But, but ... there are sometimes ugly poor people on buses! And I might have to walk a few blocks! And I can't wow everyone with how cool my vehicle is!
I caught a ride from someone a few weeks ago coming from Bellevue to Seattle. While we were waiting in traffic I saw 3 busses that would have taken me right to my transfer spot downtown to get to Cap Hill. I would have probably been home 15-20 mins if I had taken the bus. I now know better.
While you're working so hard to get people out of their cars, do you do the same for delivery of the Stranger? Practice what you preach, dearie!
Here's the real enigma:
I live in the city because I can't afford to move. My office moved from downtown to south Snohomish County because it couldn't afford the escalating city rents.
Thus, I'm a commuter. And I contribute to the 405 sludge.
If you could find me a bus to take me to work in less than 2 hours, lord knows I would.
Be careful Erica. Powerful interests want lots more rail transit. Apostate voices are not looked upon kindly.
You should not write that traffic is not that bad. And do not write about how measures such as variable-price tolling and significantly higher gas taxes would reduce congestion significantly.
I take the bus from Capitol Hill to Redmond every day and it's quite a bit faster taking the bus than driving alone (due to the carpool lanes). Still, none of my coworkers who live in Seattle take the bus even though we get a free bus pass. It's ridiculous.
Just Asking: There's no difference between the transport of freight and commuting, thanks for contributing the very valid point, dearie.
Just Asking: There's no difference between the transport of freight and commuting, thanks for the valid point, dearie.
Not everyone works on Capitol Hill or downtown. If I could find a bus that would take me to Redmond in less time than an hour then I would do so. I used Mass Transit when I worked in Seattle, I don't now. A typical morning commute for me via bus would be 1 1/2 hrs, which is ridiculous considering how many transfers I need to take to catch the express bus. Even more so considering I live on Queen Anne.
Oh yeah your facts on the commute are wrong. It takes 20 - 30 minutes to get from Seattle to Bellevue and vice versa, on a good day. The average is 45 minutes to an hour during rush hour. Tack on an extra 30 minutes when the Mariners play.......
@3 - so your point is that anyone who advocates for intelligent transportation policies must be sure that their work and lifestyle have no connection to people or goods being transported on roads? that's reasonable.
Agree with @9 and more. I don't know where they get these numbers, but eastside to seattle at rush hour is easily an hour (my record is 3 hours during the windstorm that shut down the floating bridge). I carpool with a friend, but 520 HOV is 3 people or more. I know I should bus it, but it's hard to do 2 transfers when your already running late every morning.
I was wondering if the day I sat in traffic was a fluke by the numbers Erica gave. I don't have much experiencing with commuting as I live and work in Seattle. It took us about 45-50 mins to get over the bridge.
For the umpteenth time, Erica, the usage of cars as a primary mode of transport is a cultural phenomenon that spans the globe. To believe this is a local problem and thus can be solved locally with your beloved bitterness-motivated vehicle-disincentive ideas is illogical and myopic at best.
I'm not a daily commuter, but sometimes I have to drive from Edmonds to Renton. I find that traffic is very popular. Many people freely choose to participate in it every day - more all the time, it seems. Who are we to take it away from them?
erica, i think you have brought a lot of great to the stranger and i am a fan of much of your writing.
that said, i think you should seriously pipe down about transportation and, in particular, cars. your anti-car bias is obvious, your disdain for anyone living in an area that requires driving is pronounced, and, frankly, you don't know what the hell you're talking about when it comes to commuting.
if you want something local to scratch your head at, try to figure out why King County is in the process of buying the railroad that runs from Renton to Woodinville to turn it into a bike trail while bitching that it is too expensive to buy all the land necessary for a commuter train...it makes no sense!
Erica's right: People are willing to have 45-minute one-way communtes. When the become 90 minutes, people will scream for alternatives.
45 minutes each way should be enough to get people out of their cars, but they're not.
As for your "spans the globe" comment, Gomez. Yes, people use cars around the globe, but not everyone prioritizes them. In Bogata, most people are too poor for cars, so they built a 40-mile ped/bike path instead of a fancy freeway. In Copenhagan, they used to have over 90% car commuters. After 30 years of careful planning, 40% ride their bikes to work.
As the kick-ass Bogata Mayor Enrique Penalosa says: “Do we dare create a transport system giving priority to the needs of the poor? Or are we really trying to solve the traffic jams of the upper income people? That is really the true issue that exist…”
I liked Erica's contribution. But what really kills me is not so much the volume of traffic as two items that piss me off. First the number of SUV's in Seattle!! MY GOD PEOPLE!! Our winters here are mild and the times we do get snow, no one goes to work anyway. Why in the HELL do people all need an SUV??.... Wait, all the small .... endowments shall we say.
Second issue is that people not only will take the bus because of the ugly people but no one will even car pool. Just take a look at the number of driver only vehicles on the road.
Just keep that in mind as we get ready for another hot hot hot summer.
Good point, ddv @ 16. The Dinner Train's route runs north right along the most horrible stretch of 405.
Pipe up, Erica. Sustainable living/commuting is not a wacko idea, it's a necessary condition for the continued existence of humankind.
Why does every local transit discussion involve connecting areas that have nothing to do with actual, real world commuting? Nearly all the local jobs are on the Eastside, and all the commuting is happening along the 405 corridor. Why are express lanes always open in the wrong direction on the bridges, as if anyone on the face of the Earth needed to return to the Eastside from Seattle at night?
I'd love to take a bus to work from Juanita to South Bellevue -- too bad the schedule changes right at the time I need to commute, because Metro or Sound Transit or whatever the Christ they call themselves this week decide that no one needs to go to work just after making sure their kids are off to school (school scheduling is another problem as far as commuting via buses goes -- try planning around the several weeks off that Lake Washington schools just had due to storms, or their "early releases" every Wednesday).
I hate owning a car. I hate driving. And yet there I am every morning and every night in half an hour of rush hour traffic on 405, all by myself, because there's no other option.
Where did anyone say they didn't have the land for Eastside rail? The problem is they don't have the money. Hence Sound Transit II, coming to a ballot near you in November.
Supposedly, the rails on the line King County is trying to buy are pretty much useless (read: old and crappy) for commuter rail. That's why the Dinner Train crawls for most of its ride. The idea is to make it a bike trail for now, and then add commuter rail when they actually have the money. Or so I've heard.
The cause of traffic problems is sprawl. Traffic behaves like a network and every time you add a strand to the web, EVEN IF THE STRAND DOESN'T GO THROUGH THE CENTER, you increase congestion everywhere throughout the network, as traffic shifts across the system to find capacity.
Adding commutes in remote places like Woodinville increases congestion everywhere else. The huge percentage of rim-to-rim commutes (probably greater overall than center-rim-center ones) impacts traffic in the center. Rim-to-rim commutes aren't covered by transit systems, either. This is Los Angeles, and the Long Island Expressway, and a thousand other examples, all over again.
On a local level, congestion occurs in choke points. Once a month, I have to commute by car from Wallingford to Kirkland. By bus this particular route would be almost three hours even if the bus was the only vehicle on the road, due to bad transfers and a long walk at the far end. But since I do this in the evening, the 520 bridge eastbound is a piece of cake; I'm going sixty the whole length. The cars aren't moving at all the other (reverse) way, though. And I frequently come to a dead stop on the very short I-5 portion, which ALWAYS clogs right before the ship canal bridge. On the other end, if I try to make the connection to 405 North, I can expect a delay of more than 45 minutes from the time I hit the ramp to the time I'm actually on 405, a distance of perhaps 500 yards.
The micro secret is to avoid the chokepoints, and get onto city streets, presuming that you know which ones are OK and which ones are not (140th Ave NE yes, 132nd Ave NE never). The macro secret is to stop sprawl. Unfortunately no one knows how to do that; it's certainly not been successful here. The second alternative is a transit system, but the problem in Seattle is, YOU HAVE TO HAVE A TRANSIT SYSTEM.
You will be shocked to hear that I didn't have a driver's license until after I turned 40, and was once again living in Seattle, after many years elsewhere where a carless life was possible. The truth is, if you have a job, you need a car. This will never change; it just won't.
I had the same reaction reading the numbers - wow, that's not too bad. But they're pretty misleading. They're average numbers for the whole region. For the people working on the Eastside (say, at a computer company in Redmond) coming home to Seattle, you're talking 45 min on average. Throw in a Sonics game and it can go over an hour pretty easily. I did it from 1996-2000 and literally quit because of it.
I don't say this to support building more roads. I'm a surface/transit replacement for the viaduct guy and want light rail everywhere. Just don't want non-drivers to get the idea that people are really whining about 25 min commutes.
As long as one only has time to him or herself in his or her car (because of kids, spouse, work, etc.), people are always going to drive alone to work. People enjoy driving alone in the car. It's an escape for him or her, believe it or not -- even with all the near rear-ends and collisions.
The trick is to get people to not drive alone to work five days a week. If every single car commuter gives up one day a week to take the bus instead, then perhaps this could improves things a bit. Maybe that person will start to see the difference/improvement, if there is one.
Gregg @ 22.
So the county has money to buy the land that already has rails on it, but they don't have money to buy line to create a rail line? it just doesn't make sense. even if the rails themselves are old and crappy, it would still be easier/cheaper to retro fit the existing rail line to accomdate a commuter line than to try to build an entirely new line somewhere else. The work is already done, except for stops/stations.
No. 9: They aren't "my" facts. They're the state DOT's facts, as reported by the Seattle Times.
"And I frequently come to a dead stop on the very short I-5 portion, which ALWAYS clogs right before the ship canal bridge."
Hey Fnarf, the reason I-5 is slow there is because of assholes like you getting on at 45th and then merging across 4 lanes on a stretch with limited visibility.
Great News, ECB! I too was wondering what everyone was whining about. I think I deserve one more car, and I hope it will be this:
Nothing better than a small block 'Merican V8 with radical cam and
free flowing exhaust rattling the walls and windows of downtown condos on an early Sunday morning. My God, how I do hate setbacks and how they can defile that glorious, thundering tattoo so early on a crisp and clear morning.
regarding the eastside rail line....
The line is owned by the BNSF. I-90 is being widened, and they don't want to pay for a new bridge over 90, so they are foisting it off on the county, with the understanding that no competitor will be able to use it. The county doesn't want to build a new bridge either, so it's getting severed, and turned into a touchy-feely bike trail. Once that happens, it will NEVER EVER be a railline again, due to NIMBY pressures.
This, despite the very real danger of the downtown train tunnel (the only north-south link other then the eastide rail line) becoming incapcitated by earthquake, derailment or other disaster.
No one remembers this, because it happened right around the time of 9/11, but a train derailed in the tunnel under Baltimore, which started a fire and really fucked up downtown Baltimore AND snarled rail traffic for weeks - and they had redundancy. The same could happen here, but the BNSF is too cheap and too short-sighted to think about that right now, and Sim's office has its head in the sand about it.
It's a pet peeve of mine, particularly when people reduce it down to the dinner train. The stakes are much higher than that.
Doink, until you buy my jetpack, I don't really see how I can get across those lanes any other way. Don't blame me, blame the highway engineer; it's a stupid design.
Mind you, I'm not whining, because I think bad traffic on the freeway is great. I put on about 15 highway miles a month on average.
"Don't blame me, blame the highway engineer; it's a stupid design."
Quite so, Fnarf, however I do love faces of other drivers when attempting
a focused four lane drift from the 45th St. onramp to the 520 exit. Sometimes it is better than sex. God Bless the engineers!
Somewhat off topic, but related to the issue of reducing carbon dioxide emissions: a London neighborhood is about to triple the parking rates for gas-guzzling cars.
@16: Thank God you said it. I thought I was the only one losing my mind over that proposal. One set of tracks is already laid and all of the necessary easements and ownership issues are already resolved.
Not everyone can live next to the place they work. It just isn't possible or practical. Ergo, people must commute. That's the way it is and will be. Let's make sure we have the infrastructure to handle it.
Jensen, if you get a Sunbeam Tiger, you will forever be secure as The Coolest Slogger. There's a a Tiger group in Seattle, you know; they get together and drive places. Rootes's finest effort (though I prefer the Hillman Imp myself).
Gomez sez (block caps mine) 'For the umpteenth time, Erica, the usage of cars as a PRIMARY mode of transport is a cultural phenomenon that spans the globe.' Classic American chauvinism. Actually almost nowhere else - (Dubai would be an exception I can think of, there are probably a few others, major Chinese cities are leaning in this direction, something that is really scary) - are cars the PRIMARY mode of transport. Why is this blogger taken seriously by the editors?
Thank you Farnf. There is one sitting in a corner of Crown Hill. It been outside for many years and needs major resto. Even if I can convince the owners to sell it to me, it will definitely tax my pedestrian mechanical abilities and take several years to bring back to life. I am familiar with
some of the local Rootes club folks.
They are outstanding group of peoplewho
have donated a great deal back to the community.
I can appreciate your interest in the Imp. I love it's engine, the Coventry Climax which was used in Lotus and TVR's is a robust, economical and
well engineered machine!
Dogpile Gomez! yep, it's true dude, only in America do cities rely solely on highways to provide transportation. Go live in an international major city for awhile, you'll see that they've built light rail or busways as the means to move people.
Fnarf @23 "The cause of traffic problems is sprawl." Nope. The cause of traffic problems is sprawl plus no mass transit. Paris (2m) has a suburb of 10 million people, but lo! they can get around on the trains... into centre city, and back out. On time.
Proper design is a huge answer. Too bad American city builders didn't have the foresight to include rail. Now we're fucked until we can get rail running. Oops!
Who said to build a new rail line somewhere else? You rip out the rails, because they're crap. You work for the money and political will to put in rails that are actually useful, plus the money to do all the other stuff you need to do to get a commuter rail line up and running. In the meantime, you pave the right of way for a bike trail, since that's apparently cheap as these things go. When you get the money and the go ahead, then you build the line on top of/adjacent to the bike trail.
You might think you could retrofit the rails. Heck, I thought they'd be able to retrofit the train tracks in the bus tunnel (remember those?). Apparently they can't. I'm no transportation engineer; all I can do is trust the actual engineers, who say the current rail lines aren't worth salvaging.
1.) The rails in the bus tunnel weren't the issue: the ADA was. They had to lower the roadbed in the tunnel to have platform access for disabled people (which, for the record, is fine with me.)
2.) It's a little naive to think that once a railbed has gone to a trail, it can ever go back to being a railbed. For example, try suggesting that the Burke-Gilman trail, or the old Milwaukee Road line to Maple Valley become a communter rail line, and see how far you will get.
Grant: I thought you fucked off to Mexico or Portland or some place that supposedly welcomed you with open arms. Yet you keep on coming back, talking shit and taking shots at people. You've become a troll, Grant. Why?
Countries where much of the population gets around by Auto: pretty much all of them. Yes, people have cars in France, in Sweden, in Bulgaria, in Syria, in China, in Peru... because they don't have whatever it is you imply they all have. Grant Cogswell makes a completely inaccurate statement and follows it up with an insult, film at 11. No wonder you left: even the nutbars of this city couldn't buy your bullshit anymore.
It's kinda funny when someone pays a visit to a few major, centuries-old cities as a tourist, sees a transit system and densely packed neighborhoods in each, and assumes that every country operates this way.
Why is the auto industry able to do business on seven continents? Maybe because the vast majority of the world's population still needs vehicles to get around on a basic level. I'd like to see you go from one end of Kenya to the other on foot, or Egypt, or Ecuador, or El Salvador, or the Phillipines.
Fnarf: The truth is, if you have a job, you need a car. This will never change; it just won't.
Um, I have had a job (decent ones!) throughout my 2 years in Seattle and have never owned a car while living here. You should qualify this statement.
I know! Let's spend THREE TIMES as much as we thought was too much for a monorail to move HALF as many people with an underwater tunnel!
Then the extra pollution and gridlock will make it even MORE polluted!
Gomez, yes, you will always need vehicles (duh, why do you think the alternative to driving is WALKING?), and everyplace has them. But hardly anywhere is the private car given so many resources and absolute dominance. I didn't just visit a few foreign capitols, I grew up living in most of the big cities of the West Coast and Western Europe (and no, if you want to take an 'elitist' shot, not because my family was wealthy, which they were not, but because my dad was a tech rep and correctly regarded this country as something of a madhouse). And I am not 'back'. I'm on the internet, it works everywhere. Challenging the rigor of your thinking is not a cheap shot, it is debate. The editors of this blog seem to respect your opinions, and I just can't figure out why. And why do I keep (trolling) writing? Because I'm Irish and Jew (-ISH), which means I just...can't...shut...up.....
Erica--The very fact that you point to Houston as so much worse shows one thing: people do not abandon their car loving ways, no matter how bad it gets.
Get that into your head, and engage in creative thinking on transit that doesn't involve making Seattle a Hell on Earth, willya?
@42 Gomez -- G to the C: you're the guy that made a stink about crappy ole, disappointing Seattle, stomping out the door on your way to Margaritaville. What do you care?
I may not like my hour long commute from Everett to Bellevue everyday, but it's better than two hours on a bus! I'll keep my car, thanks.
Until very recently, I had a co-worker to carpool with. That made things a little better. Unfortunately, she was laid off two weeks ago. And because I work for a small company, I don't have any other options for carpooling (they all live in different areas/directions from me).
I used to bus from Federal Way to downtown Seattle. It was the crappy route that stopped at the airport. I put up with that for three and a half years. I've done my bus time.
I'd love to see you downtown dwellers move outside of the city limits and try the commute for more than just once a week. Then tell me how great it is to get on a bus at 5 in the morning just so you can make it to work by 9! Get over yourself!
Not everyone has the luxury of living close to where they work. If I wanted to give up having a yard for my dog to roam (instead of cramming her into an apartment), then maybe I'd move downtown. I would love to be able to walk everywhere. But the reality is, the homes are cheaper here than in Bellevue. But the money in Bellevue is better than Everett. So I will continue to drive my car and deal with the hassles of traffic. I'd like to be home in time to have a life instead of being on a bus for an extra 2 hours a day!
I think the posts here show that Erica's missing the point: it's not car addiction, it's 'What honestly is the alternative?' And the response in most cases is dead silence.
The problem is too big to ask cities to build $20 billion rail systems.
Yes, I knew about the bus tunnel rail. I was responding to ddv's naive assumption that you can just pop Sounder Trains onto the old rail lines with just a little bit of sprucing up.
As for whether the Eastside BNSF line will just be a trail, I can only trust what Ron Sims says, and he says he's waiting for the PSRC to make recommendations. Sims has been pretty good about fighting NIMBYism in the past (East Lake Sammamish Trail, Brightwater, and [so I predict] Lake Forest Park and the BGT), so I think if the PSRC moves on this, we can get both the trail and the rail. If, however, it languishes for a number of years, I would agree with you that it's unlikely it'd go back to rails.
If you're looking for past rail lines/present bike lines that should become rail lines again, I'd vote for the Interurban to the north. We could really use a commuter rail line to Everett that doesn't rely on the skinny, mudslide-prone coastal route. But if you've tried to ride the Interurban Trail, you'd know the right-of-way got broken up into lots of pieces, and would be extremely difficult to reconstitute. In Lynnwood, for example, it seems like it's 3 blocks of trail followed by 3 blocks of detour, ad nauseum.
Greg, you have a lot more confidene in Sims than I do.
To me, the telling sign that the eastside line will never, ever be a rail line again is that they are not replacing the bridge over I-90 when the do the widening. It will then be easy to say there's no money for the project, and dismiss the rail line.
The eastside rail link should be preserved as a heavy rail line. Run commuter trains and keep it as a back up for freights who use the downtown rail tunnel, which celebrated it's centenial last year.
Perhaps even the second Amtrak Cascades to Vancouver (which will continue through to Portland, and is due to start sometime before the Olympics) could run up that line. Give the eastside some LD rail.
"I commute 90 miles every day. It is my god given right to use roads free of traffic and to send as much pollution into the atmosphere as I please. Where do you whiny liberals get off trying to make me pay to use roads? I already pay my gas taxes for christsakes! Maybe if you ever left Capitol Hill and had a real job you'd understand the plight of the working man."
Fnarf, the obvious answer is we need to stop creating rim housing and rim jobs :)
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