Wednesdays Videos & Photos

Here’s a few video passes from Wednesday. As yesterday’s, this one has a few blank seconds between each clip.

Here’s a few photos from the day.

Ballard, Sound Transit Sounder, and Recovery Day

Monday was a whirlwind of an adventure. Tuesday then needed to be a recovery day. I’d planned to start out and pick up the other bike (Pop Rocket I rode to Kent, this was Blue that needs picked up). But I didn’t even get around to that. It really did turn into a mostly chill day of relaxation.

A little bit of logistical fun playing the game Transport Fever. But then later in the day I did get down to some of the tracks where the Sound Transit Sounder route comes through Ballard. Here’s a few shots of the 5:35pm departure from Seattle heading to Edmonds on its way to Everett.

Here’s some of the video. There are three segments, so hold on when the screen goes black for a few seconds in between.

That’s it for the moment. Off to more explorations today.

Cap n’ Hominy, Bike, LINK, NOLA Bowl, Walkin’, Biking, Green River Trail, Interurban Trail, Sound Transit Sounder

I wrote this absurdly title, but really it’s just a Monday like any other where I don’t have any predefined thing I’m supposed to go do. So the day went like this.

Today started off with a good breakfast. Cajun egg, hominy, and a cappuccino. It’s good to know how to cook the things one likes, otherwise, the food would be boring. The egg and hominy I had some Cajun seasoning, mixed in with some butter, and a touch of salt and pepper. This combination just creates an egg with expansive explosive taste. Not that it’s hot and spicy, just a flavorful combination for something that generally tastes like bland air paste.

Once I wrapped up breakfast I jumped on my pop tart bike and headed to my office maker space. There I tidied up my backpack to just the items I’d want for today’s adventure. With laptop, camera, and related items all packed I rolled down Ballard Avenue and on toward the Burke Gilman Trail.

The weather out today is about as perfect as it gets for cycling. It’s slightly cool out and the sky is clear with the sun at an angle that doesn’t leave one burnt. The air has that crispness to that just makes it easier to breath, keeping the muscles fueled appropriately. I had my water canister with me, as this time with this amazing weather I wasn’t going to let myself get dehydrated and end up feeling lousy the next day! After all, tomorrow I’m planning for another transit and bike combo adventure!

Brunch and The Hills!

I rolled onward toward the University District LINK Light Rail Station. My plan was to bike over this direction, which takes approximately 25 to 30 minutes and then board the LINK, which depending on waiting time of less than ~10 minutes will get me to Capital Hill with a mere 6 minute ride. Thus, maximum trip with wait would be 16 minutes and minimum would be about 7.

I boarded the elevator into the bowels of the station, and exited to board the train on the eastern side of the platform. I racked the bike in the appropriate place and sat down to wait for departure. In just 3 minutes we left, which meant my trip and wait time would make it 9 minutes. With my combined ride, which I now knew the travel time of 28 minutes and 45 seconds, I was looking at total trip from Ballard to Capital Hill of about ~37 minutes. Not that bad considering I wasn’t really trying nor taking the fatest route, just the most convenient, comfortable, and enjoyable route.

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My Strava Capture of the ride to University District to catch the LINK

The Lost Lake of Capital Hill

Once I arrived at Capital Hill I exited the LINK station and rode down along 11th toward 10th between Pine & Pike. You see, there’s a lost lake there. Ok, it isn’t really a lost lake, it’s a nifty open 24 hours a day joint that has this kitschy feel to it like a mix between a diner, rustic lodge, and a lounge on the flip side of the space. Brunch and good conversation was had with my friend I’d planned to meet there. Once we were done eating at this lost lake, we opted to take a walk considering that absolutely stellar weather outside.

An aside: Before I go on, I made a mental note and am going to put this in my calendars for the rest of my life. Remember, diligently remember not to schedule any travel whatsoever during the months of October, November, and December, unless of course it is to the northern lands of Europe into Scandinavia or the Netherlands. Those are the only two places that get a pass from me. Otherwise it isn’t worth leaving Cascadia to visit other places as this is the premier perfect weather time of year. At least, in my personal preferences of weather. Slightly cold and growing colder is my perfect cup of tea.

Alright, back to the adventures that laid before me. Upon deciding to walk through Seattle a bit, specifically Capital Hill, First Hill, and on toward Yesler Terrace on down into Chinatown. Well, maybe it isn’t chinatown now and instead it’s International District, considering how few Chinese people actually live there it actually makes more sense. It isn’t just a politically correct rename, but actually a more factual identifier to those that live in this part of the city.

Here’s a few pictures from the walk, as we strolled through Seattle University.

At some point, it was time to start riding. I headed south out of the city. I rode along 6th down onto the trail that runs beside the LINK route out of the city. It’s a nice trail, albeit it ends abruptly with nowhere to really travel once one gets further into the heart of SODO. There I scouted for and rode along a few disappearing sidewalks. This area of Seattle, simply put, it no place for pedestrians or anybody that isn’t basically in some type of motor vehicle. It’s a pretty wretched area. One could argue, “oh but it’s an industrial area!” But that’s just nonsense, just because trucks drive around doesn’t make it a necessity to make it so inhospitable to human activity. People still need to eat, there’s still places to eat, and there’s even some park space and parkway space in the area. So the idea that it’s dirty because it’s an industrial area is just kind of stupid.

I continued onward into a region with no sidewalks, no clearly marked or clearly safe areas to ride. I just followed the premise that if the route was minimal or no traffic, I was going to travel along that route. At some point, and I’m not really sure what area delineated where SODO ends and Georgetown starts, but I passed over a bridge which smelled like human waste and then I was clearly in Georgetown. From there I crossed the oddball intersection that leads into the area, went along the main street of the breweries, breakfast joints, and coffee shops, and onward down the wrong road.

I had to backtrack, as I wanted to be on the road that divided the Boeing Airfield from Georgetown. Found it, and traveled along there until I found a bike rack in from of Brothers Sisters and locked up. Here I got a few pictures of planes and other transit moving through the area. Namely, I saw a whole slew of King County Metro Route 60 buses plying along as if a herd of buses.

Beware, Rant Arrivin’ Soon

After Georgetown I traveled along that absolutely shitty road, debris and all, that runs parallel to the Boeing Field airport. This road is honestly an insult to anything remotely humane. It’s just a sewer of cars, a trash pit of poor design, and turn outs that threaten the lives of anyone that has to work along the route. It is simply a trash fire pit of shit. I hated this one part of the trip with the hate of a thousand suns. Seattle, Boeing, clean this trash pit you call a road up. It’s a goddamn disgrace to the city! I mean, this is a road that visitors to our fair city travel down to see the high tech, futuristic development of aircraft from Boeing and related entities. As they travel to arrive at this awesome museum, they have to travel through the travesty that is SODO, and worse, that is this wretched road.

Alright, I digress. Obviously Seattle will get to it when Seattle gets to it. Ugh. Here check out some photos of planes and buses I got while I was on the edge of Georgetown near the airfield!

I turned on 16th, traveled through a cute little commercial neighborhood strip of South Park. Then along another entirely unsafe road leaving that little commercial area. Finally, after riding through this unsafe and disgusting area that is and ought to be considered blighted and an insult to all people of this city, I arrived at the Green River Trail.

Green River Trail

The Green River Trail basically interlines along with the Duwamish River. It starts at the area where the Duwamish River is allowed it’s natural flow instead of the straightened stretch that exist into the Puget Sound. The area is beautiful, and the winding nature of the river has a calming effect to it all. It’s not really traveled much during the day, so as I rode along I saw very few people actually on the trail.

What The Ever Living Hell ya Negligent Motorist!

As I approached the segment of the Green River Trail that I would exit and then merge onto the Interurban Trail I rode upon this car wreck. I could see clearly what had happened, the driver, who I assume inattentively came barreling off of I-405 to the off ramp area, missed things, side swiped a van, and hit the separator that sent the vehicle with such force airborne, over the fence and into the blackberry bushes. Honestly, this type of wreck shouldn’t just be a ding on the insurance, but the driver should have to serve some type of “I’m a negligent asshole who can’t act appropriately when utilizing a 2-ton (or more) death cage.” I mean, seriously, the motorist got the vehicle over the fence and trail into the bushes. The motorist could have easily, as so many motorists do more than 35,000 times a year, killed somebody through this negligent inability to maintain their vehicle!

Interurban Trail (South)

At this time I cut under the I-405 on the trail that diverges and sends one to the Tukwila Train Station. I was pondering catching the Sounder there if it were coming soon, but since I had plenty of time between now and when the next Sounder Train arrived I could easily make it to Kent. At least, I assumed I could. So off I went down the Interurban Trail.

The Interurban Trail is basically a trail, broken into the north and south segments, built on the old interurban line that used to run north and south out of Seattle to Tacoma in the south and Everett in the north. It’s always such a shame to think about the hugely beneficial connectivity we’d have if the respective leadership at the time hadn’t tore up the line. It was basically straight, could easily have run 79mph FRA commuter rail into and out of the city in a vastly superior alignment than today’s Sounder configuration.

But, poor myopic leadership is gonna be poor myopic leadership. Grumble.

But again, I must digress, the trail that now has replaced much of the Interurban line is gorgeous, so at least we get some amazing use out of it in that regard. It’s absolutely superb for biking. On that note I trekked down from Tukwila Station all the way to Kent. Along the way there are numerous Union Pacific rail stubs that are still used today to collect various businesses cargo. It’s something that is pretty interesting to see from the sleuth’s perspective.

Finally I arrived in Kent and swung into Johnny Rockets for a burger and shake. After a ride like that it was supremely tasty.

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Kent… sort of. But WTF is Kent?

Here you can see in the photo above where Johnny Rockets is compared to the Kent Station Parking, BECJ Credit Union, more parking, some more parking, some other… oh gawd the disgusting myopia of suburban design with a wannabe town center mall thingy in the center.

Whatever I’ll move on. The train station is over there in the upper right here in the map 3d photo. It’s cool that the train station also has a pedestrian overpass from the station over to the… oh, the damned parking lot.

This is another example of extremely shameful design on so many levels. 50’s era myopia and the perverse irony is I go eat at the retro 50’s era burger joint. The more I look at the photo the more I’m sicked by the absurdity of Kent’s layout and design and I’m not even sure why they have a Sounder station when the area is clearly anti-pedestrian, anti-active transportation, and just about as auto-focused as one could get without pulling a sidewalk-less 50s’ era suburb out of the actual 50’s.

As I sat there and ate I looked into Kent’s history and related things more. The first thing I did was pull up a map that explained a lot of things about how Kent is laid out. Look at this city border.

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A generally unmanageable, non-urban, tax sucking sprawl zone. What is it with those squares of Kent over there acting like islands even? What. the. … wow. Just wow, so much bad about this.

Alright, whew, I had to stop looking into Kent’s history and layout. Kent’s basically a living example of why city Government is burning this country to the ground right now in myopic, dystopian suburbanite hell while the feds are burning it up from every other direction. But enough of all those happy thoughts, onward to the trip home. I got some nice shots of the Sounder, coming south bound and north bound.

In the photos above, if you look closely you’ll notice that it’s actually two different train sets. On the departure of both it becomes obvious, as one set as the cab car without the facade of a crew cab that looks like an engine front. The other has the standard cab car that looks just like a regular passenger car.

After the two trains, which were train bunched (using the bus bunch term there for trains, generally I suppose the train is just “delayed”). The first of the two had a medical emergency, which I believed equated to someone getting sick and puking, so they got off at Tukwila after a quick clean up. Only about 16 minutes late – err, I mean delayed – whatever the wording is. So after that train, and the next just a mere 3 or 4 minutes later arrived and departed the north bound train, now delayed about 2 minutes, pulled into the station here. It was operating in push mode, which means the engine is pushing it from the rear.

I boarded and off we went. That’s when I started this somewhat long blog entry about the day. After a pleasantly uneventful ride of about ~30 minutes we pulled into King Street Station and I grabbed my bike and headed for the stop where I’d catch either the 40, or if I was timing it good enough, one of the 17x or 18x express buses. As I arrived at the bus stop, an 18x pulled up and I didn’t even have to stand and wait any. I just walked right up, after confirming with the driver of course, and mounted my bike. Jumped aboard, paid, and got one of the ideal front facing seats on the bus.

With the express it’s about a ~28 minute ride to downtown Ballard. Which is where I was heading. We left, and the trip went seamlessly along the bus dedicated lanes, and then off off 15th and under the bridge onto Leary. Minutes later I arrived in Ballard and wrapped up this adventure. It was a good trip overall, learned a few dozen things about Kent, didn’t get killed by a negligently errant motorist, enjoyed a lot of fresh air and a bit of exercise to boot. All that and the burger, train ride, and related items where a pleasant icing on the cake!

Until next trip, happy transiting!

Questions: Seattle, Light Rail, and Increasing The Standard of Life in the City?

The Negative

I’ve given Seattle (specifically Metro and Sound Transit) a lot of crap over the years. Overall they do an ok job, I do think they spend WAY too much money on what they’re building. For whatever reason Sound Transit just keeps on suggesting these cut and cover, dig and cover, elevated, and tunnel bore type routes which are insanely expensive. They’re building light rail like it is heavy rail, which puts light rail in the heavy rail price range without the carrying capacity. This leaves me perplexed. This also leaves the Seattle area with very little light rail that could be serving hundreds of thousands of riders by now if it didnt’ get stuck every time it is up for vote or pulled off the “build queue” because it is so blasted expensive.

As I’ve said before, there are prime examples of how to use light rail to our south and north of the city. Vancouver BC carries more people on light rail than the entire Seattle Metro System, and it is only a couple of lines. Portland carries over a hundred thousand people a day on its line, with a per ride cost that is vastly lower than Sound Transit Link Light Rails costs now or will ever cost even with additions. All of this amounts to a lot of scary budget problems and other concerns that I have about Sound Transit.

Overall, it looks more like this whole light rail effort of Sound Transit’s is somewhat misplaced, overpriced, and won’t actually serve to create or expand town centers in core areas that it will serve.

The Positive

Looking at the east side line provides a glimpse into an amazing service potential. Uninterrupted by traffic, unencumbered by the inefficiencies of diesel, hybrid power, or even rubber on road concerns Bellevue could be connected 365 days a year through almost any conditions. Cold weather concerns in this area wouldn’t even bother light rail, the destructive nature of chained tires on buses goes away for this route. Increased capacity to move people between Bellevue and Seattle increases by a substantial percent.

Over a period of 30 years of operation, the net cost of light rail, even with some of the above mentioned design cost concerns, would be equivalent to that of similar bus operations with lower capacity.  (Keep in mind this is in comparison to the usual 18-22 years it usually takes for light rail to recoup and become cheaper than equivalent bus service, after which light rail only becomes a smaller and smaller cost compared to equivalent bus service)

Additionally the amount of “choice” riders will increase based on empirical ridership numbers. The town centers that are served (Bellevue and Seattle) will gain foot traffic that, some realize, is vastly more valuable and less costly to service than auto based traffic. The Overlake Transit Center area, pending Microsoft maintains itself as a dominant employer in the area, will become even more intensely utilized. In addition Microsoft itself could probably even woo additional talent from downtown (which it often desperately wants to do – re: Connector).

The Questions

In the end though, will this work? Will Seattle be able to provide the funds for this? Will Seattle get enough support from the Federal Government? Is the potential payoff even worth it compared to a cheaper implementation of light rail? Why is Seattle, at least by action, ignoring lessons learned in Denver, Portland, San Francisco, and Vancouver? Will people really use the system in enough numbers to validate its massive cost per mile? Already auto based transportation is draining this country of monetary resources, inefficiencies, and now we continue to fall into hock to support it. But can we do better with well built transit services? Will we recoup enough efficiencies from this to save so much of our decaying standard of life? Will Seattle’s (via Sound Transit) ongoing attempts to build out light rail actually build up the town centers within this city?

What’s your take? I’d love to know. Please comment!  Cheers  🙂

From Sound Transit, Is Anyone Reading Transit Sleuth Attending This?

The invite reads…

Look behind the red wall

Capitol Hill community event & Link light rail construction site tours

WHEN: Saturday, June 11, 2011, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
WHERE: Cal Anderson Park, 10th Avenue between John Street & Denny Way

Come by and learn about Sound Transit and its light rail construction projects.
Link light rail construction site tours will also be given. View the tunneling boring machine as it prepares to launch towards downtown Seattle. Please be sure to wear sturdy shoes. People wearing open-toed shoes will not be allowed onto the site.
Capitol Hill community event featuring the music group Toy Boats (playing from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
Bring the family to enjoy balloon animals and face-painting.
WHAT IS UNIVERSITY LINK?
University Link is the 3.15-mile extension of Link light rail from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington. U-Link includes twin-bore tunnels and two stations, one at Capitol Hill (Broadway & East John St.) and the other on the University of Washington campus at Husky Stadium.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information about the U-Link light rail project, please contact Jennifer Lemus at (206) 398-5314 or jennifer.lemus@soundtransit.org. You can also visit our website at http://www.soundtransit.org/u-link.

I was thinking about going, but was also wondering who else might be heading up that way? Would love to meet, have a cup of coffee, discuss some transit topics, etc.

Green Transit

I was pondering recently, even with all the fussing the naysayers have about transit, what was accomplished when TriMet finished the Green Line connecting another couple of neighborhoods to the light rail system plus multiple park and rides.

The first thing was the system picked up another 17-18k riders per day. The riders on this line were almost entirely new at first. At least 10-15k of them. The busiest bus line in the city, the #72 plying up and down 82nd Avenue, saw almost zero change to the ridership. Being only about 1-6 blocks at various points from the light rail one might have thought some of the riders would have switched modes. The simple explanation is that the #72 serves a specific constituency and the light rail serves another constituency.

There is however one huge difference. After a period of 18-20 years Trimet will have spent – including infrastructure – less on the light rail service than on the bus service on 82nd Avenue while getting a growing ridership on the green line that will even surpass those estimates.

What does that mean?

It means Trimet will have more money to spend, operationally and for infrastructure, on other parts of the system.

Fast forward to my current city I’m living in. The light rail that Sound Transit is building is almost 10x the cost of what Portland is building. Primarily because Seattle’s Sound Transit is getting the light rail built in raised and subterranean infrastructure. This type of infrastructure is inordinately expensive. A cost, that at this point is unneeded.

Recently Federal Way requested that Sound Transit make sure the promise of light rail doesn’t disappear from the future. Right now, from a money perspective, Sound Transit has basically told the city it won’t be getting light rail. I see two massive problems here.

1. There isn’t money for the current plan to get light rail into Federal Way. That’s the plain and simple reality of the matter.
2. Sound Transit and most of the area Governments are inflexible on building light rail more cost consciously.

Now these are the two problems at the surface. Looking a little deeper, just below the surface, one will immediately notice the real problems. Both of which I’ve raised here at Transit Sleuth a number of times over the years.

The first problem is that the Government assumes the economy will do X and has almost no plans to mitigate when Y happens. Our currency is hosed, so an individual citizen of Seattle can safely assume that all plans moving forward that aren’t already under contraction and paid for are on the chopping block. Yes, EVERYTHING. Increasing funds and taxes won’t particularly help either until some politician in the White House gets the balls to do something about our currency and valuation against the global markets. Right now we’re sunk. That’s the summary position of problem #1.

Problem number two is a different beast. With the money that is allocated so far Sound Transit could do a lot of infrastructure investment. They could, in all honesty, get to Federal Way. The problem lies in Federal and State Regulation that causes Sound Transit to be rather inflexible in how or what they can do with that infrastructure money. This inflexibility we as citizens we do want and don’t want.

Either way, I digress, I hope that Seattle and Sound Transit can find a better way to get real infrastructure with high quality transit built. Right now the ambitions look good, but more reality needs brought to focus. This massive high cost light rail infrastructure probably is not the best way to go about getting higher capacity and higher quality transit to the Seattle area.

Attending the ALT.NET Conference in Redmond

Today was a wild ride about and out to Redmond to attend the ALT.NET Conference. I won’t bore my dear transit readers with what that is, but suffice it to say it’s a top tier nerd conference.

In the morning I boarded the #44, which at that hour provides a gorgeous view of the waterway once it starts moving up onto the Fremont Hills. I got off however and headed down into the neighborhoods to a friends house. There we met up and he drove myself and another programmer from out of town out to Redmond for the conference. The conference takes place over Thursday, Friday, and gets into full gear for Saturday and Sunday. Each of these days will be a different trip to get to the building the conference is in.

On the return trip today I boarded the #545 from Redmond town center after a few drinks with my programmer cohorts. I arrived downtown after the quick express ride of about 25 minutes and boarded the north bound #17 to Ballard.

The #17 is a beautiful ride at this time of the evening. The sun is just setting and everyone is almost silent. With the sun distant on the other side of Queen Anne Hill the trip along Westlake and South Lake Union is almost a blue tint. The water is still and the traffic is slower paced. The bus ride is much more calm than the morning ride. Everybody is pacing at a rate that is opposite of the wired feel of the AM commute.

I arrived back in Ballard and called it a day. It’s been a long day and I look forward to figuring out a few more of these routes, what exactly they can deliver me to, and seeing more of the absolutely stunning Seattle neighborhoods and northern views.

Until then, cheers and g’night.