This is an open thread.
Major train power failure on northbound Link after the Apple Cup:
An explanation of what happened over radio traffic:
Whoops! Sounds like something like a Bluetooth backup for the intercom would be a good start. What would “sever” a power cable other than operator error?
It’s curious that it happened in the brand-new, “super smooth” rail portion of the tunnel. Either the cable fell off (yikes), or was cut by something else falling off (also yikes).
I’m just glad no one was hurt, but ST really needs to work on their communications system to relay status updates to people at nearby stations – especially crush-loaded stations like UW at the time.
In my experience, wireless signals in that frequency range don’t travel too far. A data logger we installed on a certain set of commuter cars could only reach halfway into the next car. It probably would need to be a device communicating in the 160mhz range. I’m pretty sure that’s what they use on flashing rear end devices on freight trains.
Unless maybe you set each one up to relay the message through the train car to car? But then failure in any one car stops communication to the rest of the train.
You’d have to pair (quintuple?) all the devices on each car each time the trains were made up, so that each car was only communicating with only the other cars on its train and not another train close by.
In any event, such a product would need to be developed for ST to buy it. Of the shelf, it’s not being offered.
As to what can cause this, the last person likely at fault is the operator. Most likely, it’s whoever coupled the cars together, whenever that happened (which could have been days ago). If the cable were not properly hung between cars, it can be pinched when the train goes around sharp curves, or can wind up lodged in the coupler, or any number of issues. If there is trash of some sort on the track, it can wind up cutting the cable as the train goes over it, or the cable can wind up getting sliced by it. ST does shift changes mid-route between SODO and Beacon Hill, correct? If so, this operator probably took over an already running train operated by a different driver in the morning., with no chance to inspect the train beforehand (unlike, say, if the operators were changed out at the route end, where you can walk the length checking for stuff).
It will be interesting to see what they find.
Wait a minute…..these things are supposed to have fully automatic communications connections built into the coupler, aren’t they? I was thinking one of the older designs where COM is a separate cable.
If so, then there’s nothing the operators do to the COM cables. Only thing that can happen is it gets sliced by trackside trash or the cables from the car to the coupling plate wear against something until they get sliced.
Apologies for the third comment, but here it is:
The communications transmission happens through the plate above the main part of the coupler. So, operating employees never touch the communications cable in this coupler design. The problem would have had to happen between the communications plate and the wiring to it and where the wiring connects to the car body.
Ya, I’m with you. It was probably more an issue with the coupling than with actual physical damage to the cable.
Additionally, this was in the tunnel, and the tunnel is much more of a controlled environment than surface running segments. There just isn’t that much debris laying about in the tunnels, and incursion related damage is even less likely in a tunnel.
That said, this was the Apple Cup, and the Cougs were in town. A lot of really strange and bizarre things happen when they are roaming about.
I’m betting the investigation will show some issue with the coupling. But we will see.
I said “something like a Bluetooth backup” because I know Bluetooth has very limited range. No idea what the best wireless technology would be but the old 2.4 GHz wireless internet has pretty good range and more than enough bandwidth. They could use whatever they have in the cab with receivers in each car. Something as simple as FRS would work. Or, “breaker breaker good buddies, we’ve had an equipment failure please remain on the train. A shuttle will be arriving for you shortly.” And like I said, I’m really surprised there was no security or fare enforcement on the train with a radio.
Curious, what is ST protocol should the operator suffer a medical emergency like stroke or heart attack?
I find debris that could sever a cable unlikely. But something could have been picked up anywhere along the route and been dragged along until the incident. I’m leaning toward operator error hooking up the cable and it not being caught on pre-route inspection. Doctors leave surgical instruments in patients a surprisingly high number of the times (4,500 to 6,000 cases per year, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists).
There’s no real cable connection to be made. The connection on these is built into the coupler.
See the plate above the coupler itself? That’s communications. It’s all supposed to connect automatically. So, there really isn’t much for anyone to connect, except when building the cars or when doing replacement work.
For some reason, I was thinking they were using the antiquated design that requires manual coms connecting, like so:
There is maybe some risk the coms cable would get pinched when they fold out the coupler when converting the end of train end to an intermediate end. You can almost see how they open the end of the car for coupling and fold out the coupler at around the 2:22 mark of this video:
(TriMet car but same Siemens car design).
“Use whatever they have in the cab with receivers in each car” gets complicated because you would have to re-pair each device in each car every time a train is assembled in the yard. Otherwise you’d get crosstalk between trains.
Some videos and tweets from guy who was there
This is when you’re glad it’s not an electrified third rail!
Interesting that the “skin” of the tunnel looks like spirally wrapped “sheets” of something.
The “skin” of the tunnel are pre-cast concrete curved segments that are installed as the TBM moves forward. It’s why TBMs can’t move backward if there are problems.
The wild part to me is how when stations are dug, they have to demolish the concrete lining because it’s simpler to run the TBM continuously, including the lining installation, rather than starting and stopping the TBM at each location.
Am I reading this timeline right?
Only after 10 minutes people were opening the doors?
Good God! It’s a blessing that Link isn’t a 3rd rail system!
Dumbshit football fans.
My understanding is that it was a crush-loaded train – with the power out and no openable windows, opening the doors for ventilation after a few minutes makes sense to me.
Let’s go with the ventilation issue, hot sweaty drunk football fans needing ventilation I can understand.
But wasn’t there any responsible adult saying, wait for some instructions before we actually start walking somewhere?
At least send a messenger up to the cab and get some idea in person.
I have no idea what you are talking about. The tunnel lining is not built continually through the stations, is not demolished after the TBM passes, and the TBM is in fact stopped in the station for a significant period of time.
I think where you might be getting confused is that the TBM moves itself forward by pushing on the lining it has already built. So in order for the TBM to get fully into the new station there is a short segment of lining required that is roughly equal to the length of the pressure shield.
Additionally, in order to get the TBM tunneling again at the opposite station wall they need to build an annular structure for it to push against. Both this thrust block and the short segment of lining where the TBM entered the station are eventually removed when the station gets finished out.
But the TBM is most definitely stopped while it is in the station. And for a very good reason – it’s a pit stop for the TBM while critical maintenance is performed.
@Lazarus – Huh, my mistake. When I worked on the Regional Connector Project in downtown LA, they mined down to the completed TBM tunnels and had to demolish the lining. It was explained to me that it was easier to keep the TBM running than to have it break through into air then rebuild the cutting head and annular casing at the other end of the station. I wonder if the real reason was that those two stations were deep-mined and the schedule just worked out best that way.
The LA Regional Connector project has been an unmitigated disaster. It is relatively short at just over a mile, but is still 2 years behind schedule and over budget. It is not a project ST should emulate.
ST’s projects are much larger by comparison, with more distance between stations. Yet ST has performed admirably with tunnel projects delivered on schedule and budget (often slightly under budget).
Also, ST’s method allowed for the flexibility of recovering when TBM2 hit an erratic just short of arriving at U-Dist Station. That would not have been possible if they were using LA’s method, and we’d probably still be waiting for NG Link to open.
Per rebuilding the cutterhead and pressure shield when using ST’s method, it is most definitely not required. The entire TBM is moved intact through the open station box. Maintenance can be performed while the TBM is exposed, but there is no need to disassemble anything of consequence for the short transit.
So the problem was a Siemens train connection? Hmmm…
I’ve been saying for some time that ST will eventually be more judged on operations as opposed to building or expansion as more extensions open. After 2024, reliable Link operations will be more-so the #1 mission of the agency because that’s how the public will judge it.
If ST doesn’t hire an operations-savvy CEO now, the next CEO will probably only be there 3-4 years max. Personally, I hope that they do hire an operations-savvy CEO now as ST will be soon making a number of systems decisions on ST3 extensions — and a CEO that doesn’t get it (and I don’t think Rogoff gets operations very well) along with only stakeholders and elected officials reviewing projects (not generally operations-savvy either) will result in naive decisions that can plague our new light rail system for decades even lasting over 100 years (as the Red-Brown bypass took that long in Chicago to get resolved for an example).
I only hope that some stakeholder or elected official on an ST Committee was inconvenienced by this event. It’s the best way to quickly school someone that light rail transit is rarely about spending billions, ribbon-cutting and other happy times and is instead about the day-to-day realities of mechanical failures and poor design choices on vehicles or with tracks and stations.
Even though you hate to see something like this happen, how many of you are envious of the riders who got to experience it?
I was on a train going to the Superbowl Parade a couple trains south of where some drunk stole a car and proceeded to wrap it around one of the middle poles along the tracks, causing train service to halt for over an hour, and thousands to miss the parade. We were on the at-grade portion of the track, but weren’t let out until we finally reached the next station.
I can’t say it was fun, that I want the ill-timed blockage to happen again, or that I would want to be on a train when the power goes out on the back three cars.
So, no, not envious.
It reminds me of my worst nightmare as Ski Patrol which is people start to self evac from a chairlift that’s stuck. Not only are people injured in the drop but it can set up a whiplash effect where other people get thrown from the chair. Obviously the physics are different but it’s the idea where the mass exodus can lead to a worse problem. ST dropped the ball on communications. I’m surprised given this level of known volume and a perhaps volatile crowd following a game there was NOBODY on the back of the train with a radio??? Bottom line though is the procedures and personnel they had in place got the job done. So, not what you want to happen but operations gets a B+ from me on this.
People said of Watergate, the cover-up was worse than the crime. With this Link malfunction, I think the lack of communication to riders was worse than the breakdown. Can’t Link control center staff give live PA announcements to Link stations and platforms to tell riders what’s going on and what to do next? Can’t they quickly create new messages to be shown on platform display signs?
Sam. Award-Winning Watergate Historian.
So ST can repeatedly tell passengers that they don’t tolerate harassment but can’t inform passengers on a stuck train what’s going on.
This is basic operations 101… why is Seattle always the “special unicorn” city that can’t do basic things that every transit agency in the world can do? Maybe because ST is a political org and not a transit org?
The harrassment message is automatic; it’s probably on a timer.
Here’s the typical coupler, as manufactured today:
Note there is a plate above the main coupler. When pressed together, these act as a low power and communications system between cars.
So, the problem happened between this plate and where the cable going to that plate connects to the car body.
But if there’s no power to the car/coach the speaker/amplifier won’t work unless the comm line also carries power. You’d think there would be backup battery power in the coach for things like comm and lighting.
What is the best real time bus app for Tacoma/ST/Seattle these days? Thanks!
One Bus Away is great for arrival/departure times and maps. Pantrograph is better for tracking specific buses, and also gives information on vehicle type and long-term reliability of a route.
I have a question about why at certain intersections, the crosswalk signal isn’t aligned with the green light timing. For instance, at several intersections along 522, something like this happens: The green light for vehicles is 45 seconds. The walk signal is on for 10 seconds, then flashing don’t walk for 15 seconds, then solid don’t walk for 20 seconds.
When it seems like it could have easily been walk signal for 30, flashing don’t walk for 15 seconds, then the solid don’t walk sign comes on at the same time as the yellow light for vehicles. Nearly doubling the amount of time pedestrians have to cross.
It seems to me that the only effect of this is to make it harder for pedestrians to cross. And less safe if pedestrians get frustrated that they have a don’t walk signal while parallel traffic has a green light, then get impatient and jaywalk only for the light to change when they are halfway across.
What am I missing? Is there a legitimate reason to have such short walk signal periods?
I think Jim’s got it right. The timing is to allow the slowest person time to cross as long as they leave the curb when it still says WALK. If you see it flashing DON’T WALK that means hurry; solid DON’T WALK means RUN! As long as you’re not crossing against the actual traffic signal I don’t think you can be ticketed. Even then, if you’re in a crosswalk I’m not sure any cop would write it up; like say there is zero traffic in the direction the light is green.
Most likely, it’s just dumb, outdated software in the traffic signal controller. Maybe the green time fluctuates depending on the time of day, but the software requires the length of the walk signal to be fixed, regardless of the time of day.
Maybe the cheap version of the software saves the city $10 in installing the traffic signal, and as long as pedestrians can eventually get across without getting run over, the value of their time is, to them, not even worth the $10.
Every signal should have unique logic. Maybe there is a hidden turning movement. Maybe there is an allowance for bicycle movement. Maybe the signal tech made a mistake. Maybe traffic moves so fast and heavy that allowing for longer time walking could be dangerous to a pedestrian crossing the street. It’s hard to say without knowing both where and what time of day (signal timings are set differently for different times of day).
The root cause is that we have design guidelines called MUTCD, which are extremely car centric and require only very minimal standards for pedestrian access. All too often, traffic engineers give pedestrians the bare minimum to check the box, so they don’t get sued if someone gets run over. Anything beyond that is seen as a waste of effort and/or unnecessary delay on cars.
At signals, traffic engineers probably imagine a shorter walk signal meaning fewer cars needing to stop for pedestrians. They view pedestrians as obstacles that delay cars, and refuse to consider walking trips as actual trips. They only grudgingly allow you to cross the street at all, and only because the traffic design manual says they have to. Their performance is evaluated solely on the basis of vehicle throughput, and pedestrian delays is not even measured.
The installation of countdown timers coincided with making the walk phase much shorter and the flashing don’t walk phase much longer. You can see it at intersections with and without countdown clocks all around town.
In the most extreme cases, especially on six-lane highways, the walk phase is just ten seconds or so and the flashing don’t walk phase is thirty seconds. I often don’t realize it has turned green until it has already turned flashing red. They need more audio signals at those intersections, or perhaps make the walk phase flashing so people see it immediately. Oh, and sometimes you can’t even see the green phase or even if it’s on at all because of the sun’s glare.
That was a reply to transfer guy below.
To be clear, the ones without countdown clocks still have the traditional phase lengths: it remains green walk until the last ten or fifteen seconds.
It also allows time for cars to turn right, as long as people obey the don’t walk signal.
The ones with long flashing “Don’t Walk” seem to be the same ones that have countdown timers, which de facto compensate for it because you can tell whether you have enough seconds to cross.
Have the crosswalk signals always had that timing?
I know of a small city far from here where their downtown vehicle signals were adjusted after a study (because of course there’s money for a car study). After that the pedestrian signaling at some intersections was way out of whack. Like 7 seconds of walk and then a minute of don’t walk.
I was about to contact the city about it when somehow it magically got adjusted. (I think some settings had gotten reset when they adjusted the vehicle signaling.)
What are your standards for “best?” They all rely on the same system so I don’t think you’ll find any difference in accuracy. I like OneBusAway for its simplicity.
Cool. Thought I saw something had happened to OBA, and my old link was dead. Thanks!
Football fans who took light rail to be more responsible by not driving drunk or not wasting space on I-5 were rewarded by getting stuck with other football fans in a tunnel. They got rewarded by being criticized by the public for leaving the train. Good publicity for Link. When they got out of that tunnel, were all of the escalators working? Will they drive next time?
When a bus breaks down on the freeway, do you exit the bus and start walking through traffic?
If one was stupid enough to be walking on active train tracks, then YES, PLEASE DRIVE!
I think the fault lies with ST on this. Communication was zero. The tunnels are designed to be able to evacuate on foot. I drive through the I-90 lid and Mt Baker tunnel to commute. There are signs everywhere about which direction to walk to the nearest exit. Of course in a highway tunnel the fear is fire. Not so much with a subway but without any communication people want to do something other than wait to die. And really, there was no danger to the people walking in the tunnel as ST protocol had already shut down trains.
The comm failure is what needs to be fixed. What if the train stopped because there was a fire? Then people walking could have been in greater danger.
Another thing, All the cars have OCS, right? I get not being able to move but why can’t the air handlers keep working? We are in a pandemic and transit is supposed to be safe because of the HVAC… or not.
Ah, yes, I have seen bus riders do exactly this – exit the bus and start walking.
I’ve witnessed this in the winter with disabled artics where the level of despair amongst the riders has eventually exceeded the bus drivers ability to control the situation.
That said, if I was on that LRV I would have probably started walking too. How often do you get an opportunity to walk through one of ST’s tunnels? It’s a golden opportunity for transit nerds! And it is totally safe since there is no risk of electrocution and the tunnel is shutdown to traffic.
But hey, the better policy is still to stay on the train.
A freeway bus is not in a tunnel and has cars with amateur drivers all around it, and you can see what conditions are around it (i.e., society is still functioning).
Does that make it more likely that passengers will let themselves off a freeway bus?
I’m not sure what you’re saying, Mike.
And even if it is common sense not to get out of a train in a tunnel and people don’t have a fear of being trapped in a tunnel, people here aren’t familiar with tunnel trains because Link is the only one and fairly new, and sports events get a lot of first-time riders who aren’t used to Link.
There is NO excuse for people to take that as far as they did, as if they really knew what the f@#% they were doing.
There had to be at leat ONE adult in the crowd who could have said “Let me go talk to the operator, everyone else stay here.
According to that Twitter timeline it was only about 10 minutes before people started pushing buttons.
No excuse, except for self serving individuals who didn’t understand what they were doing.
By doing what they did, they inconvenienced all the other riders because ST had to shut everything on that end down, because they didn’t know who might step out in front of even the rescue train.
Jim, why after 10 minutes didn’t the operator take the initiative and yell out to his riders some instructions or assurances? I think there was a good reason to get off the train and start walking. Absent any information, they probably started to wonder if ST even knew about the disabled train. Perhaps they wondered if another train was going to slam into their stalled train.
Good Lord, I can’t believe the rationalizing that is going on, here!
Cut and pasted from a news article, since I can’t find the full quote in an FRA document yet:
“An average of three people are killed or injured while trespassing on railroad property each day, and 1,100 pedestrians were killed in 2017. Nationally, nearly 500 trespass fatalities occur each year, the vast majority of which are preventable, according to the FRA.”
Amtrak is delayed about three times a week somewhere in the country by a trespasser incident.
Sounder has had its share of incidents.
Is anyone here telling me that when they’ve been on a bus that has broken down in the HOV lane that they think it’s no problem to hop off and start crossing traffic.
You must be a lot of fun on a delayed plane flight!
BTW, if it were such a dangerous and reckless idea to get off the disabled train and walk to the station, you’d think at least one rider would have warned everyone. No one screamed out at the disembarking riders, “Everyone stop! It’s dangerous to walk in the tunnel! It’s safer to wait on the train!” Not one person said anything remotely like that. Why?
As is often the case:
Alcohol may be involved
Actually, these situations are completely different. Everyone understands that illegally trespassing on railroad property which isn’t designed for pedestrians or emergency egress is dangerous.
But the situation here is not one of illegal trespassing, it is a case of fare paying passengers being stuck on a train that they have every legal right to be on.
Additionally, the tunnel they are in is designed for emergency egress and the infrastructure to make that happen is clearly visible just inches from the doors of the LRV’s they are on. And the passengers can reasonably expect that such emergency egress infrastructure is both safe and capable. It is, after all, brand new, of modern design, and approved for emergency use by the Feds.
So the issue really becomes, “Was the passenger’s assumption that this was an actual emergency accurate?” The answer to that question has a lot to do with the actions of the one person on he scene who has the knowledge and training to accurately asses the situation – and that one person is the Metro train operator.
So what exactly did the Metro operator do during this event? Did the Metro operator advise the passengers to evacuate? Or did the operator advise against it and get overruled by panicked passengers? Or did the Metro operator do nothing? Not even try to communicate?
I assume the Metro operator has already been extensively interviewed and drug and alcohol tested. This is as it should be, because the Metro operator was the one person on the scene with the knowledge and training to do the right thing. But did that happen? Or was evacuation actually the correct response?
Additionally, as Dan T claims elsewhere, Metro operators apparently have a history of opening the doors and letting passengers evacuate into adverse conditions that are a lot less safe than what these passengers faced. Did that Metro culture play a role here?
It bottom line, the passengers evacuated using the emergency egress infrastructure that was provided for just such emergency situations. And that infrastructure apparently worked perfectly.
” Everyone understands that illegally trespassing on railroad property which isn’t designed for pedestrians or emergency egress is dangerous.”
Every HERE on this blog might understand that, but that certainly isn’t true for the general public.
10 f’n minutes, and it’s time for MOB RULE?
Sorry, it’s a poor excuse for irresponsible behavior.
The investigation will hopefully show what the problem was with the communication system, as the operator appears to be in the “when you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember the job was to drain the swamp” situation
Again, it appears that it’s better to follow the “self indulgent, over privileged, impatient white guy” into a dangerous situation. After all, we can always find an ambulance-chasing lawyer to sue.
Check out ST’s understated and very late tweet about the broken down train. The comments are also funny.
“Again, it appears that it’s better to follow the “self-indulgent, over privileged, impatient white guy” into a dangerous situation. After all, we can always find an ambulance-chasing lawyer to sue.”
Well, this statement alone pretty much destroys Jim’s credibility on this issue. The race of the passengers hardly seems relevant to me, and I am not sure how Jim knows the race of the riders, which I assume was varied, or who led the exodus from the train. My understanding is pretty much everyone exited the train. Non-white folks attend UW football games too. Who isn’t “impatient” if trapped on a train in a tunnel at crush load during a pandemic?
When people get seriously injured and disabled their lives are ruined. They lose their jobs, the medical bills can bankrupt them, they lose their houses, their families are destroyed, kids don’t go to college, and they live in pain without the ability to do the things they did before the injury. Their former lives essentially end.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad engineers in the world, although you can’t even tell a bad engineer anything, and a lot of arrogant government agencies, or people out for a fast buck. Often the lawyers will try to collect some of the smarter engineers into groups, and to codify safety regulations so even the not so bright engineers and arrogant agencies know what to do, because whether we do this before the injury or afterwards, what lawyers are really driving at is reducing or eliminating disabling injuries or deaths that ruin so many lives, especially for common carriers. The point of the lawyers is not to determine the engineering, but to distinguish the unqualified engineers from the smart engineers when drafting the regulations. Our job is to determine who really is an “expert”.
Kind of like when ST drove a train off the tracks, but decided to place all the blame on the safety engineer. Totally preventable, with endless reams of federal regulations on how to avoid such a stupid catastrophe, if you don’t rush timelines, but if the engineers and ST are not going to follow the basic guidelines lawyers have to put the broken lives back together after the fact, and punish those who caused it, because otherwise it will repeat itself, and society in general should not be responsible for the costs of the death and disability. This is the basic premise of insurance, except governments self-insure so unfortunately there is no third party to determine the risk like an insurance company does, and too often very little accountability for government employees.
People behave in predictable ways in emergencies. There is shock sometimes, and fear, so the lawyers gather up the human factors experts and the smart engineers, along with physicians and psychologists, to study past incidents to determine what folks will do in these situations, and how to ANTICIPATE that. Jesus, if Disneyland can do it ST can do it. Being a common carrier in the U.S. carries a very heavy responsibility.
What Jim fails to comprehend is whether the “dangerous situation” is staying on the train, or walking to the next station, was unknown at the time, because no one told the passengers what was going on. A passenger has a valid right to not trust an agency that can’t run a brand-new train from the UW to Northgate, and can’t even communicate what is going on, in a train tunnel.
Jim makes it sound like folks like disembarking a train into a dark and unknown tunnel to walk to the next station. No one takes this step because they are “impatient”. They were terrified, and figured this was the safer option, especially others are doing the same. I think I am pretty smart, and I would have done exactly the same.
Only a very arrogant agency or very stupid engineer would cause the situation, and then be SHOCKED that the passengers behaved exactly like the experts predicted they would act, and how they acted in prior incidences.
Are some of the riders on the train white, or self-indulgent, or privileged? Who gives a fuck. They are human beings who are terrified, who paid a fare (and a fortune in taxes) to take a train from UW to Northgate on a brand new train, but ST couldn’t even get that right. I am sure some of the dead and maimed in the Dupont derailment were white, or privileged, or impatient, but what does that have to do with their right to take a train from A to B without getting killed or stuck in a tunnel?
The good news is, no doubt the federal regulations lawyers and smart engineers codified mandated a safe walkway to the next station because trains do get stuck in tunnels, and no live wires or rails (at least near the walkway), and probably tunnel lighting, so there were no injuries.
But that is part luck, and ST should not be relying on luck, and a common carrier should not make riders terrified. After all, how fucking hard is it to install an intercom system in a zillion dollar light rail train, and how hard is it to train conductors on how folks will act in that situation that is predictable, and to have a script ready to read to them since conductors are not the experts and you don’t want them extemporizing?
I am truly honored to be a recipient of your reply. I will wear your “Well, this statement alone pretty much destroys Jim’s credibility on this issue.” as a badge of honor.
Why do I pick on “self-indulgent, over privileged, impatient white guy” ?because I have found them the most obnoxious type of customer in each one of my professions (Retail, IT, Customer Service), and I enjoy poking the bear.
I would like to personally apologize to everyone in retail and any customer service industry for my time working for Nordstrom in creating the KARENs and KENs of the world.
“What Jim fails to comprehend is whether the “dangerous situation” is staying on the train, or walking to the next station, was unknown at the time, because no one told the passengers what was going on.
The safest place to stay on a stopped train is ON THE TRAIN.
But again, we bow to your superior knowledge of rail operations.
Daniel’s right this time. If there’s no information, passengers don’t know if there’s been an earthquake and there are no ST staff above to rescue them. And the reports say the train was packed and there was no fresh are, when an infectious pandemic was circulating. The reason trains/buses aren’t superspreaders is people aren’t on them very long, the people around them are getting on and off, and the air is replaced every five minutes. None of those apply when the train is stuck for nobody knows how long, packed, and the air circulation isn’t working.
There’s always a first for everything, and this is the first time I’ve found myself disagreeing with you Mike. On this subject, we will have agree to disagree, and leave it at that.
I can only answer all the hand waving by those who excuse the passenger’s behavior by saying:
[W]hat lawyers are really driving at is reducing or eliminating disabling injuries or deaths that ruin so many lives, especially for common carriers
Oh, Yes! Nice bit of self-promotion, there, Dan. But the MILES and MILES and MILES of billboards across the south and southwest with “Hurt by a Truck?”, “Injured By a Big Rig?”, “Big Truck Wreck?”, with the following billboard by the same firm advertising “23.7 million award” show CLEARLY how committed the legal profession is to righting wrongs perpetrated against “common carriers”.
And not to put too fine a point on it, but nobody has a “right”
to take a train from A to B without getting killed or stuck in a tunnel
. The agency has a duty of due diligence and the assumption of liability should any of its agents [“employees”] act in a negligent manner. But that duty and assumption of liability does not confer a “right” on its customers. They can rightly assume that the agency will exercise great efforts to prevent injuring or killing them, for the simple reason that injuring or killing someone is a really expensive thing for those with deep pockets.
The “right” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” implicitly guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence is general, but not specially imposed on common carriers.
But riders have no “rights” conferred on them by purchasing a ticket. If the agency is not able to deliver them safely to the destination intended, its liability is limited to the cost of the ticket or indemnification for any injury incurred. You know that.
Seems to me this system was designed pretty well. Train broke down, communication broke down, training broke down, response was lacking, etc. Yet a group of untrained, possibly drunk, people were all able to walk out unharmed besides likely some dirty clothes from rubbing on the wall with nearly no help at all.
Issues need addressing, as always, but from my point of view, solid engineering overall.
Yep, I concur 100%.
As an evac test it is harder to envision a more challenging situation: crush loaded 4 LRV train, apparent lack of guidance, untrained inexperienced passengers, and probably alcohol involved. Yet the evacuation apparently went very smoothly with no reported problems.
That is a success by any rational measure. Kudos to the engineers and design specialists.
However, a few questions need to be answered:
1). Why did this happen in the first place?
2). Was emergency evac justified given the circumstances?
3). What was the role of the Metro operator in this situation?
Regarding #3, i find it interesting that Daniel Thompson asserts elsewhere in this thread that Metro has a reputation for opening the doors and letting passengers fend for themselves in situations much worse than this. If this is true, then did such a broken culture play a role here?
Tom, I am not suggesting governments rely on the altruism of lawyers. After all, the surgeons are not doing it for free.
Some lawyers staff the various state and federal agencies that draft and promulgate the safety regulations, that are based on the input and testimony of experts and industry.
However, the way private attorneys are compensated allows governments to benefit from their services, for free, because the name of the game is not denying the costs of disability, but shifting it. Here are some examples:
1. Fee shifting. Many state and federal statutes, such as civil rights, ADA, anti-discrimination, the Longshore Act, provide for fee shifting to entice lawyers to take cases small and large, that in the aggregate provide a benefit to society, without any cost to the government, lawyers that tend to be more motivated and more successful than government lawyers.
2. Contingency fees. The reason states as ideologically diverse as CA and TX have such generous tort laws, including punitive damages, is because those states don’t want businesses disabling residents and sticking the government with the bill. The first parties to the litigation are usually Medicare, Medicaid, and the private health insurers who have paid the bills so far. Medicare and Medicaid in particular require future medical care to be calculated and provided for from any settlement funds.
3. Mandatory insurance. Most states, including WA, require mandatory auto liability insurance, (and allow PIP and UIM to be waived), although in WA the minimum is only $25,000. This is to allocate the costs the state or hospitals or private health insurers have paid or will pay back to the source.
4. A famous case in which the Supreme Court got this wrong is Perdue v. Kenny A. In Perdue, a team of young lawyers litigated against the state of Georgia for nearly a decade, because Georgia, and many other states, were serving as third party payees for federal benefits for mentally or physically incapacitated residents. Instead, Georgia was pocketing the federal benefits, and the intended beneficiaries were living in squalor.
The plaintiffs prevailed, and Georgia, which had hired the top firms in Georgia to defend the case, was required to pay tens of millions of dollars.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs were not entitled to a contingency fee, but were entitled to fee shifting. The federal dist. court judge gave the attorneys an enhanced hourly rate, noting these were the best lawyers the court had ever seen.
Instead, a conservative Supreme Court disallowed the hourly rate enhancement, and held the attorneys were entitled to the ordinary lodestar: hours expended times hourly rate based on similar attorneys, or basically what the law firms defending the action were paid, without the decade of risk and delay in payment.
Were these same committed lawyers going to take on this kind of litigation again, against another state ripping off disabled and incompetent residents, for the same fee they would get defending the state. Of course not, and you can bet once the dist. court, and then Supreme Court, repeated the statement that these lawyers were the best the dist. court had even seen (in Atlanta, a very big city) those lawyers found jobs at top firms at double the rate the Supreme Court awarded, with no risk and no delay in payment, but defending states and corporations.
So the Supreme Court basically fired some of the best and most committed lawyers who had saved the federal government tens of millions of dollars for free.
There are many other examples in which how attorneys are compensated — intentionally or not, from car seats to safety glass to asbestos etc. — have advanced the government’s interests and saved it money, at no cost to the government.
Other questions that need to be asked:
– The apparent lack of communication between the Link operator and his passengers. We need to find out if he said anything at all to his passengers the entire time they were stuck on the train, or as they walked in the tunnel past his cab.
– The apparent lack of communication by Link control center to riders who had just walked out of the tunnel and reached the platform. Did they make any real-time PA or message board announcements?
– Why did it take almost 2 hours from the time the train broke down for ST to send out this tweet? “1 Line is experiencing service delays.”
– We also need to find out about Link’s control center staffing situation at the time this happened.
Thank you, Daniel. That was quite informative, and I’ll admit that I knew exactly 0.00% of the history you detailed. So that is what you meant by the reference to “common carriers”.
I was pretty shocked at the sheer audacity of the “legal profession” down south. “Ambulance chaser” doesn’t even come close.
There is one guy on the SeaTimes comment thread who is posting that he was on the train, meet someone during the event, and had a rather “memorable” evening. I bet he will ride again!
But I doubt this event will have any lasting effect. The next football game is 9 months away, and the other game day transportation options are so horrific by comparison that people will be right back on the train.
Let’s take a look at how a court would view the train stoppage if someone had been injured.
ST could argue — as some do on this blog — that train stoppages — even for brand new systems on one of the busiest days of the year — are not uncommon. Things happen.
This however would be the worst defense for ST, because it would prove a very important concept in the law: “foreseeability”.
Trains do stop in train tunnels, including when full. This means agencies and their experts prepare for this possibility, and there are protocols and training (and ideally extra inspections on one of the busiest days for ridership, on a new train line ST is trying to promote).
Ten minutes is a very long time. Find a wall clock with a second hand and just stare at it for 10 minutes to see how long 10 minutes can seem. Now imagine yourself standing on a stopped train, in a tunnel, with heavy and wet clothes, surrounded by drunk strangers, during the middle of a pandemic and with an inoperable ventilation system.
My guess is human factors experts — and the protocols other train systems use — would suggest 10 minutes is actually longer than most passengers would stay on a stopped train, without any communications, or any leadership from the conductors. Like Sam notes, how do you know ST knows this train is stopped, and another train is not barreling towards you. That would be my number of concern, especially if I were in the last train car. After all, this is an agency that derailed a train killing and injuring dozens on its very first trip, out of negligence and a desire to meet a timeline.
I was on a bus at night during the great ice storm nearly 30 years ago, when the streets and freeways were cluttered with abandoned cars. The bus driver could not move, and told the passengers to get off the train, in nearly zero-degree weather. Most protocols I know say if your car breaks down on the side of a busy road get out of the car and away from the road in case someone hits your stopped car from behind (because you probably don’t have flares in your trunk), and call AAA or a towing company, and Uber. Better alive than saving a dollar or two trying to change a tire or fix your car. If the driver told me another bus was coming, I would wait for that bus, but not on the bus parked next to a freeway.
Of course the passengers are going to get off the train and begin walking, and of course they are going to walk in the direction away from another train coming down the tunnel, since the trains run in only one direction in that tunnel. This isn’t the same as jumping off a chair lift with skis attached when the lift stops, although I almost did that at Whistler many years ago I got so cold. Everyone on the lift would scream as loud as they could, because it was the only way to warm yourself up, and to stop thinking about the pain of the cold.
Since there was a path to walk along obviously there was foreseeability someone would need to walk along a path through a tunnel, thankfully, and no live wires or rails, thankfully. I am not sure whether the tunnel was lit, but most have cell phones with flashlights. What was missing however was communication, and action by the conductors who sound like they were totally missing in action.
I would have done exactly the same thing, and so would 90% of most passengers, which means it is foreseeable, better to do a better inspection next time when thousands will rely on the train and trains will be near crush load, better communication, and better training for the conductors.
Had someone been injured I have no doubt ST would have been liable, because its negligence created the dangerous situation, and it did nothing to communicate with the passengers, and the conductors were obviously negligently trained. After 10 minutes it was reasonable for passengers to assume the only way out of the dangerous situation was to walk to the next station. But since there was a walkway, and no live rails or wires, no one did get hurt.
However, this does highlight some gross deficiencies in ST’s operations and training, because this is a known risk. Jim decries the passengers for getting of the train, but human factors experts would tell you that is exactly what passengers will do unless instructed otherwise, and told the plan to rescue them, and an agency with $148 billion is supposed to foresee this, and plan for it.
Any court would likely grant summary judgment on the issue of liability finding ST 100% liable for any injuries, because it was not only supposed to make sure the train did not stop in the tunnel, it was supposed to make sure the passengers did not get off the train if they were not supposed to because there was a plan to rescue them, proper ventilation, proper load capacity even during a football game, and conductors who understood the plan and communicated that to the passengers.
Let’s hope this leads ST to better train its conductors, and figure out a way to communicate with passengers in a tunnel in a stopped train, because otherwise next time a train stops in a tunnel riders will again walk to the next station.
Spoken like a true lawyer.
Actually, not spoken like a “true lawyer”. Any two-bit lawyer would tell you that things are never so simple.
For example, this was a new Siemens LRV consist. A true lawyer would ask other questions: Is the coupler and cabling design incorrect? Was the manufacturing deficient? Why didn’t Siemens provide a redundant communication path?
And what about the Metro operator? Did the operator do the right thing? Or did the operator ignore training and procedures and advise, support or condone the evacuation.
And finally there are a whole series of questions regarding the emergency egress infrastructure. This infrastructure is brand new, in good repair, and meets or exceeds all federally mandated standards. So are the federal standards inadequate?
And finally, DT undercuts his own narrative of ST blame by admitting that worse things happen on Metro buses during snowstorms. If this evacuation was a carryover effective of a flawed Metro culture implemented by a Metro operator working under contract to ST, then is ST truly 100% at fault? I doubt it.
And finally, there is the unanswered question as to whether or not evacuation was actually the right decision anyhow? Do we really know?
Na. Things are never so simple. Not in engineering, not in ops, not in the law.
I have to envy Lazarus. As the resident apologist for ST his work is never done.
It’s not that I am an apologist for ST, because I am not. It is just that I prefer a fact based discussion over an ideologically biased one.
That is why I step in occasionally to comment on egregiously inaccurate or wildly speculative posts.
I just prefer truth. Call me an idealist if you prefer.
Blue Line Extension in San Diego opens November 21 and ridership results are in the press.
Meanwhile, Northgate Link extension opened the first weekend in October and I can’t find a similar news release. The last I checked, even Q2 ridership from ST Link still has not been announced.
Yes, this post is intended to shame ST. The public gave ST billions and deserve to know what’s going on. This silence about ridership data did not occur in 2016 when UW, Capitol Hill and Angle Lake Stations opened.
The APTA’s second quarter ridership report includes Sound Transit:
It doesn’t include data for individual stations, though. I agree that ST should release the data!
Oh my! I’m just now comparing the Link data with other systems. ST light rail ridership is not recovering like in other metro areas. It’s trailing SLC again after surpassing them in 2017, for example.
No wonder they want to hold back on publishing ridership data. They hate to look bad.
Thanks for sharing!
Link is doing fine, thank you. The ridership rebound may have occurred after June, which is the cutoff for this report. Packed peak-hour trains are gone, and people are standing rather than sharing seats with strangers, but midday it’s common to find most of the seats full, some people standing, and ten or twenty people at a station waiting to get on, and the same number getting off.
Evening Rush Hour at Pioneer Square Station
Take one at Capitol Hill, Westlake, U-District, or Roosevelt stations. Pioneer Square is in the office-only ghetto where workers haven’t returned and non-workers have no reason to go to.
I really don’t think the ridership numbers mean a lot at this stage. We are still in a pandemic, and most offices are closed. Plus road congestion is very mild.
Long term there are other issues. First is the fact ST wildly inflated its estimates of future ridership, while the PSRC wildly inflated future regional population increases and increases in ridership from TOD. Second is probable shifting work patterns, mostly from Seattle to the eastside and less expensive areas than downtown Seattle, that are enough to affect commuting. The current street situation and lack of retail in downtown Seattle is not helping. Third is working from home, that going into year three, is becoming more and more permanent in a region with a lot of workers who can now work from home, although my guess is many don’t want to WFH five days/week, although some do.
Then you have the route ST chose, from Everett to Tacoma (Dome) to Redmond, without really understanding the areas outside Seattle and their car centric personalities, and the lack of planning for first/last mile access. Urbanists like to hate park and rides, but have no alternative to get to the damn train in these exurban and suburban areas, so folks don’t take it, and prefer to drive anyway, unless parking is made prohibitively expensive, and right now parking prices in downtown Seattle are cratering.
ST built a hub and spoke commuter system of rail, and then a pandemic came along. The irony is what ST should have built is massive park and rides and bus intercepts at Northgate and south of Seattle, and then light rail throughout Seattle (assuming the council did not ruin downtown). I guess that is what S. Bellevue is, except who on the eastside will be driving to S. Bellevue to catch a train to Seattle? Now the irony is ST advocates are banking on the reverse commute to validate East Link. Ok. This idea someone from Bellevue or the eastside will take transit (period) or take it to Capitol Hill completely misunderstands the demographic of the eastside, and the retail/restaurant scene in Bellevue (and how many Capitol Hill residents will take a train to dine in Bellevue?). Different people, different culutures.
ST went for geographic range, whereas Ross always says build rail where the riders are, and you know where the riders are by bus ridership numbers. Obviously Northgate to Pioneer Square will always have the highest ridership numbers, and that is built. That route makes sense, depending on Seattle population levels and folks commuting to downtown Seattle in the future. If those numbers decline (below reasonable ridership estimates, not ST’s dishonest estimates in the levies) I think it will be due to things outside ST’s control: pandemic, WFH, decline in downtown Seattle as a hub, safety concerns in riding transit downtown, although first/last mile access is definitely ST’s issue.
The rest doesn’t make sense, and never did, because the population density and job density are not there, and never will be, there is no practical first/last mile access or bus feeder service that now includes an extra transfer, and these areas come with a car/truck centric mentality that won’t change, along with their zoning. Just look at the voting breakdown in Trumm’s Urbanist piece that showed even in Seattle SFH zones overwhelmingly voted for Harrell and Davison. Not surprisingly Tacoma is walking back its new zoning changes.
If light rail were not so expensive, I would say oh well, I guess my subarea can afford it even though it may have the lowest ridership. Pretty much once Bellevue decided light rail would run along 112th because ST wouldn’t tunnel under Bellevue Way that was the end of East Link, because who wants to ride East Link in East King Co. to anywhere except downtown Bellevue, which ain’t 112th.
If your hope was light rail will be transformative, change work and commuting patterns, or change people’s zoning desires, you mistook light rail for a pandemic, and the changes the pandemic brought are the opposite of urbanism. If your hope is light rail could cut through the congestion in downtown Seattle and move more people more comfortably in this dense and congested zone I think you will be happy.
Going forward the two huge issues are: 1. the DEIS for WSBLE. I would argue WSBLE makes more sense than some of the rail in the exurban/suburban areas (if there were huge park and rides and bus intercepts at the perimeter), except the subarea does not have the money for tunnels and underground stations, and I don’t know how you tell West Seattle (and Dow) and Ballard other neighborhoods got those, but not them, and Seattle will never go for a surface line along 3rd or 5th); and 2. no matter what ST’s future ridership levels are they won’t come close to the estimates in the levies (and never were going to), so a future operations levy will be necessary, and few agencies have created as much ill will as ST has.
“ Link is doing fine, thank you. The ridership rebound may have occurred after June, which is the cutoff for this report.”
Again, the purpose of my post is mainly with negligence in disclosing ridership data. Comments countering my observation are anecdotal and pretty irrelevant.
I don’t want ST Link to under perform. I just want ST to disclose information to the public as it used to do before 2019.
Show us the data!
“Negligence”? What negligence?
Please, please, show even one verifiable occasion where ST has been negligent in providing ridership data per legal or contractual obligations. Even one. Please.
Because shouting “negligence” without providing proof is sort of like standing in front of the cameras saying “election fraud” over and over again while your hair dye runs down the side of your face.
Either ST is negligent or they aren’t. But if you truly believe they are negligent, then please provide your proof. We are waiting.
But just believing that you are entitled to quicker and better data than any other individual or governmental agency involved in the process won’t cut it. And more than likely ST is meeting all its ridership reporting requirements anyhow, and just stating otherwise is baseless and merit less.
Please show us how ST is actually negligent. Please.
Downtown won’t stay empty forever. Rents may have to go down to make it worth it for businesses to move in, but at the right price, somebody will, even if it’s not the same companies that occupied the downtown offices pre COVID. Some office space could also eventually be converted to housing.
Once that happens, commute ridership will be back up again. The only losers will be the downtown Seattle landlords.
I for one understood your point about the lateness of ST’s reporting on ridership and I agree with that point.
Additionally, I’m not surprised by the response by one of this blog’s frequent ST apologists. I’ve had this same discussion in the past with said commenter on a thread a few months ago*. He was flailing at an actual argument; instead all I read in the replies were red herring and straw man type arguments as well as silly attacks on legitimate sources (for citation of federal code, e.g.). I’m not going to get into another back and forth on the subject matter, particularly with any commenter who chooses to argue in bad faith by using such tactics, but I stand by the same assertion I made in that earlier post. The agency is violating its own adopted policies with regard to its ridership reporting.
*Link to referenced thread:
“the route ST chose, from Everett to Tacoma (Dome) to Redmond, without really understanding the areas outside Seattle and their car centric personalities,”
It was the counties and suburban cities that insisted on those routes. Everett and Tacoma are the largest cities in their counties. The Bellevue-Microsoft-Redmond axis that was clearly the best place for Link in the Eastside, and rapid transit in that corridor had been planned since the 1960s. Pierce and Snohomish and the suburban cities insisted on being part of Sound Transit, precisely for the Spine. They insisted on subarea equity to prevent all the money going to Seattle first (or only), precisely to get the Spine. ST feels its mandate is to build what the counties and cities want, and the suburban areas wouldn’t have voted for ST 1, 2, or 3 if it hadn’t been toward the Spine to Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond.
If anything, the overall Spine framework overemphasized secondary cities’ car centric personalities, by focusing on replacing (and improving) the region’s excellent express bus network, rather than serving walkable neighborhoods (either existing neighborhoods like U-district or creating new ones like Spring District) and letting our freeways remain spines for an express bus network.
“ Either ST is negligent or they aren’t. But if you truly believe they are negligent, then please provide your proof. We are waiting.”
You do realize that ST gave data to APTA and not its own public? It’s clear from this that ST is withholding information that they have from the public via normal reporting methods found under the documents section of their own web site. They already have it but won’t publish it. This is 1000 times more disturbing than not yet having the data. It makes a citizen wonder how much “bad news” is ST willing to release. It makes me question the integrity of the agency on releasing anything (like updated cost estimates, environmental impacts and cash flow).
As far as “negligence” is concerned, it’s not used in a legal context. Just because a noun has one definition in the law does not preclude its use elsewhere. Only a jerk would attack someone for using a common term in a non-legal way.
ST, through many years of publishing timely ridership results on its web site, created the expectation that the public is entitled to timely release of info.
“Only a jerk would attack someone for using a common term in a non-legal way.”
Exactly. I was going to include a definition or two (from the OED, MW, whatever) for negligent and negligence in my reply above but figured I’d hold off and let you set the record straight yourself. It was absolutely clear to me how you were using the word, but straw man arguments apparently are commenter L’s thing.
“Yes, this post is intended to shame ST.”
Let’s hope that the tardiness in performance reporting by ST becomes a thing of the past, right alongside the arrogance and empty talking points (about accountability and transparency) of CEO Rogoff.
This is a test message, as multiple efforts to try to post comments haven’t worked.
I fished a few of your comments out of the spam folder – no idea why the filter flagged them. Hopefully, it’s smart enough to learn going forward.
Thanks very much. I’m glad you’ve a spam folder though. There are certainly days it seems useful to have.
Some nice new pics for Sound Transit’s next newsletter….
ST better be getting their money back for escalator downtime, since the new ones are supposed to be warrantied for 5 years after start of revenue service.
Page 667: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/design-criteria-manual-may-2021.pdf
Warranty maintenance shall be provided for the adjustment, repair, or replacement of all components that fail to operate properly in accordance with terms outlined in the standard specifications. The warranty period shall be a minimum of one year from Contractor’s Project Acceptance and 1-5 years after start of revenue service. See Sound Transit Standard Specifications for additional information. This work shall be performed during non-revenue hours, however if there is redundancy of equipment that is operational, Sound Transit may allow work during revenue hours. Should the work not be completed in this period, the work shall continue during subsequent
non-revenue hours until completion in order to minimize the extent of disruption.
My parents are coming to town later this month, and the plan is to take transit basically everywhere (mainly parks, some museums too). I noticed that there’s a “regional day pass” now for ORCA, but I’m curious about the logistics of it given the ~48 hour delay between buying a pass/loading value onto the card and actually having it available. Does this mean that you need to buy a day pass two days in advance of when you actually want to use it? Given the technical limitations of ORCA I’m assuming that’s the case, but it seems cumbersome for something that would be ideal for spontaneous days of heavy transit use.
I’m spoiled and have had a pass through work for 15 years so haven’t really had to think about this…
It may be better to buy a card at a vending machine, for example at the Seatac Airport station. Anything you buy at a machine is immediately usable.
They actually already have cards, so I was trying to figure out a way not to need to buy fare first to get to a Link station to load a day pass. If I understand the mechanics of the pass, it’s activated on the first tap after it becomes available so if it’s loaded at a station and you tap to leave the station, the pass will be used. We actually have a spare couple cards of our own, though, so maybe we just use those for the passes when we need them…
Another option that occurred to me is that they could use the Transit GO app on their phones, though it looks like only Metro has a day pass which doesn’t work on STX or Link.
I’m definitely wishing we had a system like TriMet where it could all be managed with a contactless credit card.
Supposedly, Link stations have their card readers networked, so it should work nearly immediately after purchase on the web site.
However, I’ve not tried that with Link.
The delay has to do with the card data needing to be loaded onto each card reader on each bus. This apparently happens when the buses go to the shop at night.
I was successfully able to do a less than 24 hour turnover the last time I loaded a pass on a card, but my first use headed north was a Pierce Transit bus. So, no risk of night owl service interrupting the transmission of the data to the bus.
My first attempt at using the day pass didn’t work at all. I had thought the RapidRide readers were networked so that the day pass would load nearly instantly. It never did load onto the card. I stopped by one of the transit agency offices to try to get it unstuck from the card. They said it would be 24 hours before the system was able to process it through. Apparently whatever card processing machine they have can’t send the pass to the card. By the time it finally processed, I was already out of the region.
In any event, the pass is $8, so it’s worth it if you ride Metro more than 3 times, and certainly worth it for extensive wandering. It will be interesting to know if it works when processed through a Link card reader.
Sound Transit’s CEO Selection Committee meets today, Thursday, Dec 2, at 3pm. Presentation document has been posted online. (Personally, I got a chuckle out of slide #11.)
Notice how the hired executive search firm is only talking to internal people and is supposed to have “ST values”? This is in stark contrast to hiring a firm that routinely searches nationally for transit operator CEOs. This does not bode well for future ST operations.
Thanks Tisgwm. I think the selection of the next CEO depends on whether the ST Board thinks it has any hope of passing ST 4, or a badly needed operations levy. So far the Board — illegally IMO — has simply extended taxes to raise additional revenue to cover the dishonest cost estimates in ST 3 (and ST 2), but still I don’t think that will cover WSBLE, and the DEIS is going to be very contentious.
If the Board determines future levies are very unlikely, in large part because of the terrible reputation for arrogance ST has, and subarea fatigue over ST and what they got or will/won’t get, then I think someone who can pare down the project list to meet the actual revenue, and let West Seattle, Ballard, Tacoma and some other subareas know the bad news, is the right candidate. I can’t really imagine a very highly qualified transit candidate would take that job.
If future levies are possible — and there is little doubt they will be needed to meet the vision and operations post pandemic — then a Houdini of public relations is needed, although it may be too late. Let me give two examples:
1. Mercer Island and ST have been locked in litigation over the bus intercept that was based on a settlement agreement ST drafted and signed, but then sought to ignore. I would imagine ST 4 would get 2 votes on Mercer Island, and most of the litigation was totally unnecessary because of the pandemic and restructure for eastside transit. Transit levies like most levies usually pass by very slim margins.
2. Lake Forest Park. Again not a large community, but one that will vote overwhelmingly against ST 4 because of the deceit they feel over the park and ride, and the arrogant way ST handled it. Same for Kenmore.
Add in the anger in West Seattle and Ballard at the fact other Seattle neighborhoods got tunnels and underground stations but they won’t, the animosity in general towards transit levies in Pierce Co. and ST in particular, as well as Snohomish Co. and S. King Co., and the very blasé attitude towards ST on the eastside, and all the phony cost estimates, and I think ST 3 is it.
Yes there is the extension, except I don’t think the extension factors in inflation during the extended years, which historically is how ST got into this mess: ROW and construction costs rise faster than revenue (plus promising things that cost way more than the levy taxes). The very first and grim task the next CEO has to do is reprice everything, and reprice the actual post-pandemic revenue, with a 30% to 50% cost contingency, and tell the Board just what is really affordable, which is much less than ST 3.
If I am on the Board I am a politician, and thinking in terms of my next election. I would probably go with the PR Houdini CEO because I could probably get a higher qualified candidate, and whether there is a ST 4 or not the Board still needs to try and salvage ST’s reputation among the voters, which is my reputation. Except the salary won’t afford that Houdini, because someone with those skills is coveted by large corporations that need a fixer who can make millions. Just look at Nadella who is selling nearly $300 million in Microsoft stock (to avoid the state capital gains tax) and who joined Microsoft not long before Rogoff joined ST.
I think Jordan summed it up well. ST needs to start treating the taxpayers and riders like “customers”. I don’t care how big the corporation you treat your customers like customers, even if it means saying sorry.
I think an irony Lazarus misses is despite all the deceit and negligence he ascribes to Metro, and all the good he ascribes to ST, I know very few people who have a really negative opinion of Metro, even if they don’t ride it (and in my city we have almost no Metro service despite paying quite a bit for Metro but very few negative opinion of Metro), and I know of almost no one who has a good opinion of ST, whether they ride it or not, and that has little to do with the taxes we pay toward ST, and this despite the fact ST has $148 billion to spend.
The Board will be looking for a CEO Houdini for ST, but they won’t be able to afford him or her, and few will want the thankless task of repricing projects and revenue, and breaking the bad news to the subareas. If you are on the Board, you just need the lie to continue until after your next election.
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