslo. As asdf2 notes, the real competition is from a bus, which is quicker (today), and infinitely less expensive and more flexible, until the route is short enough cars make more sense (at least in suburban and rural areas), or long enough flying is the better option, and maybe even costs less.

        Unless Congress plans to give Amtrak $66 billion every time the D’s hold all three branches of the federal government.

      2. “…every time the D’s hold all three branches of the federal government.”

        Daniel, Daniel, Daniel….Civics 101 has eluded you. The Judiciary is clearly in the hands of the Cons.

        And for the record, the Cons have been trying to kill Amtrak subsidies for decades. And yet here we are.

      1. Ah, you are correct Tisgwm. I should have said both houses and the presidency. I agree the R’s have not been successful at killing Amtrak, yet, and Amtrak funding usually is part of a massive infrastructure or highway bill the R’s want badly for the roads and highways, so agree to some Amtrak funding. But killing Amtrak and giving Amtrak/rail $66 billion are two different things, and these kinds and sizes of infrastructure bills don’t come around that often. Most of the $66 billion will go towards maintenance, not new or upgraded rail service.

        Which to me means Amtrak will need another $66 billion in a decade. Much more if Amtrak builds a bunch of new lines to cities like Kelso or Yakima.

      2. “…and Amtrak funding usually is part of a massive infrastructure or highway bill the R’s want badly for the roads and highways, so agree to some Amtrak funding.”

        Not quite.
        Amtrak appropriations (grants) are a standard part of the annual THUD (Transportation, Housing and Urban Development) appropriation process. Sadly, because our Congress is so dysfunctional these days and cannot do its job and get the 12 appropriations bills passed through regular order, the body now relies upon CRs and omnibus spending bills to keep the government funded. Yeah, it’s become an even messier process in today’s political environment.

        Ultimately, based on the annual report from the CRS*, the FRA got approximately $3B in appropriations for FY 2021, of which Amtrak received about two thirds. By comparison, the following agencies’ appropriations, as enacted, were as follows:
        FAA ~$18B
        FTA ~$13B
        FHWA ~$49B

        USDOT’s appropriations in total were roughly $87B. (This doesn’t include any additional funding from supplemental measures passed in Congress in response to the pandemic and recession.) It is important to note that this spending authority was also approximately a billion dollars LESS than the request from the former administration’s OMB.

        So, at the end of the day, I think it’s rather silly to complain about the federal funding made available to Amtrak in the Biden administration’s bipartisan-passed infrastructure act, especially when one looks at the historical funding levels Amtrak has received.

        Oh, and before I forget, let’s be clear about what Amtrak will be getting from the NEW funding (~$550B) that’s in the $1.2T Infrastructure and Jobs Act of
        2021. Not all of the new $66B spending on rail goes to Amtrak or even to passenger rail in general. Here’s a link to the entire act if you care to get into weeds about the actual funding amounts.

        And here’s a pretty decent summary of the spending provisions outlined in a WaPo article.

        *Link to CRS report:

      3. There are no official plans for any passenger trains to Yakima. Any such thing would be after Cascades/HSR upgrades, so decades away. Such a short line would be a tiny part of Amtrak’s budget, and would presumably be alongside other regional rails like the Chicago-Midwest concept. Current federal policy funds only long-distance lines, so a regional line like Seattle-Yakima-Spokane would have to be entirely state funded. The feds used to support short-distance lines like Cascades but that was phased out a couple decades ago.

      4. Daniel Amtrak doesn’t “build” lines to places like Yakima. The only trackage it owns are the Northeast Corridor from Alexandria to South Station, the “Illini Corridor” from Joliet to Alton un Illinois, and the “Wolverine Corridor” between South Bend and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

        Everywhere else it is the “tenant” in a trackage rights agreement with a privately owned railroad or a state-, regionally- or transit agency-owned line.

        There are modest costs to extend service to a new location over a mainline railroad. Some sort of station has to be built or refurbished, and additional rolling stock must be procured.

        Adding service to a place where the existing trackage is not high-quality can be quite expensive, but would typically be paid for by a state railroad authority.

    3. “Because in the densest, highest ridership corridors Amtrak is a money loser, just on operations and deferred maintenance.”

      Freeways need subsidies too. All transportation modes have subsidies.

      The concept they’re working in is HSR between Vancouver BC and Portland, not Yakima. Spokane/Yakima is a secondary concept that might be considered later, and that could more likely be lower speed than the north-south corridor.

      1. Freeways need subsidies too.

        Was going to say this as well.

        It’s also ironic that Daniel’s home city needs massive state provided subsidies to be able to leave their island and he defends these subsidies vigorously.

      2. The comment section doesn’t understand what the word subsidy means. A freeway isn’t a subsidy. Also, the comment section is incorrectly comparing freeways and Amtrak. One is a concrete trail. The other is a large metal box on wheels that holds people. You can compare freeways and rails, or cars and trains, but you can’t compare freeways and Amtrak.

      3. Sam, if you disagree with the “comment section” definition or use of subsidy, it’s usually helpful to provide a correction.

        A subsidy is government-funded support to keep the cost of a commodity or service low, or even free. Some will argue that freeways (which do have distributed operations and maintenance costs in the form of traffic enforcement, incident response, and repair) are paid for via the “user fee” of fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. That argument is countered by the fact that state freeway capital projects are typically assisted (subsidized) by significant grants from the feds, in the same way that almost all modern infrastructure projects in America are overpriced and require assistance via general fund taxes.

        I think it’s notable that the one corridor in which Amtrak owns or leases almost all of the rail is the NEC, and it’s the one corridor in which Amtrak runs profitably. Elsewhere, it shares the “road” with freight, which causes delays and restricts top speeds.

      4. Just to be clear: I am not complaining about the $66 billion in the bipartisan infrastructure bill for Amtrak and rail.

        In fact, I thought it would be higher based on the total amount of the bill, early negotiations, and the fact Democrats control the Presidency and both houses of Congress, and large states have so many members in the House of Representatives.

        After all, this is the same Democratic controlled House that just increased the SALT deduction from $10,000/year to $80,000/year, probably one of the most regressive tax give-aways to the rich in our lifetimes, and a huge transfer of wealth from poor states to rich states.

        My points were:

        1. Nearly all of the $66 billion is earmarked to address deferred maintenance, and very little will go to new rail lines. To put the amount in perspective, ST just increased its total budget $48 billion through 2044.

        2. Considering the amount ($66 billion), and huge backlog of deferred maintenance on Amtrak, it would not make sense to consider building HSR or quasi-HSR from Vancouver to Portland that WSDOT estimated would cost $42 billion and have a very large operation deficit based on other similar lines in the system.

        3. The infrastructure bill is unusual, and based on politics and just the cost of the bill and exploding federal debt it would be very risky for Washington State to embark on a $42 billion rail line from Vancouver to Portland on the basis another $66 billion is in the pipeline, or it would go towards the capital costs of this line. As Tisgwm notes, the common annual allocation to Amtrak is closer to $2 to $3 billion.

        To Rapid Rider’s comment that the I-90 bridge was somehow intended for the benefit of Mercer Island, that is not true: the I-90 bridge was designed to connect Seattle and its port to the rest of America, which is why it runs to Boston. Mercer Island just happens to be an Island in the middle of Lake Washington that reduces the cost and span of the bridge. The number of Islanders who use I-90 to go to Seattle is tiny compared to the total traffic over the bridge, and declining yearly.

        ST is no different: Mercer Island got a station (without any kind of feeder bus access) because it sits in the middle of the lake between Seattle and Bellevue, and because it turns out ST and Metro wanted to use Mercer Island as an intercept, until the pandemic and issues in Seattle changed travel patterns. Our station is not a benefit to Mercer Island; it is a benefit to those in Seattle and those on the eastside who want to take transit across the lake but think a bus is beneath them.

        I supported proposals to toll I-90 when the new 520 was tolled to even out congestion on the bridges, and because the cost to Islanders if based on distance travelled would be the smallest since Islanders have the shortest distance to travel across the bridge and I-90, and make up a tiny number of the bridge users.

      5. I think, at this point, Amtrak has survived long enough under control of both parties, that it’s in little danger of being outright eliminated due to national politics. R’s had a chance just 4 years ago to zero out its funding under Trump, and they didn’t do it. Judging by public statements on the matter, even Republicans in states served by Amtrak are not particularly eager to kill it, even though they are perfectly fine with it’s one-trip-per-day service and have no desire to spend money to make it any better.

        Plus, even if R’s were to zero out federal funding, it still wouldn’t matter for routes like the Cascades, which are now 100% state-supported anyway.

        There are plenty of things to fear from GOP control of government, including more carbon emissions from fuel economy standards being rolled back, but an outright elimination of Amtrak just isn’t one of them.

      6. After all, this is the same Democratic controlled House that just increased the SALT deduction from $10,000/year to $80,000/year, probably one of the most regressive tax give-aways to the rich in our lifetimes, and a huge transfer of wealth from poor states to rich states.

        Other than all the tax cuts for the wealthy by the GOP over the last 6 decades from over 90% down to 37%, resulting in GDP theft and overseas extraction by the wealthy, wage stagnation for American workers, crumbling infrastructure, homeless, mental health and drug addiction crises, etc.

        Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for yet another tax cut for the wealthy, but it’s painfully ironic to see conservatives criticizing them for it, considering America is still reeling from their most recent tax cut for the wealthy in 2017.

      7. In the Revenue Act of 1964 JFK cut the top individual rate from 91% to 70%. “The act cut federal income taxes by approximately twenty percent across the board, and the top federal income tax rate fell from 91 percent to 70 percent. The act also reduced the corporate tax from 52 percent to 48 percent and created a minimum standard deduction.”

        Reagan cut tax rates twice:

        “The first tax cut (The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981) among other things, cut the highest Personal Income Tax rate from 70% to 50% and the lowest from 14% to 11% and decreased the highest Capital Gains Tax rate from 28% to 20%.”

        “The second tax cut (The Tax Reform Act of 1986) among other things, cut the highest Personal Income Tax rate from 50% to 38.5% but decreasing to 28% in the following years, and increased the highest Capital Gains Tax rate from 20% to 28%”.

        The economy grew substantially after both JFK’s and Reagan’s tax cuts.

        In The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 Pres. G.H. Bush raised taxes.

        “The Act increased individual income tax rates. The top statutory tax rate increased from 28% to 31%, and the individual alternative minimum tax rate increased from 21% to 24%. The capital gains rate was capped at 28%. The value of high income itemized deductions was limited: reduced by 3% times the extent to which AGI exceeds $100,000. It temporarily created the personal exemption phase out applicable to the range of taxable income between $150,000 and $275,000.”

        “Itemized deductions were temporarily limited until 1995. The payroll tax rate increased. The cap on taxable wages for hospital insurance (Medicare) was raised from $53,400 to $125,000. Social security taxes to state and local employees was extended without other pension coverage. A supplemental 0.2% unemployment insurance surtax was imposed.”

        “The act imposed a 30% excise tax on the amount of price over $30,000 for autos, $100,000 for boats, $250,000 for airplanes, and $10,000 for furs. It also increased motor fuels taxes by 5 cents per gallon, and increased taxes on tobacco and alcoholic beverages: by 8 cents per pack of cigarettes, by $1.00 per proof gallon of liquor; by 16 cents per six-pack of beer; and by 18 cents per bottle of table wine. It extended Airport and Airway trust fund taxes, increasing them by 25%, and permanently extended the 3% federal telephone excise tax on telephone service.”

        Pres. Obama on the other hand, despite having supermajorities in the House and Senate, mostly did a scattershot approach to raising taxes.

        However, in 2013 Obama and the Republicans agreed to raise the top marginal rate to 39.6%. Here is a history of income tax rates. The rate has fluctuated between 28% and 39% since 1988.

      8. I don’t think raising the SALT limit is that bad. Just last year, I managed to hit the SALT limit in a state with no income tax, just on property tax and sales tax. It’s far worse for people living in a state like California. Not allowing the SALT deduction, effectively means the federal government is collecting taxes on money owed to the states, which isn’t really “income” in any meaningful sense. The new proposed limit is $80,000, which means, even for a billionaire, the maximum amount of money they could save from this provision would be $70,000 ($80k-$10k). There are other provisions that make the wealthy pay for (e.g. the surtax on incomes over $10 million), so I think the overall bill is still progressive from the revenue side.

      9. “Not allowing the SALT deduction, effectively means the federal government is collecting taxes on money owed to the states”

        How is that? People should pay both their full federal and state taxes. The deduction implies that they’re the same tax rather than different taxes, and states have priority for the money. That works internationally where Americans abroad deduct their foreign taxes because it’s the foreign government that’s funding the infrastructure and services they use every day. But within the US federal income tax funds the federal services they’re using, and state tax funds state-specific services. It shouldn’t be up to the whim of some states to arbitrarily take some of the federal share by basing their finances largely on income tax rather than sales or property tax. That makes no sense. They’re two different income taxes, and people should pay both, as Washington residents pay their full sales and property taxes. Or they should get their state law changed if they don’t like their state income-tax model.

        However, I’m sympathetic to the deduction in the short term because the states that have high income taxes are among the best in democracy and social safety nets (which their income tax is funding), and the country needs those high-income Democrats who benefit from the deduction because the next Republican-led government may terminate democracy and replace it with corrupt authoritarianism. If the deduction is a small sop to save the ability for citizens to choose their leaders, it’s worth it.

      10. With regard to the SALT cap provisions in the BBB, my understanding is that there are other proposals (Sanders, Schumer) still on the table.

        An excerpt:

        “Taken on its own, the 2017 cap — which was set to expire in 2025 — looks like progressive tax policy. But it was enacted by a Republican Congress to make up for a revenue shortfall caused by cutting the marginal tax rate for the highest earners from 39.6 percent to 37 percent and corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent — hence the “tax cuts” part of the bill. Overall, according to the Tax Policy Center, the Congressional Budget Office predicted at the time that the Republican tax bill would increase the federal deficit by almost $1.9 trillion over its first decade.”

        It was also done to stick it to blue states.

      11. The economy grew substantially after both JFK’s and Reagan’s tax cuts.

        The GDP grew, but the GDP was now ending up in the pockets of the wealthy rather than the people producing the ever expanding GDP. The trickle-down never happened, unless you county social woes (2/3 of Americans paycheck to paycheck, ever expanding homelessness, reduction or elimination of many of society’s safety net, etc).

        The Panama and Pandora Papers should have been the death knell of tax cuts for the wealthy, but Americans no longer seem to care about voting for their own self interests.

  6. Consider Trumm and the Herbold budget amendment on the CCC streetcar. The amendment got only two affirmative votes, so SDOT may spend a bit on what to do next.

    In 2019, the budget allowed $9 million for study, but nothing was learned; Covid ate the budget. But SDOT did cancel the contract for the 10 longer and heavier cars. Herbold pointed out that the FTA grant has expired.

    Trumm overstated the Durkan CCC Streetcar actions. She did not kill it several times; it is still a zombie. She paused it for study and showed much higher capital costs, an infeasible plan, and a need for service subsidy that the Murray-Kubly SDOT had not planned for. The task of revival will be very high; the benefits low.
    Trumm does provide a useful ridership map showing little demand for downtown bound riders on the First Hill leg. This is not surprising, as the so-called network is bobby-pinned shape, bending back on itself. The underlying Link and bus network is not helped by the CCC Streetcar.

    The transit network will be much stronger if Seattle uses the right of way, capital, and service subsidy on better projects. The CCC Streetcar would not improve First Hill service much; what is needed is more frequency on Yesler Way; it would not serve the waterfront. Buses could be shifted to 1st Avenue; it had robust service before disruptions by the SR-99 and CCC projects. The bus routes are already funded; 1st Avenue already has electric trolleybus overhead.

    1. “Herbold pointed out that the FTA grant has expired.”

      Could you expand on this? (Thanks.)

      My understanding is that the Small Starts grant is only in request status and has never been advanced to a full funding agreement. The FTA’s site still shows the CCC in its pipeline in the project development phase and has continued to list it in its FY 2022 funding recommendation report to Congress.

    2. I don’t know about you guys, but I am stopping transit usage again – due to the new Omicron Variant. I have a friend that works at a Boston virology lab – and he says this one will likely be worse than Delta. He recommends we return to maximum social distancing and mask wearing. If things get worse, Metro and Link should resume capacity restrictions.

      1. One thing’s for certain. Covid doesn’t jump from continent to continent, and from city to city by magic.

      2. Biden doesn’t have a history of discrimination and bigotry. It started with his father’s apartment buildings in New York and he continued it. Then he tried repeatedly to block immigration from “shithole countries” and got obsessed with a southern border wall, and deported US citizens to Latin America. And deported people to Latin America who hadn’t been there since they were 5 if ever and didn’t know anybody there and didn’t know Spanish. And set up the Remain in Mexico policy, and separated young children from their parents and threw away the records of who was related to who. And encouraged extreme white supremicists to beat up people and hold up certification of his election loss. And I forgot, tried to ban people from Muslim-majority countries, and claimed they’re all terrorists. When covid stated his only plan was to ban flights from China, which might have been wise if any other president had done it, but in Trump’s case it was inseparable from his trying to ban travel from all non-white, non-Christian countries and his trade war with China and his alternating admiration/opposition to Communist dictator strongman Xl Ginping.

        Biden has none of that. There’s no discrimination or bigotry in his present or past that I know of. His goal and strategy is to work for the better of all Americans and recognized diversity is a strategic advantage as well as right, as George W Bush did before him.

      3. France did extensive contact tracing as part of their pandemic control. They never traced any outbreaks to buses or trains.

        Since then, there has been significant strides in understanding filtration and HVAC systems and what should be done to prevent air flow from scattering virus droplets around a room – or a transit mode.

        High risk activities such as bars and restaurants, where it isn’t possible to wear a mask, will be a primary point of spread, just as contact tracing in Europe and Asia indicated it was last year.

        But any measures you take above and beyond the basics to prevent spread certainly won’t do any harm.

      4. Mike Orr, did you forget Biden’s support of the 1994 Crime Bill? His opposition to mandatory bussing? How about this quote from 1977?

        “Unless we do something about this, my children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions having built so high that it is going to explode at some point.”

        Or Biden talking about Obama?

        “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,”

        Or his love of Robert Byrd, long time segregationist and former high ranking member of the KKK?

        Biden’s history is rife with examples of racism and bigotry, going back decades. Talking about how you can’t go into a 7-11 without hearing a slight Indian accent. Hell, he stuck his foot in his mouth only recently talking about vaccination numbers among African American and Latino American individuals. He’s a walking , talking, racial gaffe machine.

      5. Large gatherings, social gatherings are where Covid has been spreading the most. It’s not even close. You’re spending a significant amount of time exposed to multiple people, talking, laughing, eating/drinking, adjusting masks (if wearing them at all!), ect. Much more so than sitting still silently with masks on a well ventilated bus or train. There have been no major outbreaks tied to mass transit in America. Despite NEW YORK being one of the first hot spots! In the end viral load exposure is more about where you go than how you get there, especially given mask mandates on transit and high vax rates. So yeah, I’m definitely planning to avoid large holiday gatherings, not going out to crowded bars anytime soon. Sorry, workplace holiday party organizers. Not planning to avoid transit unless they cut back frequencies to un-usable levels like last year, and of course, if we go back to remote work I wouldn’t be commuting.

      6. What scares me more is that there are 10 Greek letters between delta and omicron. Where was the news of those variants?

      7. None of the intermediate variants (the other letters) had serious consequences. It was only the nature of omicron’s transmissibility that set off the first alarms. They don’t know if it’s more or less lethal, just that it’s highly contagious.

    1. Or the survey is only about transfer amenities, not the entire 522. The 522’s mission and design was decided decades ago and hasn’t changed, and it will only be around for a few more years anyway. Most of the riders probably do transfer at Link or are going to UW Bothell. I doubt there’s more than a trickle of riders between Bothell and Kenmore or Kenmore and Lake City.

    2. I peeked at the survey questions and generally agree with Mike Orr. The survey is focusing on the connection part of the experience, but that does not imply that the connection is the only purpose of the route.

      This is an opportunity for people to point out low hanging fruit that could make life easier for riders. For example, if buses are leaving the station one minute before the train arrives.

  7. Route 522 was implemented in fall 2003. It serves multiple trip purposes; ST should know that: CBD, lake city, four northshore cities, UWB/CCC, local trips along the corridor. Trickles add up.

    1. It wasn’t in the 1990s? The 550 may have been the first (after the 594, which started before the ST Express brand was established), but I thought the 510, 511, 522, 545, 554, and 560 were all started more or less simultaneously within a year or two of the 550.

  8. I’ll provide the headline. I want someone else to write the story and take the pictures.

    Downtown Redmond Station: Link’s Best Station Location?

    1. Are you referring to the station layout or the surrounding land use?

      The layout for buses is awesome! This is perhaps the best part about it and this aspect may be deserving of “best”.

      The vertical devices are laid out ok but the entries are merely across a street without high volumes. I’m not sure how many escalators or elevators are placed there.

      The area is indeed more urban than most of Redmond but it has height limits that appear lower than those in Bellevue. Related to that, ST predicts low boardings for this station (1,300 boardings in 2040 here:

      I think the station name may become Redmond Town Center even though the project is called the Downtown Redmond Link Extension. Some documents already call it that.

      1. It’s refreshing to see a station that isn’t backed-up against a freeway, or a station where there isn’t much else around. So, I like where the station is located, and what’s going on around it. Great vibe to the area.

    2. Redmond Town Center is a shopping center south of downtown in the area Redmond is now calling Marymoor Village. So calling Redmond Downtown station Redmond Town Center would be ambiguous and people would get off there to go to the shopping center, when they should get off at SE Redmond station (possibly in the end called Marymoor (Village?) Station).

      1. Marymoor is almost entirely south of 520. Redmond Town Center’s middle outdoor circle is just a block south of the end station and north of 520.

      2. Mike, you aren’t saying Redmond is calling Redmond Town Center “Marymoor Village,” are you? Because that’s not what’s being called Marymoor Village by Redmond. The SE Redmond Station area is being called Marymoor Village.

    3. I checked out U-district on thanksgiving. I had a bike and took the elevator, so didn’t see all the levels, but I am having trouble imagining a better street level experience. The art on the train level was really cool too. It’s integrated really well with the neighborhood. Kudos on the bike lane and the pedestrian mall that used to be 43rd.

      Maybe Redmond will be better. Dunno.

  9. Redmond Town Center is a mixed-use development and shopping center located in downtown Redmond. It’s where the REI store used to be. If you get off East Link at the downtown station and walk south you are immediately in the complex. Most of it was the old golf course property.

    1. Call me a primitive, but when in New York I like the gates.
      People who need lower, or free, fares should still be able to get the passes they need, but everyone else has to pay to get to the platforms.
      Gates would eliminate the awkwardness of the FEO having to board each car and accost everyone in order to check that they have paid.

      The corollary to this is that I see value in the agency collecting money through fares. The money has to come from somewhere and requiring those who use it to pay a fee seems fair. Otherwise, the inevitable tax hike to replace the lost fare funds will feed into a narrative that ST is a bloated bureaucracy that requires more and more tax money to support its money losing operations.

      1. “Call me a primitive, but when in New York I like the gates.”

        I do as well. Admittedly, I’m probably biased on this as someone who grew up in NYC.

      2. I also agree, and I’ve never lived in New York, DC or Chicago, though I’ve ridden them all. POP systems are a open invitation to cheat and act as “broken windows.

        It’s true that turnstiles cannot be perfect in at-grade segments, but even there they are a reminder to pay. And if the turnstile in an elevated or subway station won’t unlock for a departure the utility of the systems to cheaters will be drastically reduced.

        They’ll pay for themselves in five years, tops, and reduce hobo riding.

      3. “broken windows” and “hobo riding”? Seriously? We’re going to use vernacular associated with a failed and disproven method of policing as well as 1920’s and 30’s era stereotypes of migrant laborers to justify the installation of turnstiles?

      4. As long as there are reduced-fare passes for low-income people and free passes tor the lowest income. Oh wait, the lowest income are the “hobos”. So regardless of whether you install turnstyles they’ll still be paying the same and traveling the same. The only ones who would be deterred are higher-income people who don’t qualify for free passes. But, they’re not the hobos, they’re clean-cut people who behave themselves, right?

        Hobo originally meant a person who traveled to short-term jobs around the country. The current homeless often don’t leave the city they were in when they became homeless.

      5. A Joy, I think you are confusing the broken windows concept with NYC’s anti-crime prevention patrols, that some claim resulted in racial profiling.

        The broken windows concept begins with the infrastructure: if a neighborhood has broken windows and graffiti, it breeds crime and forces out businesses, and the streets lose vibrancy and become dark and unsafe, and tax revenue for social services decline while the wealthier residents move out.

        The initial focus is on the property owners to fix up their properties. It then focuses on lesser crimes, because if a city elects to not prosecute lesser crimes it encourages crimelessness and unsafe streets, which leads to violent crime. I never understand why progressives don’t understand that if public safety and crime are issues in an election, they are the only issues, which marginalizes progressives and the issues they wish to pursue, which tend to require a huge amount of business tax. Just look at Seattle’s elections in 2021, or read Trumm’s delusional articles on The Urbanist on the meaning of the elections.

        Not coincidentally, NYC’s mayor elect, Eric Adams, who is African American and a retired police captain, has publicly used BLM leaders’ threats to riot if he reinstates the anti-crime prevention patrols as his “Sister Souljah” moment, because the poor and minority neighborhoods voted for him to stop crime too, because that is mostly where the crime is (including in the subways). In fact, Adams ran his campaign on reinstating the crime patrols. Crime was his campaign.

        But the point TT was making, and you missed, is if ST’s operations are predicated on a 40% farebox recovery rate you need a way to enforce fares. Otherwise, ST has to pass an operations levy (very unlikely), or you raise fares, or cut service. Options two and three affect you more than they do me, but I seem to be more concerned about farebox recovery, because it determines 40% of the service level, and the reality is transit serves the poor and working poor more than the rich.

        IMO turnstiles are a less hostile, more cost effective, more effective, and more humane method of enforcing fares than fare enforcement officers. Many cities use turnstiles, and that does not make them racist or anti poor.
        Plus turnstiles limit the folks in the station to those paying a fare and riding transit, which tends to make a nicer environment, and allow things like public bathrooms. A train station is not public housing.

        I think what you are really arguing for is free public transit, but cloaking that in claims of racism. Unfortunately, that is not affordable, or part of the plan, and when tried makes transit too unpleasant for the fare paying passengers (who are not the rich to be clear), which means riders stop taking transit (which is much easier today with WFH and employer subsidized parking and growth of the eastside).

        Of course private train companies did not want “hobos” riding for free on their freight trains (and hobo is distinct from tramp, which is what we are really talking,at%20all%2C%20a%20%22hobo%22%20is%20a%20traveling%20worker. The freight system was not designed to transport passengers, for free. They caused a lot of damage, and train tracks and jumping trains are not a safe place to be.

        Metro tried a free ride system in downtown Seattle, but it was a failure because the buses became de facto public housing and bathrooms, unsafe for many riders, and putrid. These were not migrant workers travelling to work sites, these were tramps. So employees — especially women — stopped taking the bus once it reached the free zone, and their employers objected. So Metro cancelled the free ride area.

        ST is going to need an operations levy one way or the other, just based on the effects of the pandemic and inflated ridership levels, but I don’t think any ST levy will pass. About the only way I see a ST operations levy passing is if post pandemic in-office work levels return, and the workers begin to rely on light rail, and don’t want service cuts despite ST’s dishonest operation and ridership assumptions. That means they want to ride light rail.

        But I still don’t see a ST operations levy passing, which is why that 40% farebox recovery rate is so important, because there will be cuts to service, which affects all transit riders, but how deep the cuts are will depend on the farebox recovery.

      6. “Metro tried a free ride system in downtown Seattle, but it was a failure because the buses became de facto public housing and bathrooms, unsafe for many riders, and putrid. These were not migrant workers travelling to work sites, these were tramps. So employees — especially women — stopped taking the bus once it reached the free zone, and their employers objected. So Metro cancelled the free ride area.”

        It was canceled because operations costs were increasing. When it was created in the 1970s Seattle paid the entire cost of lost fares and additional service. But over the years costs gradually exceeded Seattle’s contribution and that came out of Metro’s operations budget. Penny-punching conservatives tried unsuccessfully for several years to cancel it. Finally in the 2008 recession, when Metro’s reserves finally ran out in 2012, the county was faced with either a 25% reduction in Metro service or voting for a 2-year tax surcharge the state permitted as a recession measure. Conservative county councilmembers would agree to it only if there was grand bargain to also end the Ride Free Area, the 40/40/20 rule, and the council’s interference in reduction/restructure decisions. (Previously, a single complaint from a status-quo advocate often derailed a restructure or route deletion. Afterward Metro would base decisions mostly on ridership and partly on coverage under a new formula, and the county would stop micromanaging it for special interests. The county held to its word until 2016, when Dembrowski resurrected the 71 that was going to be deleted in the U-Link restructure. Since then the county has been mostly good but not 100%.)

        The grand bargain went through, and the Ride Free Area vanished.

        Homeless misbehavior was an increasing problem, but there were other problems with the Ride Free Area.

        1. The “Pay As You Leave” policy confused people persistently. Visitors never understood it. I thought about it visually, picturing myself always paying on the non-downtown end. Still I sometimes forgot.

        2. Then Metro, due to increasing homeless misbehavior, changed PAYL from 24 hours to only before 7pm. That threw me off for years because it was a temporal threshold rather than a purely geographic one. I often forgot that the 7pm threshold existed, or whether it was before or after 7pm, or whether I’d paid on entry.

        3. During PAYL the back door never opened, so exitees had to crowd in front to pay, and enterees had to wait for them to finish. And inevitably people would go to the back door and then have to walk to the front, or shout at the driver for not opening the back door, or exit front when they didn’t have to (blocking enterees).

        4. Drivers were inconsistent about opening the back door, especially after the 7pm rule started. You never knew whether the driver would open it or not: sometimes they would, sometimes they’d make you go up front. If you told them they should open it now per Metro’s announced policy, they’d deny it was the policy. That lasted for several months or years after the 7pm threshold went into effect, until drivers finally got more consistent

        5. For routes that went all the way through the RFA, you were supposed to get a transfer on entry and show it to the driver on exit. Drivers tried to always give transfers on those routes, but sometimes they didn’t, or people wouldn’t take one, or they’d lose it during the trip. And many passengers just didn’t understand this process or that they needed to hold onto the transfer for exit. There were more through routes then, both single numbers on both ends like 1 (1/36), 2, 3, 4, 7 (7/49), 13 (12/13), 14 (14/47), 15 (15/57), 18 (18/C), and double numbers where the bus went through but the route number changed at Pine Street: 26/28/131/132, 5/125.

        6. The 43 was unique because it split into the 43/44, and the split was in the U-District rather than downtown, but they were still often through-routed. So the 44 segment, which should have always been pay as you enter because it’s entirely outside downtown, would inherit the 43’s PAYL position, which changed at 7pm. That confused a lot of people too.

        So there were a lot of complaints about the Ride Free Area, and many of them had nothing to do with homeless behavior. It was also costing Metro more and more to operate it, and that was coming out of other potential service. Finally in the 2008 recession it became intoleable: it wasn’t worth slashing routes to keep funding the RFA, so the RFA was eliminated.

      7. As usual Daniel you do not understand my points at all. Broken Windows Theory, which TT is using to justify turnstyles, has been scientifically disproven. It amounts to correlation implying causation, no causal link has been found, and all claimed causal links refuted.

        I do not mention race at all, and find your attempt to include it here to be both an attempt at derailing my points and a sign of your internal thought processes, not mine. I might in other places bring up the question of uneven enforcement based on racial lines, but not here.

        My other complaint was about trying to denigrate the homeless by calling them hobos. Which is interesting, as in the 1920’s and 1930’s during the Dustbowl and Depression eras, the predominant racial makeup of migrant workers was European. So there is no racial minority element represented there either.

        As for your other assertions, I will happily admit I support a free mass transit system. I need no reason to cloak it. I confess it freely.

        “The broken windows concept begins with the infrastructure: if a neighborhood has broken windows and graffiti, it breeds crime and forces out businesses, and the streets lose vibrancy and become dark and unsafe, and tax revenue for social services decline while the wealthier residents move out.

        The initial focus is on the property owners to fix up their properties. It then focuses on lesser crimes, because if a city elects to not prosecute lesser crimes it encourages crimelessness and unsafe streets, which leads to violent crime.”

        Yes, that is the theory. But that is not reality. In reality, factors that have nothing to do with the appearance of a neighborhood drive crime rates. Which is why even neighborhoods that do not employ broken windows policing see crime rates drop, often at rates that exceed those of neighborhoods that do employ it. Broken windows and graffiti do not breed crime. If anything, neighborhood economics and residential wealth are what drive crime rates up and down, not some appearance driven metric.

        “Metro tried a free ride system in downtown Seattle, but it was a failure because the buses became de facto public housing and bathrooms, unsafe for many riders, and putrid.”

        That is simply untrue. Homelessness had absolutely nothing to do with the end of the Metro Ride Free Area. From the website: “It was eliminated (after 40 years of service) by the King County Council to help the agency preserve the greatest number of routes in the face of financial crisis. (Metro ended up eliminating 10 routes and making changes to more than 50.) Metro hopes to see $2 million more per year by collecting fares downtown.”

        It was about money, not people making the busses putrid.

        My issue is not with turnstyles. As you so keenly pointed out, I am eligible for a free Orca card due to my disabled status. My issue is with alarmism, refuted ‘science’, and aspersions against the homeless being used as a justification for those turnstyles. Sticking to revenue issues avoids those pitfalls. But both you and TT go off the deep end, turning this into something it isn’t and making ludicrous claims not based on the facts at hand. that’s where I take umbrage with your and their statements.

      8. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Mike. I’d forgotten all about the confusing world of the RFA. I was riding transit pretty consistently then, so learned the rules and they seemed, well, fairly normal. Only in retrospect does it seem completely batshit.

        It must have been tough to be an infrequent transit rider then. Kinda like the “Tap-on: Tap-off” world we currently reside in.

        Remind me why I need to tap again on a transfer from bus to train?

      9. 7. The RFA boundaries. It wasn’t all of downtown or well-known neighborhood boundaries. It was Battery Street in the mididle of Belltown, Jackson Street in the middle of the International District, I-5, and maybe part of First Hill for the hospitals. So people would inevitably ride just a bit past it, and it was technically unfair to those who lived/worked in northern Belltown, Uptown, Little Saigon, because they’d have to pay while people a couple stops later didn’t have to.

      10. Daniel Thompson I have been riding Metro since the early 1990s. I think I can speak from a bit of experience when it comes to the state of Metro busses during the RFA. But by all means, submit an unverified and hyperbolic letter from The Stranger as ‘proof’ of… something?

    2. Tisgwm, no one is saying all $66 billion is going to Amtrak. The articles in the national press I linked to were quite specific on the allocation of the $66 billion. The reporting is not sloppy according to the press reports I have read. It isn’t a secret on how the $66 billion for rail was allocated, or that it won’t be, and can’t be, spent in one year. And I highly doubt it will be spent in five years, especially if we are talking EIS’s.

      The entire point I was trying to make was yes, of course it is a pittance compared to the need, especially deferred maintenance, if you are an advocate of rail subsidies. That is the entire point why breaking ground on a new $42 billion HSR line from Vancouver to Portland is unwise. The fact that only a portion of the $66 billion is going to Amtrak, and only a small portion of that funding to capital projects, and that such an infrastructure bill only comes around about once in 20 years, only emphasizes this point, and the point of my original post on the Cascadia proposal I think it is nutty (unless you hope to buy up the land along the line for cheap).

      There is little point to decrying red and rural states that object to spending on rail when they don’t see how it benefits them, and there won’t be ribbon cutting ceremonies in their states and districts for rail. What kind of ribbon cutting ceremonies do you expect in rural and red states over $66 billion for the entire U.S. that mostly will go towards deferred maintenance, and “intercity rail”? Or even in Blue states? That is politics, and how bipartisan budgets are formed. You don’t blame the other side for winning, but the fact is every politician “wins” on a huge infrastructure bill like this.

      Democrats hold majorities in the House and Senate, and hold the Presidency, and they signed off on the $66 billion for rail. Do you think those D’s won’t attend ribbon cutting ceremonies for new roads or bridges?

      You make it sound like the Democrats, despite their majorities, are weak, or don’t know what they were doing, or the “cons” made them do it. They knew what they were doing, and I think Pres. Biden did a pretty good job getting this infrastructure bill passed. Of course, it is heavy on roads and bridges because roads and bridges are how America moves people and freight, and a big part of this bill is economic stimulus, and nothing is more shovel ready than roads and bridges (especially compared to light rail).

      All 50 Democratic Senators voted in favor of the infrastructure bill, and only six Democrats voted no in the House, and yet you somehow see R’s controlling the board and the bill in the background, or that rail was a priority for either side in the bill. Passenger rail was a non-issue, for everyone in Congress.

      The Democrats in the House were able to raise the deduction for SALT taxes from $10,000/year to $80,000/year that will cost between $285 billion and $625 billion,%2480%2C000%20rather%20than%20the%20proposed%20%2410%2C000%20in%202031 when that only benefits wealthy blue states and very wealthy citizens, when they want to, and when they care enough, a huge give away to the rich.

      If the same Democrats from large blue states that would benefit the most from more rail funding decide instead to use that money to raise the deduction for SALT taxes that are rarely triggered in red states whose fault is that? Now we have to hope the “cons” remove this awful give away to the rich from the BBB bill.

      There are no good guys or bad guys in a huge infrastructure bill, and even if there were it is pointless to moan about it when your party is in the majority. Personally, as a Democrat, I am appalled by progressives signing off on raising the SALT tax deduction to $80,000/year, which only goes to show you there are no good people and no bad people in D.C., just self-interest.

      1. “Tisgwm, no one is saying all $66 billion is going to Amtrak.”

        That is exactly what you both explicitly stated as well as implied. Do I need to quote your earlier comments? Now, on the other hand, if you want to “correct or amend” your remark, which seems to be what you’re doing here, that’s another way to go.

        The rest of your (misplaced) commentary is mostly meandering projection of some sort and isn’t relevant to my central point regarding where this $66B of new spending is actually allocated.

        One last point….Yes, the national media reporting on this has indeed been sloppy, particularly on the headlines. Getting the details right used to matter with news outlets.

  10. Starting a new thread regarding the whole “Amtrak discussion” above since the previous comments are broken up a bit in a couple of thread strings. (Thank you in advance for this indulgence.)

    As I stated earlier, let’s be clear about what this $66B in new spending for the Federal Railroad Administration from the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 is actually funding. It is NOT, as widely misreported in our (lazy and sloppy) national media, as well as in commenter Daniel T’s replies above, all being directed to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) exclusively. That’s a total misrepresentation of the legislation as enacted into law.

    Here’s the actual breakdown of how the $66B in new spending is allocated:

    1. Consolidated rail infrastructure and safety improvements, $5B
    2. Northeast corridor grants to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, $6B
    3. National network grants to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, $16B
    4. Railroad crossing elimination program, $3B
    5. Federal-state partnership for intercity rail grants, $36B

    Additionally, one needs to keep in mind that this new spending is spread over a five-year period, or, in other words an average of $13.2B per fiscal year.

    It’s a pittance compared to the need. So of course the Cons are decrying giving Amtrak more funding. But watch how many of them who voted against the act in either chamber will be sure to take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and photo ops when they occur.

    1. Oh, I’m sure many of them will. The point of the “no” votes is to deny Joe Biden credit for anything, in order to set up a Trump win in 2024. It has nothing to do with opposition to the actual infrastructure. Expecting Republicans to just go along with anything is like a basketball team expecting to be able to just walk the ball to the basket, without the other team bothering to play defense.

      Just a few years ago, the same thing happened in reverse with Trump’s wall. The reason why Democrats were so up in arms against it was not concern about wasting a few billion dollars (a mere rounding error in the federal budget) on something that doesn’t actually solve the immigration problem. It was fear that, if the wall were built, Trump would take credit for it, and we’d all be stuck with four more years of him.

      Just like basketball players play defense, politicians play defense too. They need the other team to shoot and miss so they can get the ball back to score points. That’s just how the game works. And expecting the other team to not play it is just not reasonable.

      1. @asdf2
        Sorry, but I don’t agree with your analogy* (or your take on the Democrats opposition to a southern border wall). Your argument is essentially a derivation of the national media-fueled “both sides” theme, which simply isn’t supported by data.

        Today’s Republican Party isn’t interested in actually governing and solving problems. The national media doesn’t help matters when it continues to refer to the “traditional Republicans”, i.e. the Bob Corkers and Willard Romneys of the party, as if they are particularly relevant to the party’s direction today. My governor as I was growing up, Nelson Rockefeller (R), who was an effective and popular executive, wouldn’t even recognize his own party today. I suggest reading Ornstein and Mann’s, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” (2012) that debunks the both sides argument. Their earlier treatise, “The Broken Branch” (2008) is also worth reading.

        A taste of the authors’ takes can be found in two related op-ed pieces I’ll link to here ($):

        *The Cons aren’t playing a true game of basketball anymore because they’ve rigged the rules so that they get seven players on the courts while the Dems get just three. They’ve also installed their own officiating crew. Oh, and as we have seen a couple of times in the last decade, when they weren’t happy about how the game was going, they just stopped playing and took all the balls home (aka, government funding shutdowns).

    2. If Oregon can get some of the state partnership money would they consider extending Cascades service to say Medford?

      1. Way too slow, Bernie. Those three steep and snowy crests between Roseburg and Grants Pass had to be “looped around” by the Oregon and California, essentially doubling the highway mileage, and slowing speeds.

        It qould take eight hours from Pertland to Medford, even in a Talgo, though it would be a beautiful ride.

      2. Some years ago I read a study by ODOT about the suitability of various rail lines in the state. The study mentioned that the fastest a train could go south of Eugene was about 25-30 MPH if memory serves me correctly, due to the curves and slopes.

      3. The current line south of Eugene is slow, but could be made better with some investment. The rail is really light, mostly jointed, and there are many bad ties. There’s nothing there that hasn’t been tacked by other countries. You’d need to go back to working with trains that can tilt through curves.

        Here’s several dozen pages by a German railway advocate that took a look at what could be done on the route, if the USA allowed equipment built for service in other countries:

      4. Glenn, you’re right about the physical plant: it’s fixable. What’s not fixable without billions for tunneling is the alignment.

        And for what? The Oregon Shakespeare Festival? Grant that it would be popular during “snow events”.

      5. Medford is a metro area of a quarter million. Not huge but decent size. I don’t know the route the existing rail takes. I see the Amtrak Coast Starlight goes inland from Eugene and through Klamath Falls. Check out the track around McCredie Springs! It doesn’t look like it would make sense (or even be possible) to branch off from the Coast Starlight route to Medford. But assume with massive federal dollars (bore baby bore) Oregon can get the rail travel time from Eugene to Medford around 3 hours from a current estimate of 5.5 hours. Would it then be possible to extend south to reconnect with the Starlight route and in the future significantly reduce train travel time to San Francisco via the Biden tunnel?

      6. While it’s tempting to invest in extending routes, I would rather that states first address deficient rail bridges and tracks, bottlenecks and ways to make existing routes more reliable or faster. Do the core tracks and service well, and the branches and extensions will be easier to do politically.

        There are very major rail bridges and tunnels in the US that are in terrible shape and/or trains cannot go at high speeds. There are long stretches of single tracks that restrict train frequency and reliability. It’s fun to think about bold new corridors — but we need to be realistic about the addressing state of our existing ones more.

      7. I agree that the 1st priority should be to fix existing track and bridges; especially bridges like the Steel Bridge in Portland. But it’s also fun to speculate and sometimes it’s just a different cookie jar that the money comes from. I posed the question about being able to connect south of Medford with the existing Starlight route because that would eliminate a really twisty bit of shared track over the mountains. Sometimes it’s cheaper in the long run to go big than trying to fix something that’s inherently inferior. If the route is feasible it would be an incremental step to higher speed rail to the Bay Area. Right now it’s over 16 hours from Eugene to SF and 7.5 hours from Eugene to Dunsmuir CA. If you could carve 2-3 hours and add reliability it could be one of those signature projects the gets funded because it benefits all three west coast states.

      8. Going south from Medford is WORSE than going north. Siskiyou Pass followed by the plunge to the Klamath River and the climb back to Mount Shasta station.

        It would require two loooooong tunnels.

        There’s a reason the Daylight took the K Falls route.

        No. Just No.

      9. There’s Siskiou Pass just south of Ashland that you have to get through. But like the GN did for Stevens Pass you do the calculation and determine that a long tunnel while expensive eliminates so many twists & turns that it’s worth it. From there I’m suggesting you build all new track that ties in to the existing route just south of Weed/Back Butte. Looking at the existing route it looks like there might be an opportunity for a less ambitious project that would eliminate the long switch back north of Dunsmuir (Sawmill Curve) that follows the Sacramento River far to the west. If there was a regrade (bridges/tunnels/cuts) and the track could be brought up from the river valley from about where the I-5 bridge crosses the river they could eliminate a long slow section of track.

        The other section that is a cry for help is around McCredie Springs. But no matter what you do the existing route is going to be slow. If a tunnel under the Siskiyou can take 3 hours out of the trip and add a city the size of Medford then it’s worth looking at. If not then consign ourselves to the fact that rail travel from the NW to the Bay Area is never going to compete with flying and/or driving. If that’s the case then the Starlight is really just an excursion train and spending money on BNSF owned assets doesn’t have much public payback.

      10. There’s nothing in Siskiyou Pass that isn’t in Switzerland or Austria or on one of the Japanese mountain lines. Nothing, that is, except a will to do something different than declare improvement impossible.

      11. Glenn, of course not. A single twelve mile base tunnel is entirely reasonable in a 500 km line with two metropoli at its ends. But Portland-San Francisco is 1000 km and would require two base tunnels (Ashland-Hornbrook and Weed-Dunsmuir and that would leave the line at the bottom of the Sacramento Canyon which is a 60 kph trench.

        The only way to do Northwest to California HSR is to follow the Willamette to the U-turn as I described to Bernie. Since Upper Klamath Lake is rapidly dying a causeway on the east side would be feasible.

        The whole idea is a bridge too far though. People are just going to have to travel much less in the near future.

      12. Hmm, looks like I didn’t post the details of the only plausible HSR alignment between Eugene and the north end of the Sacramento Valley.

        It would follow the Willamette to where the river rise gets too steep east of Oakridge near McCredie Springs, drill a base tunnel to a low point near Crescent Lake swing south roughly along the UP to Upper Klamath Lake, build a causeway along the Eastside to zpK Falls, continue roughly along the BNSF alignment to Bieber then angle southwest down the west face of the mountains around Lassen to somewhere around Red Bluff.

        Yes, it’s sad that Roseburg, Grants Pass, Medford and Redding would be bypassed. But there’s a reason that the Daylight took the Shasta route: one big up a long time high and one big down beats the hell out of one big up-and-down and four other middle-sized ones.

      13. follow the Willamette to where the river rise gets too steep east of Oakridge near McCredie Springs, drill a base tunnel to a low point near Crescent Lake
        OK, that scales to about 26 miles of tunnel. Eugene to Chemult currently takes 2.75hr to go 100 miles. I can see this taking 1.5-2 hours out of the trip.
        Upper Klamath Lake, build a causeway along the Eastside to zpK Falls
        Looks very doable but don’t know it gets you much. That section is relatively straight. Chemult to Klamath is 2.5 hr which is insanely long considering it’s only 70 miles and a 1 hr drive on Hwy 97. Just looking at the route on the Amtrak page the most “squiggles” look to be north of Chiloquin. Seems like a relatively modest investment should be able to get this segment down to an hour. I wonder how much time is lost between Redding and Eugene simply because of slow freight trains? And a passenger only line (especially if electrified) could use much steeper grades and superelevation.
        Bieber then angle southwest .. to somewhere around Red Bluff
        That adds about 100 miles of extra distance and bypassing Redding which currently has service won’t be popular. I can see why if you’re building true HSR but as you say that would be so expensive it’s no going to get much traction for decades. I’m thinking you only need to get the trip time from Portland to SF down from the current 20 hrs (+ alot/- 0.00) to around 12 hours. Drive time with no stops is 10 hours. A bus that makes stops (which you need to on a 10 hr trip) would be close to 12 hours.

        HSR would be reqd to be competitive time wise with flying. But I think you could get a good share of the market with cities like Redding and Medford service. Driving to SF via Redding is 640 miles which means average speed of 55 mph for a 12 hour trip. Obviously more stops means you need faster running but getting most of the route up to even 89 mph should do it. Medford Redding is less distance and more markets. A tunnel under the Siskiyou Pass would only be about 20 miles. And you may not even need to tunnel all of that for a passenger only line and 50-60 mph running speed. Although you’d definitely want to make it snow proof. Make it large enough that it can be used by an “AutoTrain” and it would be popular with truckers. And why not since it would likely never see more than 4-6 passenger trains a day.

        True 180mph HSR would still be 4+ hr and you can bet will have the same security as flying which is only 2 hrs departure to arrival. And it’s only ~$100 each way.

      14. I’ve never heard Oregon suggest extending Cascades south of Redding. I assumed the population was too low there.

      15. Bernie, even if the goal is “higher-speed rail”, going through Medford is unacceptable. Assume just the base tunnel under Siskiyou, certainly the only thing that would be funded for H’erSR.

        Even if Oregon stumped up for a new physical plant between Willamette Junction (south Eugene) and the tunnel portal, the alignment would still be a twisty, up and down mess between Roseburg and Grants Pass. Trains would be squealing around one five degree curve after another.

        The Shasta Daylight, which made the OAK-PDX run in sixteen hours, skipped Medford, Roseburg and Grants Pass because otherwise it would have been the DayAndNightLight, requiring roughly 24 hours to make the trip.

        It’s a Catch-22: if M, R, and GP are served the through passengers bolt. If they aren’t served there’s hardly any on-off between Eugene and Redding. It’s just college kids and oldsters taking a land cruise.

      16. Thanks Glenn, that’s an interesting link. But it seems this is where we are stuck. The money to get to Medford with reasonable service doesn’t pencil out unless it can be leveraged with connecting service to Redding. Switching trains in Medford (or anywhere) isn’t appealing, especially if it’s the middle of the night. 16 hours, which would require significant investment in the existing route has no payback… it’s still too slow. Fortunately we have another option, the new electric GMC Hummer. The beauty is that with the off road capability we don’t even need to maintain the highways.

      17. Some interesting facts in the series of articles Glenn linked to and with some follow-up research. The Siskiyou Pass was the original route between Black Butt CA and Eugene. The current route, the Natron Cutoff, was proposed by SP back in 1905 but for a number of reasons (like WWI) didn’t open until 1927. Part of the reason for building it was a race by competing railroads to reach Bend Or and all the timber being harvested on the eastern side of the Cascades.

        By 1927 passenger rail was already in decline. The golden age of rail in the US is considered 1850’s to 1930. Not only was the automobile becoming ubiquitous but passenger airlines “took off” with the launch of the Douglas DC-3 that could carry 30 passengers at over 200mph with a range of 1,500 miles.

        I had thought Siskiyou Pass would be the shorter distance; it’s not. Via rail Siskiyou Pass is 550 miles vs 535 for Natron. Even if you look at driving directions from Black Butt to Eugene it’s identical 250 miles going inland and using Hwy 97 or via I-5. Of course I-5 is way faster but the take home statistic here is that the distance by road is less than half the distance by rail. It’s going to be a heavy lift for rail to ever be competitive.

        Picking up Medford (metro population of 223,000 is certainly a plus. But the most compelling reason to invest in the Siskiyou Pass route would be if it could be owned by Amtrak and passenger rail given priority. Simply rebuilding curves with greater superelevation could double speeds. And FRA regulations are far less stringent when not operating mixed traffic. More costly projects like regrades and bridges would also be easier if freight wasn’t in the way.

  11. New article about a belief among some people that electric helicopters will make transit obsolete:

    While electric helicopters are certainly much better than gas-powered ones (many helicopters in the air today still burn leaded gas, by the way), the argument that they will somehow replace transit is wrong in so many ways:

    1) With a vehicle capacity akin to a car, they simply do not scale. If more than a tiny percentage of the population commutes this way, the air would become as congested as I-5.

    2) If air taxis are to someday replace mass transit, they have to be affordable by the masses. $4 per mile is not affordable, and the cost of subsidizing the fares to a level that is, prohibitive. Buses have the nice property that the operating cost is essentially the same for an empty bus as a full bus, so more people choosing to ride (within reason) does not force long wait times or bankrupt the transit agency. Air taxis, on the other hand, suffer the same problems as Via, only worse. High marginal cost per passenger means once more than a tiny number of people want to ride, you can’t serve them all without either going bankrupt running too many vehicles or having long wait times.

    3) Buses can pick up and drop off passengers along a street very efficiently, to the point where the delay to thru riders to allow a new passenger to get on the bus is often as little as 5-30 seconds. Via can’t do this, since every passenger requires driving out of the way, and air taxis can’t either, since every intermediate stop requires landing and taking off again.

    4) While electric-powered helicopters are certainly quieter than gas-powered helicopters, the argument that they would be free from noise pollution is difficult to believe. Electric powered drones are in the skies today. They are audible from hundreds of feet away, and sound like insects buzzing. I see no reason to believe that a more powerful aircraft capable of carrying the weight of humans would be any quieter. Noise is a particularly sensitive issue because, unlike car noise, there is nowhere in the city you can go to get away from it – even in parks and hiking trails, these things will still be buzzing overhead, nonstop, 24/7.

    1. I think air traffic control will be a huge obstacle too. It’s not like autos where friction braking and slower speeds make the mode much safer to operate in congestion.

    2. To be clear, the Jetsons had air corridors where people commuted in family-sized helicopters, and naturally had congestion similar to freeways.

      Rocket packs, especially the kind in MInority Report with just a small discharge plume, are smaller than the people using them, so they can fly closely together like a flock of birds. Helicopters and cars are much larger than the people using them so they don’t scale very well. Trains and buses are more like small rocket packs because internally the people can travel close together, and share the fixed overhead of the outer chassis and clearing area around it.

  12. What do you think of free e-bikes for everybody ($)?

    “City governments should purchase an electronic bicycle for every resident over the age of 15 who wants one. They should also shut down a significant number of streets to be used only by bicycles and a small number of speed-regulated, municipal electric vehicles.”

    Chis Hayes on All In interviews the author. (I can’t get a URL to the episode so this just links to the show.) Hayes got an e-bike for a 9-mile commute and says it has replaced several other car trips too. (P.S. Hayes is a transit fan, and sometimes talks about it in his podcast.)

    1. Ebikes are incredibly useful transportation devices. I own one and have ridden it quite extensively. It drastically increases the number of places I can get to in 15, 30, and 60 minutes over just bus+walking, alone. I highly recommend them, especially in a hilly city like Seattle.

      That said, I’m not sure just buying one for everybody is a solution. It would be a waste of money for me (I already own one). And, going through my car-dependent family and friends one by one, I see them all continuing to drive everywhere while their free ebike sits in storage and picks up dust (maybe they ride it once for the novelty, then put it away and never ride it again). Part of the reason is lack of safe streets to ride on. But, a lot of it is deeply ingrained habits that cars are how people are “supposed” to get around, and, with free parking everywhere, the cost of gas, alone, is too cheap to be much of a motivator in getting them to bother to even think about alternatives.

      The people I know who would use their free ebike are, by and large, people who already don’t have cars and walk/bike/bus everywhere. For these people, riding the ebike instead of the bus would save time.

      From a public policy standpoint, I think it’s better to focus on providing safe places to ride than the economic cost of buying the bike.

  13. “Cascadia HSR As Decarbonization” is a hoot! “Cascadia HSR” will do exactly what new exurban freeway additions do: juice sprawl.

    I especially enjoyed Mr. Lovegrove’s touting the possibility that little-used or even abandoned rights of way might be repurposed for high speed rail. That’s true to some degree in the midwest where many such redundant segments of straight trackage exist. It isn’t true here in the Northwest, where our eliminated and downgraded rights-of-way include such twisting gems as the old NP from Renton Junction to Sumas, the Milwaukee crawling up the middle of 505 in Tacoma, and the Oregon Electric street running through Salem and Albany.

    Any HSR project would require a new greenfield alignment through built areas from King Street to Marysville and Tacoma to Centralia, and then through Portland.

    It won’t happen, nor should it. Add a third track to the BNSF south of Nisqually Junction, double track the UP from Black River Junction to East Tacoma, and double the Point Defiance Bypass.

    That will cost a few billion but would allow service on hourly headways that’s “fast enough”.

    1. ““Cascadia HSR” will do exactly what new exurban freeway additions do: juice sprawl.”

      Then why does the US sprawl more than countries that have HSR between most of their cities? It’s hard to believe that people who haven’t sprawled through decades of highway access would suddenly do so when a high-speed rail line appears.

      Trains are both decentralizing and centralizing. They’re decentralising because they extend how far you can go in thirty or sixty minutes. But they’re centralizing because they incentivize living near a station in compact developments, so that the most people can conveniently use the train and don’t have to drive. In contrast, freeways are purely decentralizing and lead to peanut-butter sprawl because it’s just as easy to drive to any low-density location as it is to drive to a compact condo development near the exit.

      A direct comparison to trains would be bus-only highways. They wouldn’t be “freeways” like we’re used to but just small two-lane roads without large interchanges, that could more easily fit into neighborhoods, and would use less energy in construction and operations.

      1. Because most of those those other countries — except Germany which has hard boundaries for its urbanized areas, even small towns — don’t have “interstate freeways”. Some have extensive tolled grade-separated highway systems, but nothing like the insane proliferation of free “I-class” highways we have.

        Given the short — 170 miles — distance between Seattle and Portland, and their relatively modest sizes, “higher-speed rail” is perfectly adequate and will serve more people.

      2. And you’re forgetting the pain known as “Joint Base Lewis-McChord”. When the current widening project is completed, Nisqually and Lakewood will explode.

        I do agree that trains can be centralizing, but only in conjunction with good land-use policies.

      3. Reply #3: With a Tip of the Hatlo Hat to Daniel Thompson, “Cascadia HSR” would be the “East Link” of high-speed services.

      4. I’m most familiar with Germany, the UK, and Russia, which do have freeways between cities that become boulevards within the city (or in Germany’s case connect to boulevards). Which countries have tolled roads instead of intercity freeways? Do they also have free alternatives, and what are those alternatives like? I can’t imagine that people can’t drive at all between cities without using tolled roads.

      5. You could make a plausible argument that commuter rail encourages sprawl by allowing people who work downtown to live further away without a miserable commute. But, high speed rail isn’t like that. Very few people are going to choose which Seattle-area neighborhood to live in based on how easy it is to get to Portland.

        Even rail like Sounder, the sprawl-inducing argument is questionable. Even if the trains are full, the number of daily train riders is still tiny compared to the number of total residents in the driveshed of the Sounder stations. And the total door-to-door travel time to downtown Seattle is still going to be higher driving to Sounder and riding Sounder from, say, Orting, than simply riding the bus into downtown from somewhere like Renton.

        Highways are different. Virtually everybody who lives in the exurbs drives on the highways, and does so very often, and to everywhere, not just downtown.

      6. Trains to places like Puyallup definitely creates sprawl. But it can do that while also reducing driving and congestion in choke areas. WSF system is the great sprawl producer because it is a highway. The part of systems like Sounder that create sprawl are big ass parking garages where the fare system is backwards; charge to park and the train is free. Treat passengers and non-drivers just like the ferry where they pay far less than those who have been subsidized to park.

      7. “Trains to places like Puyallup definitely creates sprawl.”

        No it doesn’t. The few people who moved to Puyallup because of Sounder are overwhelmed by the many people that moved to Puyallup because of 167 and I-5. If Sounder didn’t exist, Puyallup’s population would be just as large as it is now. So you can’t combat sprawl by not building commuter rail or regional rail or light rail. Not building rail just makes transportation more inefficient. If we were a train-dominant society like in the 1920s or in other countries, then trains can be said to promote sprawl, but not in the post-1940s US.

      8. Going further, it’s not a problem if a society has a modern transportation system and people use it. There’s enough energy and pollution budget in the world for metro/regional/intercity trains like in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, China, Japan, etc, so it’s fine if the US has the same. What isn’t fine is when 90% of people use excessively inefficient transportation modes like cars and airplanes all the time, plus the footprint of their fixed infrastructure (8-lane freeways, 6-lane boulevards, large interchanges, large parking lots and garages, air/ground/sound pollution, social incohesion and inequality, etc).

        The impact of trains in this context is a rounding error compared to cars. Both because they’re four times more efficient than cars, and because so few people use them they don’t make much difference. But having an extensive train system gives the possibility that some people will use them and that they’ll gradually gain mode share and might someday become the dominant mode again. If you don’t build trains, then people absolutely cannot use them or switch to them ever.

      9. Even further, there’s no particular reason why 250,000 people (the combined population of Tacoma and Puyallup) should live in one city rather than two, or why they shouldn’t have a half-hourly Sounder line to Seattle (35 miles away). The issue is that cities, whatever their size, should have a compact layout. E.g., mostly multifamily units like Düsseldorf down to close-together houses like in central Issaquah or small-lot houses like Tacoma’s Hilltop or Seattle’s Mt Baker, as opposed to large-lot houses which is real sprawl. But that has more to do with land-use policies than transit quantity or mode.

        Also, Puyallup is reasonably in between Seattle and Tacoma. It’s not like Maltby or Arlington that are just being built on the edges now because the closer-in cities refuse to upzone sufficiently.

      10. Mike, Spain’s and Italy’s multi-lane controlled access roads are tolled. France has a network of freeways that resembles the TGV map, but they’re not building new ones. Germany and the Netherlands, again, strictly control how large cities and towns can grow, and there’s none of the ugly edge leakage by which American towns are fringed and the habitat destruction that results.

        Of course very few people would choose their housing locations based on access to HSR, but if it’s going to be useful for anything other than downtown Seattle to downtown Portland trips it would stop in Southeast Tacoma somewhere, East Olympia (or Yelm), Chehalis, and Kelso. Those places will then boom. IF Washington had Germany’s strict delineation between cities/towns and the countryside, that would be fine. They’d growertically within their present footprints.

        But we don’t, so those places would all become sloppy “nodes” which, yes, would be somewhat dense, but which would drag regional jobs along with them to which people would drive from a twenty-mile circle of sprawl around them.

        That’s what happens in “The Land of the Free[booters]”.

      11. What’s the alternative? A car-only infrastructure that makes non-driving incredibly difficult has been tried and leads to even worse outcomes. We can’t make the next fifty years like the last fifty years.

      12. “The alternative” is to make personal travel so painful that people do it rarely. Yes, draconian and enormously unpopular, but the economics of survival will make it so,

      13. HSR, if it was worth it’s name would maybe have 2 stops between Portland and Seattle. Kelso? Please.

        You also need to think a bit more deeply about what it is about sprawl that is bad. And whether the type of sprawl that would be generated around a HSR station would be bad. I’m not sure even a dense, walkable Kelso would be bad in the sense that Maple Valley is bad.

      14. Endless Auto-oriented sprawl is harmful because of the annoying, constant sound, generated by all the

        from everyone COMPLAINING about TRAFFIC!

  14. Another pie in the sky idea for free money that might be available through the infrastructure funding. Instead of building a new bridge across the Columbia River build a Chunnel type project where freight loads somewhere south of Portland and is taken by rail to a yard north of Vancouver. Before the train enters the tunnel portion there would be stations for foot passengers to board.

    1. Potentially a good idea. If a Ship Canal tunnel was right for Link, then a Columbia River tunnel might be right for freight and passenger trains, or even burying I-5. But with the money scheduled to be spent in five or ten years, there’s no time for brand-new concepts, only projects that are near shovel-ready now. If you sink the money into a chunnel, then all you’ll have at the end of it is unfinished preliminary planning, and no financing path for the rest of it. The same is true for Cascadia high-speed rail, because the state still hasn’t solidified the alignment or determined property acquisitions. So I hope only a small amount — or none — of Washington’s grant money goes to high-speed rail, and the rest goes into maintenance and incremental upgrades for conventional Cascades, Sounder, local transit, and Link expansion.

      1. How about this for a practical use. It’s not a “shovel ready’ project but take some of the funding and re-establish the WSDOT Rail Division that got put on the chopping block from the Great Recession. Right now there’s one understaffed “Rail, Freight, and Ports” office. One project “lost” was the crowning of the Stampede Pass tunnel which would be exactly the type of shovel ready project this round of stimulus would be ideal for.

    2. The cost to handle all that intermodal transfer is likely prohibitive. There’s a strong financial reason why even for coast to coast travel, the vast majority of freight travels by truck.

      The only place I know of where trucks switch to rail and then back to truck is the Chunnel itself, because there the rail is only competing with boats. If there was a road tunnel option across the English channel, the vast majority of freight would switch to that over the rail tunnel.

      1. Typically, UPS uses rail if a shipment is traveling 400 or more miles

        from top of google search

        UPS relies heavily on railroads to keep the giant Chicago Area Consolidation Hub on schedule

        Rail plays an important role it moving any goods that aren’t perishable. The above examples are actually moving goods from truck to rail back to truck. With an autotrain you’re not actually transferring the goods. The truck is simply driving onto the train the same way trucks drive onto a WSF. It could actually help trucking companies because they would bypass the conjested Portland metro area and can use the time toward mandated rest periods. Large companies would have a different driver at each end so one crew would drive routes north of the Columbia and another south.

        A fast(er) rail system should also move freight along the lines of the old The Railway Express Agency. I can see tilting container cars used to move fresh fruit and produce from CA. And there’s no reason not to reinstate the mail car. All of these things along with serving medium size markets along the route generate enough use age that the investment might actually have a payback.

        There’s a critical shortage of truck drivers right now. Much of our highway system is gridlocked for hours each day and/or has critical infrastructure rated as “deficient” or worse. Now’s the time for Imagineering better solutions.

      2. The vast, vast majority of the interstate highway system is free flowing most or all of the day. Only in urban area and a few points of geographic constraint (i.e. mountain passes) is there regular congestion.

        I’m all for increasing the share of freight moving by rail, but this specific suggestion makes little sense. It would be much more straightforward to create a freight bypass, or simply toll the existing corridors to ensure traffic is free flowing. There is good reason freight overwhelmingly moves by truck.

      3. “There is good reason freight overwhelmingly moves by truck.”

        So, is the trucking industry going to finance that bypass?

      4. Trucks pay extra fees based on weight. In the end, all the products are going to us, and we are all learning about the supply chain these days, and just how impatient we are to receive the goods we need or want. I think a big issue is the pay for truckers has not kept up with costs (gas, equipment as many are independent contractors) and other employment.

        Seattle in particular needs both rail and truck mobility because of its deep water port, one of the big differences in the growth of Seattle vs. Portland. Seattle (and the entire region) benefit greatly by the fact both trains and trucks can travel pretty easily from Seattle to Boston, and Seattle only has to pay a small fraction of that trip, although everyone along the route needs the supplies from the port.

        Citizens don’t complain about the cost of roads, and they don’t complain about the cost of freight tracks, but any politician should understand by now that if Christmas presents don’t show up on time, or American shoppers go to a store and see empty shelves, they will elect someone — anyone — else next time. Which is why Pres. Biden has had a change of heart on inflation, oil, gas, and the supply chain.

      5. Here’s a good article from Popular Science:
        Freight trains are our future
        It’s more Pop than Science but the purpose of that magazine has always been to get people thinking about change. A key point was “Trucks move 29 percent of the freight ton-miles, but are responsible for 77 percent of the sector’s emissions… Rail moves 40 percent of freight as measured in ton-miles but is responsible for only 8 percent of freight transportation carbon emissions.” Another claim was regarding safety, “the additional risk of fatalities from heavy trucks is equivalent to a gas tax of $0.97 per gallon.” I’ll let the personal injury lawyers speak to that. And yes the trucking industry needs to pay their fair share which hasn’t been the case with a publicly owned ROW (highways) vs a privately owned rail system.
        Money invested in our rail system (passenger & freight) is way more effective than electric trucks and a hell of a lot better than subsidizing rich people’s purchase of an electric Hummer.

      6. If you are already handling the product – for example, unloading a ship – then yes absolutely try to figure out how to use rail over a truck. But to introduce two additional mode transfers – even if it’s just driving a truck on and off of a train – is likely to be prohibitively expensive in time and money.

        And yes, the US has a long history of funding roads with toll revenue, so it would be reasonable to expect the trucking industry to ‘finance’ the bypass, at least partially. Or maybe just toll the current bridge first and determine if a replacement is even needed:

      7. The majority of freight in Seattle does not travel by truck. It travels by rail, most of it nonstop to Chicago. Over 50% of the items sold in the US that say “Made in China” come through Seattle. Due to the nature of globes and great circles, Seattle is the closest port for Chinese industries to use.

        Which is why all the importance placed on truck freight in the region, and rail’s exclusion from Seattle’s Freight Master Plan, is quite confusing.

  15. “I am stopping transit usage again – due to the new Omicron Variant. I have a friend that works at a Boston virology lab – and he says this one will likely be worse than Delta. He recommends we return to maximum social distancing and mask wearing. If things get worse, Metro and Link should resume capacity restrictions.”

    The travel restrictions are starting early this time, and the US has less interaction with Africa than with East Asia and Europe, so those may limit the spread. It seems way too early to stop riding transit or reduce capacity to 25%. It will take time for the variant to get to Seattle if it does, transit has never been a superspreader anywhere even in countries that have more crowded buses/trains, and if transit does become a hotspot it will appear in Africa and Europe first and we can see what they do.

    I do a lot of things outdoors and/or alone anyway, so doing more of it this past year hasn’t been a significant issue for me. The first six weeks I didn’t take transit at all, and walked to groceries between Trader Joe’s and Pike Place. Then I started taking it a few times a month to relatives in Bellevue, Costco, to replace worn-out shoes, etc. (I tried walking to Costco from Summit once thinking it would take an hour, but it took an hour and a half.) Now I take transit a couple days a week for the above and to walk in parks. 90% of the time I can social distance on buses/Link, thanks to my trip patterns, off-peak usage, and knowledge of low-volume coverage routes. I check the county’s covid dashboard every few days, and when cases are rising I go out less. Currently they’ve been falling for two months, unlike other parts of the country. If they start rising again dramatically I’ll go back to my older ways.

    I’m glad Washington and King County have struck a good balance between reasonable restrictions and not going overboard. I definitely think masks should stay on indoors, but I shake my head at areas that still have outdoor restrictions or discourage walking in a park or taking transit or such.

  16. Metro has also been canceling trips due to operator shortages. I get an email each day abput the trip on 311 that got canceled.

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