So much effort, so that 2-Line riders see a wall rather than a view.
Acoustic panels would be there whether there was art on them or not. Also, at South Bellevue Station, acoustic panels are just on the west side of the tracks. The east side of the tracks, the side with the better view, doesn’t have acoustic panels, so the view is intact.
While I was visiting Gasworks Park a couple weeks ago I realized how much I’d taken its past for granted and never asked why. Why were there oil refineries in Lake Union, Kirkland, and Edmonds? Why did they stop being used?
This gives a pretty good overview of the history of Gas Works Park and other coal/oil gasification plants around Seattle: http://www.lakeunionhistory.org/Gasworks_History.html
Basically, natural gas was unavailable to the Puget Sound until the completion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver, BC, in 1953. Prior to that, “syngas” (or “coal gas” or “town gas”) was created in gasification plants like the Gas Works to provide heat and light to various gas-burning lamps and appliances throughout the Seattle area. It’s never been economical to transport gas (not gasoline, but gaseous petroleum like syngas or natural gas) outside of a pipeline, so the Gas Works used coal from King County coal mines and then switched to crude oil delivered by sea.
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG, aka propane) wasn’t commercially successful until the late 60’s, long after the Gas Works closed due to competition of supply from the Canadian pipeline.
This historic lack of access to cheap natural or synthetic gas is likely why so many Seattle-area homes do not have natural gas appliances. The 1918 craftsman I live in still has the basement cut-out for the coal chute, but the furnace was switched to heating oil sometime in the late 40’s or early 50’s, it seems, along with many other residential heating systems at the time.
This is an interesting thread. A friend who lives on Capital Hill has an OLD house and there is “plumbing” in the walls to feed gas lights. It’s all disconnected and buried behind years of remodel but the furnace is oil. How many leaking old oil tanks are there in Seattle?
How many leaking old oil tanks are there in Seattle?
My guess is a lot. I know of couple people who have had leaks, or notice it when they convert to a heat pump. We got lucky (our oil tank was fine, and removed quite easily).
“How many leaking old oil tanks are there in Seattle?”
“My guess is a lot.”
I wouldn’t doubt that. A lot of them are just left sitting there in the basement after the house has been converted to a different heat source. This happens all over the country though since they can be a bear to remove and haul away.
Bernie, the old house in the CD I shared with my sibling when I first moved here also had the conduit to feed gas lights tucked behind the plaster walls (which were buried under layers and layers of wallpaper). We tried to trace the lines to the basement but they must have been removed down there at some point.
The refineries were from the 1950s? I thought they were from the 1930s or 40s.
When we converted to gas at our old house in the 1990’s part of the permit required the oil tank to be decommissioned. It wasn’t difficult or expensive. The tank does not need to be removed. A company comes out and cleans it out and fills it with some kind of slurry. The fire dept. inspected and signed off on the permit.
I am pretty sure any refi or mortgage loan requires the seller to disclose whether the property ever had an oil tank and whether it was decommissioned. So does the Form 17 disclosure form I believe. So I would think the number of existing let alone leaking tanks might be low.
Our neighbor in our current house was a co-owner of a heating oil delivery business. He said it was a dying business. Gas was cheaper and more efficient, and every one wants a gas cooktop.
That was why we converted: my wife wanted a gas cooktop. GPS was restricted at the time, and PSE would run the line to the house (under the road in our case) and install the meter for free if you converted to a gas furnace and water heater, which we did because ours were old and we were doing a major remodel.
I think the future might be heat pumps, but still everyone wants a gas cooktop. It is like a cork in a bottle of wine. A screw cap is better but seems low value although very expensive Australian wines use screw caps. But never French. If you are a builder a gas cooktop is a necessity in a SFH.
When my Dad moved out of his house on North Seattle, he paid to decommission the oil tank. I think soneone else on this blog mentioned this. They looked in the tank with a long telescoping camera and eventually filled it in. He also paid to have the sewer line inspected. He had to repair the sewer line. It wan’t cheap. But the transparency in his sale paid off. More people bid with less of a gamble.
I think the future might be heat pumps, but still everyone wants a gas cooktop.
Yeah, just like everyone wants a view of the Sound and Mount Rainier. Saying you need a gas stove to cook is just pretentious — like buying an overpriced Subzero appliance. It is a bad cook who blames their heating source. Besides, the vast majority of people just want to eat well.
In any event, gas is being phased out in various cities and countries around the world. It isn’t easy though — there is plenty of pushback from the industry (https://crosscut.com/environment/2021/09/even-greenest-places-phasing-out-natural-gas-isnt-easy). That pretty much sums up what is going on the developed world — big business is pushing for the status quo, while citizens (primarily in cities) are pushing for change.
I am not the cooker in the house, but I imagine the fact professional and TV chefs use gas is a selling point, and heat control is immediate. Plus they look cool and work with non-flat bottom pans (like a wok if you use a wok).
Actually a gas cooktop is one of the least expensive options to give a modest kitchen a higher end feel (and I know several $500,000 kitchen remodels on the Eastside because the kitchen is the most important room to live in or sell. The stupidest thing to do is a medium kitchen remodel in an expensive neighborhood).
A single wide subzero is around $10k, countertops and cabinets can easily run $25k+ each, flooring, sink and fixtures, a wine cellar, European dishwasher. A single modest stainless oven is $4k, and the sky is the limit for ovens. Plus venting. Spending over $100k on appliances is not rare in a high end house (and much less than a view of the water). Marble and granite can cost another $100,000 if the kitchen is large and you do backsplashes (although I really prefer butcher block which is much warmer).
A good but modest (Dacor) stainless gas cooktop runs around $2k. Non-stainless is around $1000, even less if scratch and dent. It is a fairly simple appliance. If it makes the owner or cooker feel good so what? They are doing the cooking.
Of course many multi-story buildings — unless high end — don’t have gas at all so a gas cooktop is not an option. On the Eastside 37% of PSE’s energy is from coal so electricity isn’t all that clean. The reason we all switched furnaces and water heaters to natural gas is because we were told it was more efficient, cleaner, and better for the environment
It is things like a war on gas cooktops to solve global warming that makes the climate change movement look silly and classist to normal people. Surely stopping clear cutting in the Amazon or EV’s or phasing out coal is more important.
If transit advocates argue the region needs billions in transit upgrades in part to reduce carbon emissions — an argument ordinary folks can at least understand — but then claim people have to get rid of their gas cooktop which they won’t (especially builders who tend to be non-progressive) they lose all credibility, and it becomes a wealth/class thing which turns the rest off.
It reminds me of the people who recycle food scraps thinking they are saving the planet and demand everyone do the same when you can put a transmission in a modern landfill, or the recommendations to buy only used clothes (but it is ok to eliminate all vegetation and trees on private property for minor gains in residential density). It is critical climate activists and transit advocates save their credibility for the big stuff.
The Form 17 Seller Disclosure Statement does cover heating oil tanks under item 7E and potentially under 7G. There is also a specific notice to buyers in section two regarding oil tank insurance available from the Pollution Liability Insurance Agency at no charge to the homeowner. You can read about how it works at the following link.
Washington State DOE does not regulate heating oil tanks and only gets involved when there is potential contamination from a tank that has failed in some way.
In Seattle, oil tank decommissioning has been done under permits from the Seattle Fire Department since 1997*. You can search for oil tank decommissioning permits on their website. Prior to 1997, permits were not required. Additionally, it’s my understanding that decommissioning under state law only pertains to underground oil tanks. (Of course, local jurisdictions may have more stringent requirements.) Thus, given these factors I’m not so certain that the number of unused, and potentially faulty, heating oil tanks is particularly low. It’s certainly not unheard of for a property seller to knowingly or unknowingly file an “incomplete” Form 17, particularly in a hot real estate market.
Anecdotal stuff (fwiw)….
One of my relatives in NY runs an HVAC business. He’s told me that over the years he has seen many old oil tanks just sitting in basements, not decommissioned in any way, long after the home has been converted to another heating source. His grandfather started the company as a home heating oil business decades earlier and his father ultimately changed it over to the HVAC business that it is today. Hence, I believe Daniel T is correct in his statement about home heating oil being a business in decline.
*Regarding the decommissioning of an old oil tank, the following is an excerpt from a 2017 permit bulletin from the Seattle Fire Dept:
“Both removal and abandonment in place are methods of decommissioning available for the purposes of the Seattle Fire Code. If abandonment in place is selected as the method of decommissioning, the tank must be filled with an inert solid material (e.g. sand, concrete slurry, foam, etc.). When abandoning a tank in place, the interior of the tank must be triple rinsed and washed to remove as much residual product and bottom sludge as possible. Applicants should carefully review the merits of their options before choosing a method of decommissioning. Tanks suspected of leaking should be removed from the ground rather than abandoned in place. The Seattle Fire Department cannot predict, and does not attempt to predict, what future regulations may require of tanks abandoned in place under the current guidelines. A tank abandoned in place now may later require removal at additional cost and potential hazard.”
I don’t know why there’s all this focus on gas stoves when the only thing they do is expose home occupants to unsafe levels of CO, NO2, and other pollutants. It’s a personal choice to run a gas line to a stove, but not a significant source of carbon emissions. Induction stoves are just as good as gas stoves – even better since many of them can output higher BTUs than equivalent gas stoves. The only pan a standard induction stove can’t heat properly is a wok (and non-steel/iron pans but you shouldn’t be cooking in pure copper anyways), but most people aren’t working on a high-enough BTU gas stove to properly heat a wok either. There are rounded induction stoves for woks, though, if you need that functionality. A former roommate of mine purchased a propane wok stove that worked extremely well – he used it outdoors like you would a barbecue.
Gas heating, on the other hand, is banned in new commercial and multi family construction because it does contribute a significant amount to urban carbon emissions. Electric heat is safe and efficient, but we need to greatly boost our utility-scale sustainable energy sources to support a complete switch to all-electric heat.
In regards to underground heating oil tanks – residential heating oil tanks are unregulated by the state, as opposed to fuel storage tanks like those at gas stations, which are highly regulated as of the 90’s. Residential heating oil tanks are not subject to site assessment requirements, so a crafty residential developer may be able to remove leaking tanks and develop the property without properly cleaning up contaminated soils if no one finds out.
It is things like a war on gas cooktops to solve global warming that makes the climate change movement look silly and classist to normal people.
Yeah, I guess you could consider it classist, in the sense that it becomes a burden for the wealthy. Normal people don’t care. It is a ban on new gas hookups (on new construction only) which means it largely effects only those with plenty of money. The chef-wannabees that might be hurt by this (oh, the horror, cooking with an electric stove) are largely upper class people who spend (or know people who spend) half a million on a kitchen remodel.
Surely stopping clear cutting in the Amazon or EV’s or phasing out coal is more important.
Right, and folks are working on that as well. Coal is being phased out here, as well as in other communities. It is tough to stop logging in the Amazon, because the Brazilian government is tough to work with. But folks are working on that at the same time. Reducing climate change requires making lots of changes, all at the same.
The reason we all switched furnaces and water heaters to natural gas is because we were told it was more efficient, cleaner, and better for the environment.
Getting hit in the face is better than getting hit in the balls, but it still hurts. Natural Gas is not as bad as coal, but it is worse than nuclear, and far worse than renewables. The natural gas industry has promoted it as a fix, when it isn’t. They have a point, but it is exaggerated, and outdated. There was a time when renewal energy was simply too expensive — that isn’t the case anymore. We can and should be rapidly changing to a society that is far more efficient and uses exclusively renewable energy, but we lack the political will (in part because of powerful, well funded special interests).
I know that sounds like a left wing conspiracy theory, but you can just look at the Koch Brothers and see how it is connected. They had a big hand in everything from the Tea Party to the Cato Institute. This is a good article, that I found just by Googling the subject: https://time.com/secret-origins-of-the-tea-party/, but you can just spend an afternoon perusing Wikipedia (start with the Koch Brothers). This is just one rich set of Americans involved in the Petro industry. We have entire nations doing the same thing. If you told me twenty years ago that the Russians would help persuade gullible Americans to vote for a Republican nationalist and get him elected, I would tell you that you need to put down the bong. Now it is a commonly accepted fact. Right now, as I write this, a mix of far right Russian nationalists and wealthy petro-oligarchs are on the verge of overtaking Ukraine, with little opposition inside Russia. What an odd mix, you might ask yourself. But a better question is, are we really that much different?
Gas cook tops are the bomb… oh, poor choice of words. Old gas ranges had two settings, off and incarcerated. We replace the 4 burner cira 1961 electric cooktop back in 2008 with a GE “designer” five burner, It was off Craigslist and never install because of a remodel design change. I thing we paid a couple hundred bucks. Phenomenal performance but it started to get very uneven after 10+ years of use. Probably could have fixed with a new regulator but bought a new Samsung SS without any of the smart phone crap for about $700 on sale. It’s better than the GE ever was.
heat control is immediate
Bingo! And I’ll take on the challenge of bringing a gallon of water to a boil against any induction cooktop. Although the are pretty good the good ones are also really spendy. The big advantage they have is the surface remains cool. Stand alone induction units are great for travel.
Our house was built for two working parents and six kids plus usually an exchange student and invariably someone else looking for a place to live so it had two water heaters. We have one electric and one gas. The recovery rate with the smaller gas heater is significantly better to the point the electric is shut off. The way PSE structures their billing (restructured) there’s only a few month out of the year when we reach the minimum billing amount for gas. It was even more of an issue when our heat pump was working. But because of the billing structure our yearly cost to use the gas furnace is not much more than when we had the heat pump. And might as well use up the gas furnace than did essentially nothing for 8-9 years while we used the heat pump. That was about the expected lifetime for a heatpump so even though they are efficient they are hard to justify on cost. Friends in HVAC have told me it makes more sense to instal an A/C unit and a furnace than go with a heat pump. I don’t like that answer but can’t argue their expertise.
I recently had my old gas furnace replaced with a heat pump. It works great. It’s supposed to last much longer than 8-9 years. It seemed to save about $20-30/month in energy bills, but it’s hard to pin down because every year, the weather is different. (Because the heat pump also replaced my old, less efficient A/C system, I save energy from the heat pump in both summer and winter).
Of course, the energy savings alone does not justify the cost of ripping out and replacing gas equipment, but if the gas equipment is old and due for replacement soon, anyway, the marginal cost of the heat pump isn’t that much. Especially if your AC is old and due for replacement soon also.
So, at least based on my experience, I don’t think a requirement for new buildings to be all electric would be all that burdensome, and probably saves a little bit of money in the long run, especially if gas rates increase faster than electricity rates. The utility savings is also higher if gas is eliminated completely, vs. my situation, where I still have to pay a fixed charge each month to have gas service because my stove and water heater still run on gas.
It’s a personal choice to run a gas line to a stove, but not a significant source of carbon emissions.
It’s because the study about how much gas leaks out was recent.
“ Leaking methane from natural gas-burning stove tops is releasing the greenhouse-gas equivalent of hundreds of thousands of cars, and cooking on gas stovetops is posing a risk to health, according to new research.”
More than three-quarters of methane emissions we measured originated during steady-state-off.
Their guesimate is just plain wrong. As I said, PSE encourages a base use of natural gas. When a gas appliance is off it is leaking essentially zero. The odor molecule they use in gas is extremely noticeable and I’m one of the people that gets sick at really low levels. If this phantom leak was real we’d see it in our bill… fake news.
Nitpick – the WUTC sets the design of the rate schedules. If someone has an issue with the design of the billing rates, talk to the governor, not PSE. PSE (having worked there) would much rather have a flatter bill (less financial volatility/risk), but the state commission insists on a volumetric charge because it better incentivizes conservation.
Measured results aren’t a “ guesimate” so if you have an issue with the methodology take it up with Stanford. Just because you disagree with an article doesn’t make it fake.
The classist part is assuming only wealthy people spend time and attention on their cooking. You don’t have to have money to be particular about preparing your food.
This reminds me of Ross’s take that the only reason people buy trucks is because they are wealthy and want a luxury vehicle. I chuckled at that take this morning when I borrowed a family member’s pickup to drive a bunch of old carpet to the county dump.
The classist part is assuming only wealthy people spend time and attention on their cooking. You don’t have to have money to be particular about preparing your food.
Of course not, and nothing I wrote suggested otherwise. But read Daniel’s comment about the importance of gas cooking, and tell me that doesn’t represent the attitude of the wealthy. Half million dollar kitchen remodel? Marble table tops? My point is that only a rich person would turn down the opportunity to own a house because it lacked a gas stove. Others manage to be particular about preparing their food using what is available. They get buy — and the big challenge is buying quality ingredients locally at an affordably price, not dealing with an electric stove.
This reminds me of Ross’s take that the only reason people buy trucks is because they are wealthy and want a luxury vehicle.
I never said such a thing. Never. Stop spreading lies about me. If somehow you got in your head that I wrote such an asinine statement it says a lot more about you than me (i. e. you have the reading retention of a 6 year old).
I read the piece about the research at Stanford. It’s not a report of the data but a news/editorial. What the 3/4 while in steady state off shows is that the stoves (ranging in age from 3-30 years old, some with pilot lights!) are so damn efficient that any small leak over the ~23hrs they off exceeds the minuscule amount emitted when in use.
The PSE rate structure does the opposite of promote less use of gas. Unless you’re heating during the winter months it’s almost impossible to get to the minimum amount charge. And yes, PSE likes the steady revenue.
The 1970 house in Bellevue I grew up in had a gas heater and gas jets in the fireplaces (so you could burn wood or gas or both) but an electric stove. My 1905 apartment in the U-District had gas heat but an electric stove. I’ve never lived in a place with a gas stove. I used one in Russia, which you had to light with a match. My friend in north Lynnwood had gas stoves throughout her life in Seattle and thinks they’re the best. I hear the rave about how you can instantly change the temperature and they heat water faster (?) but to me it’s not a big deal.
I mentioned the gas stove I saw at Costco a month ago, that has six burners and one or two ovens, but only six dials. They’re all stove dials, so how do you control the oven?
Forced-air gas heaters heat better than electric baseboards and the air is more comfortable, so I was happy to have them. In the apartment we only used the heat for two or three months a year. I kept paying the minimum fee all year long, but at one point I found my roommate had cancelled the gas and said we could reactivate it again when it got cold. So that’s what we ended up doing. We probably had to pay a hookup fee equivalent to a few months of minimum charge, but I don’t remember specifically.
My current apartment has small wall heaters that are electric with fans, and they heat much better than the large baseboards. There’s one in the living room and one in the bedroom. They look so small but they can heat an entire room in five minutes.
Gas Stove pollution study (Stanford; January 27, 2022): https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.1c04707
It’s relatively rudimentary, but the conclusions are relatively sound – gas stoves in the USA have the equivalent greenhouse impact of half a million average cars.
With induction cooktops allowing way higher BTUs and instant energy input changes (the prongs of your gas stove retain a lot of heat), it seems that induction stoves are the cooktop of the future. I’m still using an old electric coil stove, but it seems that the prices of induction ranges are reaching parity with gas ones.
Let’s just assume all that is true. Gas stoves on worst base analyses are less than 4% of the green house gas emissions (some small % is methane when they’re off). Electric stoves also have greenhouse gas emissions dependent on how the energy is made. The methane emissions article in off state is a ruse (fake news). This all smacks of the small but influential group of “environmentalists” that just want the elimination of humans added to the agenda. OK, you first.
prices of induction ranges are reaching parity with gas ones.
Prices are about the same. My experience through my mom who had a series of induction cook tops is they are very failure prone and ridiculously expensive to repair. I noted in a previous post that our GE gas cooktop wasn’t what it used to be and was probably less efficient. But, when the power is out we still have hot water and can cook hot meals. Our DADU has a gas fire place that provides heat. Induction cook top…. useless.
I think I’m with Bernie on this one. I’ve had a variety of different heating and cooking arrangements in my lifetime, starting with a coal stove in our kitchen in the house I grew up in (yes, I’m old…lol). The house I currently own is all natural gas, heating, cooking and hot water (clothes dryer is electric). We do a lot of wok cooking and our range has a high output burner that does a decent job with that. It’s not a deal-breaker though. For example, my mother-in-law utilizes an induction cooktop these days and after running a Chinese restaurant as their family business with the typical woks over blazing hot burners in the kitchen, she still turns out some amazing food. Would she still prefer to cook like she did at their restaurant? Absolutely. Is it worth the cost to bring in a natural gas line and get new equipment to accommodate that? In her opinion, no. My point here is that people adapt.
Finally, I was also going to mention something that Bernie just hit on in his latest comment. I’m just sure glad that my house has two gas fireplaces. Power outages do occur, sometimes in the middle of winter and sometimes lasting for days. The two that I have allowed us to stay in our home and not have to seek shelter at a hotel, family member’s home, friend’s place, etc. when we lost power during a few winter storms we’ve had over the years. Because we have a gas range we were also able to cook meals and have hot coffee, tea and cocoa. We could also heat water for cleaning up (once the stored water in the hot water tank had cooled).
So, in places where these natural gas bans are implemented, are builders going to need to install generators to handle these sorts of situations or are the occupants just going to need to fend for themselves? Has Dow or the Seattle City Council said anything about this particular detail? I ask in all sincerity since I haven’t followed the ban issue that closely.
Re GE appliances. Yeah, they just slap their name on these things these days. The quality just isn’t there any longer. We replaced some inherited GE Profile appliances in my current home with updated GE models and they’re just not the same.
Interesting Tisgwm in that we lost power for our house on MI yesterday for around 4 hours. Our house is all gas. We used the gas fireplace (not the sealed one because those need a fan) while my wife took a hot bath and I went to Honey Court for takeout.
We rarely lose power anymore and usually it is a single transformer so power is not out long (around 16 years ago we lost power in our old house for three days and that gets old with two small kids and every hotel room was full). We lit some candles and opened a bottle of wine and sat in front of the fire and it was romantic on Valentine’s Day. We keep a charged battery pack for the cell phones if necessary. Power came on after around 4 hours and it was a little bit of a let down.
Recent bans like in Shoreline apply only to new commercial or multi-story multi-family buildings, and I am not sure how many of those were plumbed for gas before the ban. Mercer Island is looking at such a ban, but no one really knows what the real carbon savings are (especially with electricity from PSE, and the fact as the load increases the harder it will be for PSE to divest itself of coal). We did a basement remodel around 6 years ago and like Mike noted new electric heaters (without a fan) are very good, at least for a single room.
You raise a good point though. Will everyone need a generator if natural gas is banned. Our neighbors have a huge generator that comes on automatically when electricity goes out and it sounds like a 747 and embarrasses the neighbors, but they don’t know how to turn it off. Most urban areas have underground lines and rarely lose power. Years ago I had installed a main outlet for a generator in our house on Whidbey Island because we were always losing power, and it was fairly expensive including generator, but then they upgraded the lines and power went out much less so I sold the generator (which I hate to say I never used).
Really when it comes down to it all you really need is some battery power for the gas furnace fan or a sealed gas fireplace fan and you have plenty of central heat, plus with gas a cooktop and hot water. Maybe with future smart grids tied into the EV in the garage that will be the backup power.
Thanks for your thoughts, Daniel T.!
Since I think we are both baby boomers, we have both seen a lot of changes in our lifetimes with respect to the technologies we relied upon for daily living. Hell, I still remember as a kid going down into our home’s cellar to get coal for the stove in our kitchen and my mom teaching me how to get it going in the morning. Today, my gas furnace and Honeywell thermostat just run the program and do their thing. Perhaps I’ll live long enough to eventually see even SFHs all heated by an electric source. I just know that I have been very glad to have had our gas fireplaces during the half dozen or so extended power outages we have experienced here in Edmonds over the last decade. (Snohomish Co PUD provides our electric service whereas PSE provides our natural gas service.) Modern gas furnaces need the electric current for more than just the blower btw.* Of course, getting the utilities underground goes a long way toward minimizes power interruptions. However, we still have a long way to go in that regard when it comes to older established residential neighborhoods.
Admittedly, I do prefer cooking on a gas range over other options. But that’s just a personal preference and I’m sure I could adapt to an all electric situation in the future (just like my MIL has done in her home). Anecdotally, baking does seem to be more consistent and reliable in an electric oven.
Eventually the changes away from fossil fuel sources is going to happen and that’s a good thing. People will adapt of course.
A couple of final thoughts….
1. In regard to your Whidbey Island property, how did the change to underground utilities come about? I have some relatives that have a second property on Camano Island and I know that they’ve had some power outage issues there so I’ll have to ask them about their particulars the next time I see them.
2. What’s your best guess as to how often you’ve experienced power outages at your primary residence? Did you ever consider hooking up the generator there? Most of our outages have been in the fall and winter months. The only time I remember having an extended outage in the summer and worrying about food spoilage was when we had a lightning strike on the power pole right next door. That exploded the transformer and the current from the strike fried several random things inside the house (including my beloved Yamaha receiver which was on its own surge protector but wasn’t enough apparently). The power wasn’t restored by the PUD until two days later so we ended up getting some dry ice, watching it slowly sublimate and keeping our fingers crossed we would see a PUD truck pull up any minute.
Tisgwm, I remember my Irish grandmother on Capitol Hill had a wood stove that she cooked on. She could either cook at the cast iron top or remove a round cap for direct heat on the pan. She grew up in a time in which that was the only source of heat, and so most of life was spent in the kitchen. She still had an ice box until they bought her a refrigerator. She would cook batches of bacon in a cast iron stove (of course it was cast iron) and then fry the eggs and toast in the bacon fat. When my father was young the kids would rise to a very cold house and go to the kitchen to dress and heat and wash up. The family did everything in the kitchen because it was warm. I doubt she could have ever learned to use an electric range.
In answer to your questions:
1. The utilities from the road to our Whidbey house are underground because we built in 1997 and that was required. But as for the rest of the utility lines I think more trees were pruned and known problem areas addressed. I doubt many lines were buried in that rural part of the state. We mainly lose power today when we have a real windstorm. We have an electric water heater and oven but everything else is propane.
2. In the last 10 years we have probably lost power five or six times on Mercer Island, but the difference today is the power is restored very quickly. When the kids were young we would pour a hot bath and light candles and turn on the fire and it was fun. Unless the power was out a second day. The cost of a generator just would not be worth it. The nice thing about Nextdoor is when the power goes out you don’t have to deal with PSE. The entire ND is abuzz with info on the power outage and repair.
3. I too lost some precious stereo equipment and electronics when we got a power surge at Whidbey despite a modern fuse box (the entire fuse box was fried). PSE was quite dishonest about it, and claimed a car hit a pole that caused the surge (and conveniently the driver died at the scene and had no insurance). I am sure the fault was PSE’s, but after insurance it wasn’t worth pursuing. Still they lied throughout the process.
I hear the rave about how you can instantly change the temperature and they heat water faster (?) but to me it’s not a big deal.
Exactly. If a pot is boiling over on an electric cook-top just pick it up. It’ll quit.
Every electric cooktop — whether with “calrods” or the smooth-top ones in vogue these days — I’ve seen in the past forty years has a rheostat rather than a graduated click-step setting. You can set the heat exactly where you want it. Yes, it takes a few minutes to cool down or heat up to roaring, but as Tlsgwm said, “People adapt.”
I live in a 100% electric home. We don’t even have gas in the street. Maybe the hot water heater would “recover” more quickly, but we haven’t felt a need to rouse our neighbors into getting a line run, and nobody has knocked on our door. We even have that “antique” ceiling heat, but it’s quite efficient because it has two feet of insulation above it. No dust, no sound, and no hot spots. It’s great, but of course some time it will start to break down and will have to be replaced, probably with a noisy heat pump (boo!).
Maybe we can outlast it though.
Gas Works is not an old oil refinery. It’s on old coal gasification plant. They basically converted coal to gas using steam. And the gas was used for things like street lights, industrial processes, etc.
This was all before the NG industry.
In the 70’s I used to love going to Gas Works and climbing the on the painted over machinery that was left behind. I didn’t know what we were climbing on until I was in middle school. Some of it actually says Ingersoll
Rand. Probably (definately) not safe by today’s standards. Burgers , hotdogs, and bleeding with broken arms on a lovely Sunday afternoon just 200 yards away from the sun dial. Oh the memories. There was a playground just outside of that area. It had slides and a mix of weird climbing stuff. One in particular was a wide pole with climbing steps or a metal built in ladder. As an adult, I think it may have beein a tall gas vent tube. But they painted it and made it into a toy.
I cannot find it in any historic photos It had no safety or anything. I never made it to the top. If you fell, you would have died, but it was there. And nobody seemed to care or remember it.
There are two installations, the real gasworks that are decaying gray and fenced off, and the fake gasworks that are brightly colored and open. I also went to Gasworks Park in the 70s as a kid, and we played on the fake gasworks. It was a field trip or birthday party or something. The real gasworks were already fenced off then if I remember.
My point in referring to a ban on gas cooktops as classist is as I pointed out gas cooktops are probably the most egalitarian appliance in a kitchen. Builders love them because women love them and the kitchen sells the house, and they are relatively cheap for the bling. They don’t make much sense in tall multi-family buildings because those buildings are not plumbed for gas, but if high end will still have an expensive electric cooktop.
There is very little difference in price between a modest gas cooktop and an electric cooktop. Our first house was a fixer upper and came with a funky pull-out Sears cooktop that would shock my wife if she used anything but wood utensils. Seven years later, when we could afford it, it was a big deal to her when she got a gas cooktop. She was an excellent cook with both cooktops, but it was easier and more fun with gas, and she had an emotional connection.
If you want to bridge the gap in the wealth divide, I would suggest tax policy — or reducing inflation — is a better tool than the gas cooktop.
On the other hand you have the clothes dryer. Many houses like ours came with a gas dryer because I imagine it was claimed to be more efficient (and PSE gets so much of its electricity from coal). Last year when we went to replace our washer/dryer (also a pretty good deal compared to many appliances when you consider the complexity) we got a much better and more efficient wash machine, but also noted the industry is going to all electric dryers (mostly for fire prevention), and Consumer Reports no longer rates gas dryers.
Our house was wired and plumbed for gas and 240v, so we replaced the old gas dryer with a new electric dryer which was cheaper and immediately available and works much better than the old dryer, and no one has an emotional connection to a gas dryer although I am not sure how much carbon is saved between an electric and gas dryer.
Bernie is correct: the study on gas cooktops made huge leaps in leakage estimates. The gas travels a very long way to get to my house, and then through my house to get to the cooktop, and I can guarantee you I would take the smell of gas leaking very seriously. We got a new gas cooktop last year and the installers take a gas hookup pretty seriously. There is no leakage.
This analogy is instructive when we get to a real source of carbon emissions: transportation. Banning gas cooktops goes right to the emotion of Americans and reduces very little carbon, so why go there. Plus it looks like the PC police.
So, will it be easier to shift Americans to an electric car (or truck or SUV, what do I care what people buy if it is electric) that requires no sacrifice depending on price like an electric dryer, or to force those folks onto transit or housing they don’t want, and don’t understand the carbon savings even if they were willing to make the shift?
Climate activists need to realize many of their bête noirs in suburbia are not commuting to work, and maybe never will again, which means their carbon output is the same or close to as an urban dweller because the difference was due to forcing them to commute to an urban core. The next big shift will be EV’s, and then urbanists and transit advocates will have no moral advantage when it comes to carbon emissions, certainly if they pursue something like gas cooktops, although the electrical load will be huge, and some like PSE do not have the capacity to meet that load without coal.
If PSE “do[es] not have the capacity to meet that load without coal.” it is management’s short-sightedness that got them there. They get most of that coal energy from waaaaayyyyy farther east than the windfarms in the Columbia Gorge. It comes from the Colstrip [is that a pun?], Montana, sizzling and crackling its way across three mountain ranges. [Not that mountain ranges mean anything to electrical current except slightly longer paths].
I understand that there will be environmental damage from widespread solar and wind facilities. Desert tortoises and dozens of small furry species will be badly impacted. Birds do run into the blades of wind machines, though not as many as your Orange Hero would have us believe.
But we simply have no choice but to wean society away from fossil fuels. Even if there were no atmospheric warming from Carbon Dioxide and Methane there’s only so much of the stuff. Yes, yes, shale fracking has extended the expected lifetime of hydrocarbon fuels by several decades. That’s a wonderful thing, because the stuff is irreplaceable for some industrial uses, and one might hope at least that in the 24th Century there will still be some semblance of a technological human society on Earth. If there is, it will need some recoverable hydrocarbons for nitrate fertilizers at a minimum.
But maybe not if the Repugnants have their way.
“I understand that there will be environmental damage from widespread solar and wind facilities. Desert tortoises and dozens of small furry species will be badly impacted. Birds do run into the blades of wind machines, though not as many as your Orange Hero would have us believe.”
Or you could be Germany and mothball your successful nuclear industry based on dreams of wind farms and solar farms and convert your country to Russian natural gas when the dreams did not come true, so the only casualty is Ukraine and NATO, and probably a few other Baltic states.
Or as Trump proposed, cities relying on heavily subsidized electricity from massive federal hydro dams could pay the true cost of that electricity, which no doubt would encourage more efficiency.
I know this is not even remotely transit related. My experience has been, it does not matter very much if you have an electric or gas dryer. A stove may be a different issue. It matters if you have a high quality low water usage washing machine. It will spin the clothes almost to the point of feeling dry. Then they spend very little time in the dryer. If you have a poor quality washer, your energy is wasted in the dryer.
That’s a good point Jimmy James. A couple of years ago, we finally replaced the clothes washer we inherited with the house with a much more efficient appliance. Our drying times have been reduced significantly since doing so.
As far as electrical appliances are concerned, aren’t clothes dryers the second biggest energy hog in the home after refrigerators?
Did I say that we should “mothball [our] successful nuclear industry”? Nice straw-man there.
So far as the “true cost” of hydro-electricity, do you mean the damage to fish runs? The loss of inundated habitat? Or do you lament the lack of profit and [woo-hoo!] dividends from vampire squid private corporations instead of municipal co-operatives?
As art work on Link goes, I like several things about this installation:
– Local artist! I think it’s important that o support local artists — not only because the effort honors people here and keeps the money in the region but also a local artist is better able to consider the sunlight quality and effects of weather on outdoor installations.
2. Both form and function. The installation appears to have a functional purpose to it (dampening sound) in addition looking cool! That also can save money as the item moves from the mitigation cost to the art cost category.
3. Visible while moving. Most art is stationary. This one moves the eye. I’ll be curious how it looks from an adjacent train. Finally, it makes the tracks not be just another bland structure but instead it creates a lasting visual reference about where the tracks are. This can hopefully be used by riders who would see it as a cue to get ready to get off the train if their stop is near.
A few concerns cross my mind:
– color fading and refreshing (visual appearance in 2050)
– a future risk to turn it into advertising (and get revenue from it)
– effect of platform noise to waiting riders
Are you positive the art is on both sides of the panels? I assumed the art was just on one side of the panel, and people on the train wouldn’t be able to see it.
I think you may be right, unfortunately. However, I could see how a second set of panels could be added on the inside in the future so that the riders could enjoy them — even if it’s a narrower installation only at window height.
I went past South Bellevue station on the 550 today and saw a row of orange panels on the street side, so the view would have been of the houses on the west side of the street. The main view would be south, but I doubt the platform is high enough to see over the trees and hillside, and even if you could see past that it would be I-90 valley, which doesn’t sound worth writing home about.
East of the station is Mercer Slough, which should be pleasant to look at. I think a rider will be able to see the blueberry fields while waiting for a train.
There is a recent Urbanist editorial that I agree with completely: https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/02/12/lets-re-imagine-regional-passenger-rail-in-the-transportation-package/. Rather than throw money at a dubious ultra-high speed rail project, we should implement improvements that have already been studied (https://www.aawa.us/site/assets/files/7322/2006_washington_state_long-range_plan_for_amtrak_cascades.pdf). Those changes could be done much sooner, and would be a much better value.
PS: I wish The Urbanist allowed comments.
That’s how I feel too. Just finish the Cascades long-range plan! It’s been there for over twenty years but the legislature never consistently funds it; it’s just on-again, off-again, and never enough to finish it. That should be one of Inslee’s climate goals. The plan called for Cascades to be improved from 79 mph to 90 mph and then 110 mph, which would bring travel time down to the 2.5 hour range. It said 125 mph would be significantly more expensive so 110 is the sweet spot in the value:cost ratio. But even 90 would be better than what we have now.
The big difference between 110 mph and 125 mph is that the FRA doesn’t (or at least didn’t, as of some years ago) like grade crossings above 110mph. As much effort as has gone into crossing elimination on this line, I’m not so sure how much different it would be. Obviously some places you can’t due to curves, but some places have pretty gentile curves and would be fine.
But really anything would be a huge help. My last trip up that way took 4 hours, between signal failures and freight interference.
This is a good editorial. The $150 million of proposed spending would cover less than 1% of the projected cost of high speed rail, but should be able to cover the cost of at least a few projects for improving Amtrak Cascades.
This decade we should max out the improvements to Amtrak Cascades to get the trip time down to 2.5 hours, run 13 trains a day between Portland and Seattle, build mode share, and then assess whether it makes sense to spend tens of billions of dollars to cut travel times even further.
Yes, I feel like intercity travel is the stepchild of travel needs. The other transit children egg it on — yet it’s often relegated to a low priority pipe dream by many.
In particular, I find it tragic irony that we are spending tens of billions on a relatively slow 55 mph max train speeds on light rail corridors that are extending out 25+ miles from Downtown Seattle. I’d much rather see the billions on ST3 (locking up public funds for decades) go for projects that can be upgraded to faster speeds for a lot less money. I see battery and electric trains as a game changer, ushering in faster trains in ways we still haven’t envisioned. Light rail is great, but not when a trip will end up taking forever!
Yes, I feel like intercity travel is the stepchild of travel needs.
I feel like it is the opposite. Look how many public officials have pushed for high speed rail in the United States. Now look how many have pushed for decent transit frequency in your average American city. High speed rail is exciting; adequate transit is not. And yet even in places that have very high quality high speed rail, local trips dwarf intercity trips. The Shinkansen had a whopping 350 million riders in 2007 (the most of any high speed rail network at the time). And yet the Tokyo Metro gets 2.7 billion. Osaka gets 870 million. Nagoya gets 480 million. What is true in Japan is true in the United States. Train travel between Baltimore and D. C. is outstanding (and the ridership reflects that). And yet ridership is dwarfed by transit trips inside both cities. There just aren’t that many trips between cities.
By all means we should have decent intercity rail. It shouldn’t take four hours to get from Seattle to Portland. But it doesn’t make sense to spend billions building super high speed rail that only a handful will use, when only a handful of neighborhoods in Washington State have good transit.
In particular, I find it tragic irony that we are spending tens of billions on a relatively slow 55 mph max train speeds on light rail corridors that are extending out 25+ miles from Downtown Seattle. I’d much rather see the billions on ST3 (locking up public funds for decades) go for projects that can be upgraded to faster speeds for a lot less money.
That isn’t a bias against longer speed travel — if anything it is the opposite. Why are the trains going to Tacoma? Because the idea of a fast train going between Tacoma and Seattle sounds so much more important than a subway between Ballard and the UW, or the Central Area to Lower Queen Anne. It is both a bias towards longer distance travel, and a fundamental misunderstanding of how mass transit systems work. There are several investments that could have happened instead to serve Seattle and Tacoma:
1) A subway along with bus improvements in Seattle (and inner suburbs).
2) Bus improvements in Tacoma.
3) A mix of Sounder and express buses from Tacoma.
4) Faster Sounder trains from Tacoma.
The first two should have been the highest priority, while the third should be higher priority than the fourth. But instead the mix of rail and distance bias lead us to build the worst of both worlds.
“ Look how many public officials have pushed for high speed rail in the United States.”
I see it usually lauded by public officials as a long-range fantasy only. They dangle the idea in front of the public knowing it sells well with visionaries and business interests. When it comes down to actually funding and building something it takes many years even for modest obvious upgrades like the Port Defiance bypass — and they still “cheaped out” on making that work right (leaving in a hard and dangerous track turn with inadequate training and safety systems to mitigate it).
Even this transportation bill has only $150M for high speed rail! Even if all that money was for construction, it wouldn’t even be enough for two stations (let alone the tracks in between). It’s token investing.
It reminds me of the California High Speed Rail saga. They already knew at the time of the referendum that it wouldn’t pay for much. Their board chose to fund a long segment in the middle of nowhere to say “Look it’s half completed” as a strategy to get more outside funding. Then everyone affected got greedy, especially property owners. Had they made the Bakersfield to Palmdale to LA tunnel segment the initial project, they could have benefited Metrolink, current Amtrak services like the San Joaquin’s and even a private Vegas train much sooner.
I think the success or failure of the CA high speed rail project will have impacts on high speed rail throughout the U.S. for decades.
What I don’t understand is current estimates put the cost at $105 billion (up from an initial $40 billion) for a 600 mile HS rail line in CA. ST is up to around $140 billion ( and will go higher). How can you build a 600 mile high speed rail line in CA for $105 billion, let alone $40 billion? Didn’t someone question the $40 billion estimate for a HS rail line from SF to LA?
The cost estimates on these rail projects are just so dishonest to get the project green lighted that now voters assume that.
Building through the middle of nowhere is fairly inexpensive. A light rail line through developed areas with extensive street and utility systems and high real estate values costs more.
I agree. It really does make sense in California (and in Texas, and the Northeast) and yet they are in verge of completely screwing it up.
Building through the middle of nowhere is fairly inexpensive.
Not necessarily. It isn’t the property acquisition that is the problem (unlike subways) it is the actual construction. California is not flat (unlike much of Texas). There are mountains and valleys. A slower train would just go up and down, or around. But that is difficult at 250 MPH.
“… California is not flat (unlike much of Texas)…”
You do realize that except for Gilroy to Los Banks, East Bakersfield to Mohave and Palmdale to Burbank (maybe 100 miles total) the California high speed rail alignment is virtually flat, right? Even most of those hillier sections have pretty gentle vertical changes (except for Palmdale to Burbank).
Al, I don’t think you can say that East Bakersfield to Mojave has an easy gradient. The UP (nee SP) line has the famous loop just downhill from Tehachapi and a seven mile long section through which the train passes three times, twice in the direction it’s headed and once diametrically opposite to it. It can be done, for sure, but it will require a lot of bridging and tunneling to pass minor watersheds crossing the right of way.
Palmdale to Burbank is going to the be tunnel if it’s ever built. Trying to build HSR through Soledad Canyon would be just as expensive and an environmental nightmare. There’s a lot to be said for long, straight HSR tunnels. I got to ride through the Italian side of the Brenner Pass system once. We came from Innsbruck and so took the surface tracks all the way. About 1/3 of the way up a long tunnel from about 15 miles east of Innsbruck joined and it was three or four tracks all the way to the surface.
After we crested the summit we almost immediately entered a tunnel, still moving somewhat slowly after the station stop at the summit. I noticed lighted signs in the tunnel; the first said 42000, and then perhaps twenty or thirty seconds later, 41000, then a bit less 40000 and I realized that this was a forty-two kilometer long tunnel!. That’s longer than a marathon.
I kept watch as the signs zipped by faster and faster and more quickly all the time. When they got down to four digits they were hard to catch, they passed so quickly. It seems that the tunnel is arrow straight. And when they ended we burst out of the tunnel at what must have been 150 km/hour through a valley in the Tyrols. WOW!
Yeah, a “base tunnel” through the fault is sketchy, but the engineers say they can create a vault a few hundred meters long and support the tracks on rollers so that any lateral displacement through the fault would not derail a train. We’ll see.
Obviously when a shake happens the all trains in the system would go into emergency and get down to 70 kph and any which approached the vault would stop before entering it at very slow speed.
They’ll build the tunnel because a surface line would cost just as much if not more. There are twelve tunnels proposed for surface alignment, totaling almost half the distance of the base tunnel, and then as much distance on the surface as the ENTIRE base tunnel.
It’s a no-brainer.
Darn. “all the way to the summit.”
Autocorrect typo: Los Banos
With electric power, engineering can do some amazing things with long tunnels, Tom! The tunnels through the Alps are amazing feats!
My comment was simply to highlight how 80 percent of California High Speed Rail’s alignment is pretty flat, like Texas. That includes the segments currently under construction in the Central Valley.
I have an opinion that building the non-flat sections first could have been more useful, as they are such travel barriers that the tracks could have more potential benefits beyond the HSR train between SF and LA.
Al, well, maybe a Palmdale-Burbank tunnel would be good for commuter rail if you want to cover the high desert with housing. But relatively little freight goes that way. BNSF freight destined for LA goes through Barstow and Cajon, and UP stuff headed east goes through Cajon on the (relatively) new Palmdale cut-off. Anything headed for City of Industry goes that way, too.
There are only three or four freights a day each direction between central LA and Palmdale so it’s not like there’s much of an option for non-passenger use as there is in the Gotthard Base tunnel and the Brenner complex.
I can’t imagine any freight use for the Pacheco trackage. There is almost zero rail freight north of San Jose now, and both railroads have yard facilities in the northern Central Valley that feed the southeastern quadrant of the Bay Area through Altamont. Maybe UPS might run some dedicated trains to a depot at San Jose some time in the future. They might be able to provide same-day service for 10 AM shipments between the Bay and LA. But nothing like that exists on rails today, at least, in North America. They don’t do it on the NEC.
Switzerland recently built a long train tunnel, so that one may be it.
“You do realize that except for Gilroy to Los Banks, East Bakersfield to Mohave and Palmdale to Burbank (maybe 100 miles total) the California high speed rail alignment is virtually flat, right?”
It is called the Central Valley, and valleys are usually flat.
Mike, no the Gotthard Base Tunnel is all the way across Switzerland from the Brenner Pass tunnel complex, which is actually between the western tail of Austria and Italy. Brenner has had its tunnels for more than fifty years and was therefore worth the detour to the east. According to Wikipedia, there is a 55 kilometer base tunnel going in there, as well, with a connection to the existing Innsbruck bypass-tunnel at the north end.
The Wikipedia article has a map of the existing tunnels and it shows that the tunnel I though was straight isn’t. It has a large diameter “hairpin” at the lower end. Large diameter; it looks like three or four KM.
Big enough that the wheels did not screech at what must have been 150 kph.
Sound Transit came out with the report on the investigation on the Apple Cup stall and as it turns out there were a number of failures on the part of the agency and Metro Transit who operates Light Rail.
The train stalled because its power was severed by rods that were sticking up that should not have been up there that high, no tests on fully loaded trains with people prior to opening to the public and terrible communications between the different organizations within Sound Transit and with Metro on how to handle a stall like this and communicating with the public. It was not a good image for both agencies that night but what occurred were good lessons for both that can fix so that they can handle it better if anything similar happens in the future.
I find the reports ignore the larger issue: refusal to hire enough management staff that “know how to run a railroad”.
I hope that ST finds new management that have both dealt with daily rail operations as well as opening new rail lines. It feels as though ST hired management who were bureaucrats and PR specialists. It’s akin to hiring a used car salesman rather than a mechanic — and justifying that by saying that the mechanics don’t have to be in charge because it’s contracted out.
My guess is ST’s staffing issues hint at much larger funding issues — both operations and capital — than ST is letting on. Over the last 14 months Rogoff has gone public about an $11.5 billion shortfall in the capital budget, and just recently a looming deficit in operations funding, but I think the Board is in denial (ie the “realignment”) and has been hoping for a Covid miracle.
I would love it if Rogoff wrote a tell all book about his time at ST but I think his severance package might prevent that. Good to know the Board will use ST funds to buy Rogoff’s silence. Rogoff’s successor and The Board are going to probably make Rogoff the scapegoat when he is gone (perhaps legitimately) but I would love to hear his unvarnished version, especially of the Board. Was the Board really this clueless? And how really deep is the hole?
Your comment about the management structure at ST is right on. Good in public relations and future planning but not so in the daily operations of a transit system.
And in regard to my last point and that is why does Metro operate Light Rail instead of ST and as they basically outsourced it and in the world of business outsourcing is not always ideal as you lose direct control of the operation.
I know that ST doesn’t operate its bus service either and have outsourced those also but Light Rail to me is its prime operation and yet they don’t operate it. When you have two different transit agencies each one has its own operating philosophy and you wonder how that may brought about the Apple Cup failure and especially in communicating issues like the rods and then when the failure occurred more communications failures.
Given the recent history and comments by Board members in meetings, I generally speculate that Rogoff was chosen because he would be Dow’s puppet and that’s what he tried to do. The problem with a puppet is that they can’t lead. It’s only a matter of time before the strings start breaking because money is like gravity but worse — putting lots more weight on the puppet.
“I know that ST doesn’t operate its bus service either and have outsourced those also but Light Rail to me is its prime operation and yet they don’t operate it.”
ST doesn’t see itself as an operations organization but as a planning and capital-financing organization. So Metro operates Link; and Metro, PT, and CT (subcontracted to First Transit) operate ST Express. ST operates the T line because it was the first light rail and PT didn’t have the expertise.
And the defect was noted by maintenance staff, as they had noted evidence of trains hitting something in the tunnel, but those reports didn’t get very far.
This strikes me as an organizational structure issue.
Yes to this. It’s only 170 miles between Seattle and Portland. Yes, a true HSR train could make it in 35 to 40 minutes plus dwell time at Tacoma, Yelm, Centralia and Kelso, and cost a bundle. But a “Higher-Speed Rail Train” [e.g. 120-135] could make it in a bit longer than two and a half hours and better serve Olympia.
A part of creating that Higher Speed Rail service would be to double track the UP from Black River Junction to South Tacoma and run BNSF through freights headed south of Tacoma on that line. A full third track from Black River Jct to Vancouver is still needed on the BNSF, though.
Sorry, this was meant to be in reply to Ross’s pro-Cascades remark. I wonder why it didn’t align.
I went to Bellevue today and told my family the East Link restructure comment period is open, and I got an earful about how bad Metro is. There were seven complaints, which I’ll describe to show how some Eastsiders are thinking.
1) There should be parking at stations so people can use the train. This was about the lack of parking at Spring District station. I said there’s parking at Bel-Red, Overlake Village, Redmond Tech, and South Bellevue, but they thought there should be parking at all stations, otherwise people can’t get to the trains. Either parking or a bus to the station. I said that’s what the restructure is for, to bring bus routes to the train stations, but they’re skeptical that will really happen. They talked to a Metro rep who said commuters will park on the street, and they said, “But the local neighborhood needs that street parking to get to the train. There should be a garage.” I explained that this restructure is only about bus routes; Metro has no money or land for more P&Rs and can’t build them in one year; the P&Rs locations were specified in the 2008 ballot measure.
2) My relative worked at Boeing Renton in the 80s and got switched to Lynnwood. There was a special bus to it, but it didn’t stop where you could transfer from local Bellevue buses, it stopped only at P&Rs inaccessable without a car. She was with a Metro rep and two Boeing men without cars, and the men asked for the express bus to stop where local buses crossed, but the Metro rep said no, they’d have to buy cars to drive them to the P&R to catch the express bus. The two men and her couldn’t believe Metro would say that, and she’s been angry about it ever since.
3. In the 90s the 230 was like an interlined B+250. She could take it one way to downtown Bellevue, Kirkland, and Evergreen hospital (Totem Lake), and the other way to Crossroads, Overlake Village, and Redmond. It was a really useful route. But now it’s split and you have to transfer at Bellevue TC, and that’s harder for people.
4. Metro says it’s making the buses better and faster but it keeps removing bus stops, which makes it longer to walk to the bus. That’s a problem now that people are carrying heavy laptops and things, and for people who can’t walk far; it’s forcing them back into their cars.
5. She can’t raise her arm up to ring the bell so she tells the driver when she gets on where she needs to get off. The driver doesn’t stop there and keeps going, and she says “Stop the bus!” but it doesn’t stop until a way’s afterward. That happened on NE 8th Street, she couldn’t get off at 124th and the 130th stop at the bottom of the valley was gone so she ended up at 136th, and then she had to walk across the street at a minimal crosswalk and wait for a bus the other way back to 124th because she couldn’t walk up the hill. Another time it happened on Bellevue Way at NE 17th Street; the bus wouldn’t stop until QFC at 28th, so she had to cross Bellevue Way where there’s no crosswalk and wait for a bus going back south.
6. Now she has a walker, and able-bodied people fill the front seats and won’t move when she asks. She’s not sure if they don’t speak English or the driver is too intimidated to ask them to move, but the men never give up their seats and only two women have (two UW students), so she has to take her walker further back and that’s difficult.
7. The front seats are now side-facing instead of front-facing, and sitting that way wrenches her back when the bus starts and stops.
The last three items she feels are abuses against her and against all elderly and disabled people. She used to ride the bus to work and would take it around the Eastside and to Seattle but it has gotten so difficult, especially getting on and off and walking to bus stops, which is what makes transferring so hard.
Some of this is because Metro’s general manager in the 80s and 90s, I learned later, was especially bad. The one before Kevin Desmond. He showed up again that Eastside transportation association meeting Daniel suggested I watch. The leaders were him and Kemper Freeman. They said what the Eastside needs is not trains or more buses, but more peak-hour carpools to mitigate freeway congestion. There’s no problem off-peak, he said. I thought, “There is if you don’t have car and can’t drive on the freeway!” Transit directors are supposed to know that. So that’s why Metro’s network was so awful in the 80s; it had a director who didn’t think buses were worthwhile.
Comment on 7: Over time, I’ve met more than a few people who find riding sideways literally nauseating. It’s harder on buses because there is more often sudden lateral movement.
It’s one of those user quality things that gets ignored. I find that even many transit advocates will trivialize user friendly improvements if it doesn’t personally affect them. Improvements like better lighting (“I’m not harassed, making me scared to wait for a bus”), down escalators (“It doesn’t hurt when I walk down steps”) and improved wayfinding (“I already know where I want to go”) can invoke similar reactions.
It’s important to listen to user experience stories and assess what the problem is. Being dismissive is something a right wing commentator would do.
Mike, let’s pretend you have the power to make a few routes more efficient by not having them detour into Four Freedoms, Northwest Hospital, and the VA. Yes or no, would you eliminate the detour?
The thing about these detours…if you can’t even walk from a building to the street, you probably can’t walk from the bus stop to wherever you’re going to at the other end. Which means, no matter what the does, it’s not going to be very useful to you.
I think the 345 should not have either big these detours. I would also route the bus down Aurora and 115th, rather than Meridian and 125th. This saves more time, while also allowing the bus to get a little bit closer to Northwest Hospital – without a detour, while also improving coverage to the homes off Stone Ave. Haller Lake loses some service, but it’s just low density single family homes, and they would still have the 346, so it’s not like they’d be left with nothing.
If Four Freedoms believes that the elderly population requires a door to door shuttle to Northwest Hospital, they should run their own shuttle bus, with their own money, that does just that. Lots of senior centers run shuttle buses that serve similar purposes.
But they should not expect an agency whose job is general transportation to provide such a specialized service at taxpayer expense, nor should they expect a bus network that requires everybody in shoreline to be forced to sit through such a detour, just to get to the nearest Link station.
An analogy would be Seattle Public Schools being to cheap to pay for yellow school buses and demanding that Metro detour bus routes into the school parking lot. So, for example, everyone who wants to get to Link at Roosevelt station has to sit through ba detour into the Roosevelt High School parking lot. Riders would complain, and would have every right to complain. Their daily commute trips should not be lengthened for the sake of such a specialized service, which should be funded by the school district, not King County Metro.
In general I’m opposed to detours, but in this case I would probably keep both of them. The 345 is a hybrid bus. From Northgate to 130th, it is a regular route, as it combines with the 346. North of there it is a coverage bus. Furthermore, there are very few riders between the hospital and Four Freedoms. Thus it is basically a regular bus to the hospital, then a coverage bus north of there.
If you think of it that way, neither detour is that bad. The detour to the hospital takes place at the tail end of the regular route (when detours really don’t matter). Those heading to the hospital take either bus, and if it happens to be the 345, they get closer to their destination. Meanwhile, those at Four Freedoms are riding a coverage bus. It runs infrequently, and makes detours to scrape together decent ridership. Four Freedoms is the second most popular stop (behind Northgate TC).
Everything changes with Lynnwood Link and the station at 130th. At that point, folks in Bitter Lake have a reasonable expectation that there will be a a fast, frequent bus to Link. A bus that goes across on 130th (connecting Bitter Lake to Lake City) should not detour to Four Freedoms. I proposed a DART bus connecting Four Freedoms to Northwest Hospital and Northgate (https://goo.gl/maps/C98WvpoAjwfWdZT67). This could run every half hour (like today) and complement service on Meridian (to the hospital).
Ross is right about having a shuttle to a hospital and medical center. Riders going to them often have mobility challenges and need assistance. That takes time and practice that a shuttle driver would get, especially if the driver isn’t pressured to stay on a longer route schedule. The shuttle vehicles can be purchased to have more focus on the special needs. Medical visits often require procedures that create situations where someone shouldn’t drive — like light anesthesia or pupil dilation.
By my count, 15 hospitals or medical centers have BART shuttles (https://www.transit.wiki/BART_shuttles). I expect Link will have a similar outcome — if this narrow minded perspective that private shuttles to transit are somehow evil things and should be kept out of transit centers.
That’s exactly the situation with the south Redmond senior center that the B detours to. I think the B needs to be straight; my relative thinks it should detour to the senior center.
I saw the Overlake Village station yesterday. It’s not right behind Safeway; it’s a quarter mile away to the northwest, and it’s diagonal so the other side might be next to the freeway. That dashes Overlake Village as a model urban village for eastern Bellevue; it ain’t no Roosevelt. Maybe some widely-used businesses will go intp the vacant lot north of Safeway, but I suspect the station area will be mostly Microsoft buildings.
So now I’m reversing my opinion on the B; it might as well stay on 156th as in Metro’s proposal. If the station is not at 152nd but further west, then the B would have to detour six or eight blocks to get to it, and make at least four more turns. And maybe six turns if it goes from 156th to 152nd to the station. So Crossroaders won’t have a bus to Safeway or the Sears block, but Trader Joe’s is on 156th. So maybe people in general can shift away from Safeway to Trader Jose’s as I’ve mostly done.
The B’s detour probably traces back to the old route 253, which preceded it. The 253 was similar to the B-line, but with crazier routing around Overlake Village. On the way to Redmond, the bus would take 156th to 24th to 152nd, then loop into a driveway for an apartment building, which, I think, shared its garage with a park and ride. Then, the bus would go south on 152nd, back to 24th, west to 148th, then head north on 148th, following the B-line route (with more frequent stops) to Redmond. So, if you think the B-line detour is bad, trust me, the 253’s overlake Village detour was worse. At least the B-line bus stays on the street.
During the restructure that creates the B-line, there was tension between straightening the route and keeping promises to low income residents of the building to run a bus to their front door, regardless of how much time it wastes for other riders. The eventual result was that the B-line would detour to 152nd, but stay on the street, while the 249 would get the full detour into the parking lot that the 253 previously did. So, theoretically, somebody in that one building who had unlimited time, but didn’t want to walk to the street could ride the hourly 249 one stop and transfer to the B-line. In reality, I cannot imagine anybody actually doing that.
Even though the B-line’s detour was intended to be about one random apartment building that had some subsidized low-income tenants, in practice, the purpose of the detour was to get closer to the retail at Safeway, Fred Meyer, etc., even though you still had to walk a bit. This produced enough ridership to make the detour stop not look completely terrible, even though it is totally different use from the original purpose.
Moving forward, I see two reasonable options. You can have the B line serve Overlake Village and take 36th St. over to 148th (this bridge over 520 did not exist back when the 253 was running), skipping Overlake Transit Center. Or, you can have the bus stay on 156th and serve Overlake Transit Center, but not Overlake Village. Assuming work from home ever ends, the Microsoft campus is a much bigger ridership draw than car-oriented shopping centers, so I think Metro is making the right decision.
The history of the B line and 253 shows why choosing bus routes based on appeasing one building, based on their brownie points from serving low income populations is a bad way to run a bus system. You have to choose the route that provides the greatest good for the most riders, and not give special weight to riders represented by special interests.
One final closing point – as the crow flies, the Overlake Village apartment building is actually about equidistant between 152nd and 156th, but there’s a fence that prevents people from walking to 156th without going all the way around, down the hill to 152nd and back up again. This is the kind of anti-pedestrian garbage that should have no place in a city. Instead of detouring buses, cut a hole in the fence, and let people walk the direct route.
The issue is a senior center that draws people from other parts of Bellevue, not just an apartment building. When the B was created Metro asked the community whether to detour to the center. There was feedback both ways and Metro added the detour, but now it’s changing its mind. The last proposal keeps the B on 156th and skips Overlake Village station and the senior center. Other routes would serve those, but they may run only every 30-60 minute.
The ultimate problem is Bellevue’s unwalkability and single-use zoning. In most of Bellevue you can’t walk to a store or anything else besides houses. That creates huge problems when people age and can barely afford a car, but they need a car in order to get food or go to medical appointments or anything else. Sometimes they’re lucky enough to live near a bus stop, and the bus goes to at least some of their errand destinations. But if the bus stop is ten blocks away and they can’t walk to it, or they have to transfer to another route running every 30-60 minutes to get to the senior center or medical clinics, that becomes a huge problem. Access eligibility is limited to the most seriously disabled, so people with lesser disabilities or who are just poor can’t use it.
What should have happened from the beginning is that Safeway and the senior center should be on 156th so the B could serve them while remaining in a straight line, and the other shopping plazas around Safeway would also be on 156th.
Safeway actually was on 156th in the 70s, where Trader Joe”s is now. It moved to build a larger store. Well, there are three things about that. One, maybe it could have built a larger store on its former block, although that would have swallowed up the surrounding businesses (Toys R Us and Skipper’s if I remember). A two-story building could have accomodated all of them, and why not add apartments above that. :) Two, supermarkets grew gigantic not because they had, to but to offer fifty kinds of vanilla ice cream and a hundred wines. That was probably excessive and the supermarkets didn’t have to grow. Three, across from Trader Joe’s there’s an enormous gigantic lawn that could fit a Safeway.
“The issue is a senior center that draws people from other parts of Bellevue, not just an apartment building.”
Sure, it may draw some. But, it’s a tiny number of people compared to those going everywhere else. If you stand on the corner of 152nd and 24th with a clipboard, you can count what percentage of the cars you see are going to the senior center parking lot. Without even measuring, I can safely say that this percentage would be very, very small. Senior centers simply don’t create enough trips to have any business single-handedly deciding bus routes (even though the skewed sample of riders who have the time and inclination to show up at transit planning meetings in the middle of a weekday would probably argue otherwise). To the extent that the detour is justified by ridership (vs. special interest groups), it probably has more to do with the retail than the senior center, even if Metro’s original intent was the opposite.
In a way, this kind of reminds me of the 250’s detour to Bear Creek P&R. Ostensibly, it’s about serving a park and ride because park and ride’s are sacred destinations, never mind that nobody in their right mind with a car would have any reason to park at a park and ride to ride a local bus like the 250. In practice, the Bear Creek Park&Ride bus stop is simply somewhere you walk from to shop at Target, Home Depot, or Fred Meyer. Yet, a service pattern oriented around the retail would have had stops in different locations to serve the retail better. It doesn’t because Metro insists on pretending that it’s the park and ride – with no bus connections other than the 269 to Sammamish – that’s the ridership draw of the area, even though it’s obvious otherwise.
I have had conversations with friends about almost all of those topics you brought up. Thank you for bringing them here.
1. I think there will always be a debate. More parking for convenience over more frequent bus service to get people out of their cars.
4. I wish I knew the right formula for this. I want faster routes, but also don’t want to walk 1/2 mile to get to them if I am carrying something. I used to pick routes based on their location to my shopping area if I had to carry something heavy. This was usually the slowest way home.
5. Some ST coaches used to have yellow touch strips by the windows. I heard they were not very reliable, so they went back to pull chords. If you look under the sideways facing ADA seats on newer Metro buses, they have both touch strips and some have a big yellow square touch pad. So they might be better quality now. Maybe they could use them again. Plus the newer buses have more stop buttons on the vertical poles near the door.
6 . That is just rude and unfortunate.
7. That is a space issue. The front seats on older buses faced forward and less access to ADA riders. They put them sidways to make more room and they are retractable. The old forward facing retractable seats worked but took up more room.
All these are valid complaints. And I hope more discussion will help to address them.
I forgot to mention. If you listen very closely you will notice a difference in the stop request chime. If you pull the chord you can hear one chime. If a button is pushed under any of the ADA seats the chime sounds 2 times. That lets the driver know to be aware that someone might need assistance in the front area.
Link’s next-arrival displays are back on. I feel more overjoyed than I expected. It was so nice to see it was coming in just “4 minutes”, and it actually came then.
I’m going to continue to rant about the onslaught of trips being cancelled at short notice, and apps indicating which trips are cancelled vs. running are not 100% reliable.
It’s gotten to the point where I feel I can’t trust the to be there for me anymore, and is causing me to drive some trips that would normally ride the bus for because I don’t want to take a chance on being stuck at a bus stop for 30+ minutes due to a canceled trip.
Also, cancelled trips aren’t just happening on a small number of routes when demand for drivers is at its peak. I am seeing cancelled trips on weekends, with as much as 20% or more of the trips gone for many routes. So, if you take a route that only runs every 30 minutes on weekends to begin and chop every 4th trip, you now have hour long gaps between some of the buses.
Ultimately, if Metro does not have enough drivers to run their posted schedule, they need to bite the bullet and revise the schedule to something they can actually keep. Not pretend to offer a higher level of service than they actually can and have buses just not show up. They also need to be more methodical in distributing the trips that do run. Trips need to be spaced evenly, not alternating gaps of 30 minutes and 60 minutes between trips. Some low ridership routes, such as the 249, which were suspended and restored should probably be suspended again to preserve scarce resources for more product routes.
And, also: why is this still happening even while Omicron cases are receding? I get that, in January, many bus drivers tested positive and had to stay home, but we should be past that by now.
There’s a national labor shortage. For an organization like Metro, I would imagine retirements have outpaced their ability to hire new drivers, particularly with onboarding/training disrupted by Covid.
Perhaps Metro will permanently cut routes in the next restructure, until they can staff up again.
Just give up on KCM.
They can’t run a safe or efficient system.
A recent post on the Seattle Bike Blog reminded me of the Rapid Ride J (formerly known as the Roosevelt Rapid Ride, and before that Roosevelt BRT). It seems like they could make a simple change that would significantly improve southbound travel not only for that bus, but for others that travel on Roosevelt.
First a little summary of the changes. Right now, Eastlake is mostly a five lane road. There are two general purpose lanes heading north and south, with a turn lane in the middle. It will be converted to a three lane road, with one general purpose lane each direction. Given there will only be one southbound lane into the city, I propose running a BAT lane on Roosevelt (southbound) from the end of Lake City Way (74th) to just south of the bridge (Fuhrman). Having just one general purpose lane running southbound is adequate, especially since drivers will only have one general purpose lane south of Fuhrman.
This could create congestion on Lake City Way and Roosevelt (north of 74th) but in both cases you could give the bus a “skip ahead” lane. Roosevelt goes from one lane southbound to two lanes before 75th. Then it goes back to one lane between 74th and 73rd. You could keep the two lanes just north of 75th, but make the right lane right-turn-only. That would mean one general purpose lane going southbound from there. The right lane between 75th and 73rd would be a BAT/skip-ahead lane. Similarly, there is room north of 75th to add an extra lane for the bus just by getting rid of some parking.
Eventually this part of Roosevelt should have bike improvements as well, but this would be cheap (only require new paint). It would also probably improve bike safety, as speeds would be lower, and the only cars in the BAT lanes would be those turning right. Right now riders have no idea if cars in the adjacent lane are turning right or not — in this case they would know to be careful when there is a car in that lane.
Frightening front-page headline in today’s Seattle Times:
DRUGS ON BUSES AN EVERYDAY HAZARD, TRANSIT WORKERS SAY
I have no idea why transit advocates spend so much time debating mode or route or frequency if riders, and potential riders, are too afraid to ride a bus or train. Transit and urbanism depend on safe streets and safe transit more than anything. Two weeks ago someone at a bus stop on 3rd and Columbia was shot and killed, and last week I heard the five shots at 1:30 pm that killed someone in Pioneer Square in the middle of the (former) lunch hour. 12th and Jackson is constantly on the news, as is 3rd and Pine.
The eastside commuter working from home isn’t going to get on transit that isn’t safe, and no longer has to. Most I know are vaccinated and have little hesitation going out in public or flying, but they are not going to get on transit, and the irony is the number one way to make streets safe and transit safe is to have more eyes on both, as the saying goes, and in the past that included the commuter. https://thecityfix.com/blog/how-eyes-on-the-street-contribute-public-safety-nossa-cidade-priscila-pacheco-kichler/
Until there are more folks on the street and on transit they won’t be seen as safe, at least in Seattle, which means you won’t get the riders, which means you won’t have the retail density. It is a vicious circle, and urbanism and transit come back to the same fundamental need: safe streets, which require more people and more riders.
The irony is transit advocates and urbanists seem to be the most casual about street crime and homeless tents on streets, and a funky downtown scene, but then wonder why the non-urbanists, commuters, and suburbanites have gone away. In the long run that is going to hit operation budgets, and too many suburbanite voters are no longer riding transit to vote for levies. Metro and ST need to begin to get realistic about what they build if the operations funding won’t be there, as Rogoff is warning about. Very deep stations and stations without turnstiles in an unsafe city will not attract discretionary riders, and so many transit riders are discretionary today, and are staying away.
If transit is the slowest, most inconvenient choice, only those that have no other choice will ride. With only a small percentage of the population using transit, this is a natural result. Airports are free to enter, but you can bet if homeless camp started in the baggage claim at SeaTac, something would be done.
Furthermore, what’s the point of discussing it? There’s not much any of us here are going to be able to do.
It’s yet another way to remind the STB readership that the people of Merciless Island, Bellevue and other Eastside Estates are better than we are. Like any such “Big Lie”, it gains heft in the retelling.
“It’s yet another way to remind the STB readership that the people of Merciless Island, Bellevue and other Eastside Estates are better than we are. Like any such “Big Lie”, it gains heft in the retelling.”
What are you blabbering about Tom? The art at South Bellevue? I am sure that is required by the 1% arts requirement. Or drugs on Metro buses? How does either implicate or reflect upon the eastside?
“Furthermore, what’s the point of discussing it? There’s not much any of us here are going to be able to do.”
Read that aloud before any posts here? What is a blog even for? Not much of a rebuttal or addressing of the issues.
If you’re going to suggest we discuss it, then maybe propose a solution to this thing you see as an issue?
Other than increase the quality of transit, thus increasing the ridership, and thus increasing the number of people demanding a better riding environment, I’m not sure what the solution is. I’ve been told that this has been how the ridership experience has been improved in Germany, 1960s to 1990s.
Increasing the spectrum of ridership on the NYC subway and CTA L was also an important part of increasing perceived safety on those systems.
If you are going to demand that something be discussed here, at least post something other than a complaint it isn’t being discussed.
It isn’t the citizens obligation to come up with the solutions except to elect politicians they think will address the problems.
None of this is new. The U.S. went through this during the 1970’s to 1990’s in urban areas.
The solutions for an individual citizen are not new either : move to suburbia and drive a car. Hardly a great sacrifice.
The only real difference is this time the suburbs exist. There is no sacrifice moving to suburbia. The schools now exist, and even more importantly so do the job centers.
It is pointless to try and change Sawant or some of the other progressives. Let them have Seattle, and transit The retail density and cultural vibrancy is absent in Seattle anyway so you lose nothing by moving to the Eastside.
It is why home prices are up 39% on the Eastside year over year, which is the one downside. My parents bought an older summer home on a 22,000 sf northend waterfront lot in 1970. That isn’t going to happen today, but then unlike my dad you don’t have to commute to Seattle for work so areas like Issaquah and North Bend are viable if you work on the Eastside or WFH.
Which illustrates why it is pointless to discuss this problem here: those who want the problem discussed really don’t want it solved and have no actual interest in discussion.
“move to suburbia and drive a car. Hardly a great sacrifice.”
That’s a huge sacrifice. It costs $7000 a year to own, use, and maintain a car, vs $1168 for a $99 transit pass if you don’t use ST Express or Sounder regularly. A car has a large up-front cost or finance cost. You have to watch the entire time you’re driving to avoid a collision; that would stress me immensely. You have to constantly search around for parking and deal with awkward parking spaces.
And the hell of living in suburbia and not being able to walk to things, and the depressing atmosphere of big-box stores, large interchanges, five lanes even on minor arterials, mini-marts, strip malls, mostly chain stores, etc.
Mike, excuse me for interrupting your lecture on how living in the suburbs is hell, but I just want to inform everyone that a gun battle occurred last week in Mike’s neighborhood where over 40 shots were fired. Sorry, Mike, please continue.
Two weeks ago someone waiting at a bus stop at 3rd and Columbia was shot and killed, and as I posted on STB in real time last Wednesday I heard 4-5 shots ring out at 1:30 pm in Pioneer Square. The victim was killed.
Since The Smith Tower does not have onsite underground parking I have to walk two blocks to my garage in the dark after work past 3rd and Yesler. I have gone out to lunch one time since March 2020 when I used to go out five days/week. Restaurants simply do not serve lunch anymore, and the streets in Pioneer Square are empty except for the street folks. What is the point of living or working in an urban area if it is too dangerous to walk around — during the day — and everything is closed up, so you are like a prisoner. I could do this at home without the high cost of rent or a commute (and soon will be)?
Mike is wrong about walkability. Yes, walking around Blue Ridge or Beaux Arts is not going to have retail density, but downtown Bellevue has a much better retail/restaurant vibrancy, and is much more walkable. So does Old Front Street in Issaquah because they are safe areas, and so have lots of shops and restaurants open. The only difference is on the eastside most citizens drive to the downtown and park underground, and then walk around.
The reason folks drive to big box stores is….drum roll …. because they are big box stores, and you are probably going to buy something or somethings that you can’t carry and need to be loaded into a car or truck. Not everyone lives alone.
I will say this. Last weekend my wife and I visited my son’s new apartment on 45th and 16th since he transferred back to the UW. We strolled the UW campus and had forgotten how fabulous it is. No homeless at all. Then we went to U. Village and it was packed, and has great stores and restaurants. Obviously, the shoppers are back out. But the traffic congestion from I-5 to 45th to U. Village was horrendous. It turns out folks in this part of Seattle drive just as much as they do on the eastside, except the roads are not set up for the volumes.
The one downside of the eastside is housing costs. Apparently a lot of folks want to live there. It might not be for everyone, but it is safe, vibrant, has very good schools, lovely SFH zones, and lots of open areas and parks. And at least today little traffic congestion and free parking. How do you beat that?
I don’t know anybody who was harmed or threatened by a gun or saw someone brandishing a gun outside military service. When I lived in the northern U-District for sixteen years the police blotter said there was crime on my block every day, and in the last few years there were shootings on the Ave a couple times a year, but they never affected me and I never saw them. Sometimes at night I hear what might be a shot, but to confirm it I’d have to get up, get dressed, go outside, walk a block or two, and probably find out that they’re already gone or it was somewhere else or not a gun. The media report on the one person who was shot but not the 100,000 who weren’t. If the majority of people on Capitol Hill were likely to be shot in one year or ten years, there would be news about a thousand people dying at a time, and that’s not happening.
If you own a car, and pay to travel on transit, there are no almost no savings. The only savings are if you work in downtown Seattle and avoid high monthly parking fees. You also save on fuel depending on how far out you live. But if you own a car, make payments on it, pay insurance, and oil changes, they do not go away when you jump on a bus. The biggest savings I see for a non transit supporter is free passes paid by their employers. Then those people save on fuel and parking. Because it is free to them. This brings up a problem. If the downtown workers shift their work area to someplace out of Downtown Seattle will they ride at all. And will their employers pay for a monthly pass when they know there is a big parking lot right next to their building. That is if they come to work at all. I would hate to see this happen. But I can understand the shift. I hate to say this because I am a long time transit rider and supporter. When I did not own a car for one year, I actually saved less than the 7000 mark. But my cars were cheap.
I opened the Times website this morning and the first thing i saw was a photo of a Metro bus interior. Wow, that’s like STB. But the article was anything but pleasant. Drug residue is prevalent on buses and endangering cleaning staff. Crazies and covid and unreliability never drove me away from the bus but toxic air might.
The 12th & Jackson article said there’s meth smoke, and I asked what meth smoke is like and how to identify it, and got no answer. This article says the combination fentanyl/meth/heroin smoke “smells like burnt peanut butter, mixed with brake fluid”. Well, I don’t know what burnt peanut butter or brake fluid smell like either; I’m imagining brake fluid smells like gasoline. I haven’t smelled anything like that on buses. Still, I don’t want even odorless toxic air poisoning me, so I hope they find a solution soon.
Agree that resolving personal safety and establishing norms are THE local transit issue right now.
Not buffered bike lanes.
This blog can ignore it if you want, but it’s what 95% of transit riders care about RIGHT NOW.
I took a KCM bus last week for the first time since COVID and it was both terrible and terrifying.
I take the bus 2-3 times/week these days, including the E line. Personally, I’ve never witnessed any hard drug consumption, but I think I’ve just been lucky. I’ve heard several anecdotes from friends that corroborate the Times article. In my own recent experience, 99% of passengers are people following the rules and minding their own business. Though after around 9pm, crazy people become more common on the bus. (I’ve never had an issue with junkies or crazies on the light rail – maybe the station security kicks them out.)
The bigger issue is avoiding dangerous situations at bus stops. I’m a small woman, and no way would I wait for a bus at 3rd and Pine or 12th and Jackson. I get nervous just *riding* on the bus past the open drug markets. Let’s please not pretend these are “poor people”, “down on their luck”, “trying to get by”. They’re drug dealers and addicts, and meth and fentanyl make people behave erratically and violently.
Microsoft and Expedia announced office re-openings today. Let’s hope employees aren’t too scared to ride transit. Bc if office workers don’t come back to riding the bus, we’ll never get any political support for transit expansion again.
Seems like they are starting to take it more seriously on Link. A couple weeks ago I was riding University St to Northgate and a guy smoked crack on a rush hour train. (You will notice the smell, it’s like burning chemicals). Security got on and screamed at him til he got off the train. Normally they let people just do whatever on the train, so that was a good sign.
Some more thoughts on the Phase 3 routing of the 240:
This 240’s deviation to Eastgate is routed differently northbound (SE 36th to 142nd to Eastgate P&R, then Eastgate Way to I-90 onramp) vs. southbound (I-90 to Eastgate Freeway Station, down to Eastgate P&R, then backtrack up onto 142nd Pl to SE 36th). It looks like an effort is being made to simultaneously achieve a few things here:
– Serve the closest stops in this area to Bellevue College (142nd Pl at 32nd St, stops #67022/79878)
– Provide minimal-walking transfers 240-220 and 240-245
– Ensure service on SE 36th St
Some odd things happen though:
– Going from S Bellevue Station to Bellevue College, one gets off at stop #79878. To return to S Bellevue Station, one must wait at #79878 (!) and read each 240’s marquee to know which one to board.
– Going from Renton to Bellevue College, one gets off at #79878. To return to Renton, one can board either at #79878 or at #67022. From #79878, the bus will go down to the Eastgate P&R bus loop, then backtrack up and stop at #67022.
– The men’s shelter site on Eastgate Way gets only one direction of 240 service.
– Since Phase 3 makes the 240 frequent, a lot of weekend service runs along SE 36th St, primarily an office and medical area.
It’s tempting to consider alternative routings, especially ones not routed differently NB vs. SB. Here are a couple such options:
(1) From Factoria Way, run the 240 along 36th to 142nd Pl, then have it serve the Eastgate Freeway Station ramps and follow I-90 to South Bellevue Station.
This would mean that the 240’s transfer situation at Eastgate is the same as other proposed freeway station routes (554, 215, 218, 269): those going to/from Bellevue College have extra walking, and those transferring to/from the 220/245/etc. have extra walking plus stairs/elevator use.
(2) Put the 240 on Eastgate Way and the 226 on 36th:
– Keep the 240 as it is now between Factoria and Eastgate P&R; then, run it up to Eastgate Freeway Station (as 212s currently go), and from there via I-90 to South Bellevue Station (as 554s are proposed to go).
– From Eastgate P&R, run the 226 up onto 142nd Pl, then on SE 36th to the I-90 ramps at Richards Rd (as 217s and reverse-direction 212s currently go).
With this arrangement, the Bellevue College stops become simpler: those coming from S Bellevue Station (on the 240 or the 226) get off at #79878, and those going to S Bellevue Station board (either the 240 or the 226) at #67022. SE 36th service would not be as frequent as with the 240, but the 226 service would continue the familiar routing of the 217 and reverse-direction 212s that currently serve 36th. Finally, I’d argue that transfers 240-220, 240-245, etc. are just a little smoother in this arrangement, since 240s go straight from Factoria Way to the Eastgate P&R bus loop.
This arrangement shares a problem that the current 240 has, however: both northbound and southbound 240s must wade through both stoplights at the I-90/Richards Rd ramps. Prior to 2020, this was especially problematic weekday afternoons (though 36th and 142nd Pl could themselves have afternoon backups).
Ultimately, I can see why the planners chose what they did, though I wouldn’t be surprised if options resembling (1) and/or (2) were given some thought.
I think Metro got the basic idea right, reducing the detour penalty to get between Newcastle and Link, while still serving Eastgate. But, they totally screwed up the details and produced a route that spends far more time meandering around Eastgate than necessary, at the expense of the time of everyone else on the bus. Remember, if the 240 is your only bus, you are going to be expected to sit through this detour twice, every single time you travel outside of your neighborhood. The detour time adds up!
I think the right balance between speed and coverage is to go ahead and take 36th to 142nd, but Eastgate Freeway Station should be the only stop in the Eastgate area. This way, the amount of rider time lost to the detour is small, and the number of additional jobs and educational opportunities served, high. But, to go from there and start detouring the bus again into the bus bays, now you waste more time, without actually gaining any coverage. The detour does not benefit anyone going to Bellevue College or the offices along 36th St. – it’s essentially useless unless you’re transferring to another bus. And, even then, it’s still not necessary, since you can just walk down the stairs, or take the elevator – as people already do today when transferring to or from the 554.
I think the root of the problem here is that knee-jerk reaction that, because there’s a transit center, every bus has to serve it. This needs to stop, and Metro needs to show riders that it values their time. It is one thing to have your trip take longer because you get stuck in traffic. But, it is far, far worse to have your trip take longer for no reason other than Metro beurocracy and knee-jerk, unquestioned assumptions about buses needing to stop at every transit center.
As I’ve said many times, the bar for detouring a bus needs to be very high, and it should only be done when people that are forced to sit through get something of value in return, such as service to more places wouldn’t have access to, otherwise. I think taking 36th to the freeway station might meet the bar, but the extra detour on top of that, into the transit center bus bays, clearly does not.
Bruce Harrell will deliver his first State of the City address today (Tuesday) at 2PM.
How to watch Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s first State of the City address
Platitudes and promises or will we can something of substance, like how the national search for a new SDOT director is going?
Well that was awkward and embarrassing. Definitely put the ick in rhetoric.
My guess is Harrell will thank his supporters, point out the margin of his victory gives him a mandate, address crime, crime, crime (while pointing out primary responsibility lies with Diaz, Davison and the King Co. prosecutor and judges), and homelessness, homelessness and homelessness, “challenge” the council to work “with” him, toss in a comment about “equity”, talk about revitalizing downtown business and saying something like “Seattle is open for business and is or will be a great city for business under his term” (i.e. better than Bellevue or under Durkan), and will skip SDOT because: 1. there wasn’t a peep about the firing of Zimbabwe, 2. SDOT and transportation were not issues in the campaign, and 3. bringing up SDOT in a serious way would mean addressing an acute $3.5 billion unfunded bridge backlog when the West Seattle Bridge is still closed.
Bus driver shortages continue to be a big problem….
In the category of “holy crap” news, Sound Transit is now seeking to increase the budget for the Tacoma Link Hilltop extension by another $30 million.
Check out board resolution R2022-03 at the link below.
This project is so, so far over its original cost estimate (when it went into the FTA funding pipeline).
It’s also overdue. Service was supposed to begin in 2021.
Lots of discussion in prior post about need to take a “mulligan” on WSBLE, but I don’t think this line of thought was specifically addressed: If the 99 tunnel is such a significant impediment that the SLU & LQA stations will be undesirably deep, does it therefore make sense to pivot back to Corridor E and go to Ballard via Fremont rather than LQA?
Further, going via Fremont (and not having the curing arc through Denny/SLU) perhaps makes an all elevated alignment through downtown (5th+Westlake) much more feasible, which is presumably both more affordable and a much better rider access than the proposed tunnel with deep stations. ‘ve thought ST3 made the right choice of LQA over Fremont, but upon further study, perhaps serving QA is not worth the cost in both dollars and inferior station placement & depth?
As mitigation for ‘losing’ a Link station, perhaps the ST3.5 could spread some money around for ‘early wins.’ QA could get upgrades to the Monorail to ensure the Seattle Center continues to have high quality HCT for the next generation (and Belltown, the other key downtown neighborhood not served by Link, gets a monorail infill station?), and Interbay gets something nice, perhaps rebuild Dravus so the RR-D gets a ‘flyer’ stop instead of needing to exit & renter?
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