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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Why Is This So Hard to Understand?

posted by on December 6 at 9:05 AM

The PI interviewed a few folks about the SLUT. And—surprise!—even though the SLUT isn’t going to go any faster than the bus, even though it’s going to be stuck in traffic like a bus, people that say they never ride the bus are actually looking forward to riding the SLUT—all 1.3 miles of it.

Once more: People like trains. People hate buses.

Take it away, Mari:

Mari Stobbe, a manager at the nearby Autism Spectrum Treatment and Research Center who came in for coffee a short time later, also said she’d ride the streetcar. “I’d never take a bus. I’ve never been on a bus. I’ve never had any desire to be on a bus,” she said. “(But) the streetcar seems like it would have a different feel.”

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Well, what else would you expect guys driving really slow along Aurora Ave. to say?

Posted by COMTE | December 6, 2007 9:14 AM

Well it's good to know that bus-phobia isn't just for us midwesterners.

Posted by Michigan Matt | December 6, 2007 9:24 AM

Do people like trains enough to pay $50 million to duplicate existing bus routes, albeit with brighter colors?

Posted by joykiller | December 6, 2007 9:26 AM


if i walk up to the bus tunnel @ benaroya, get off at westlake, then walk over to the SLUT, i figure i could get from work to hooters in a blazing half hour.

Posted by max solomon | December 6, 2007 9:26 AM

People will use it a great deal at first but ridership will fall off after a few months. People with get bored with the new toy and people will go back to their old habits.

If it was faster (maybe elevated and above traffic LOL!) it would be a real incentive to use it long term.

SLUT is destined to end up a touristy thing to do. Not a viable transportation alternative.

Posted by Just Me | December 6, 2007 9:29 AM

I appoligize for the typos above. I am a little out of it today.

Posted by Just Me | December 6, 2007 9:31 AM

Do people like trains enough to pay $50 million to duplicate existing bus routes, albeit with brighter colors?

To the transit fetishists, the cost does not matter - we will spend whatever we have to spend to get the different "feel" that will herd people onto rail.

Posted by JMR | December 6, 2007 9:34 AM

trains will have a tourist component. i'm with the group that wants mass transit but thinks these trains are silly in their current manifestation.

Posted by infrequent | December 6, 2007 10:00 AM

I like buses. I hate trains.

Posted by Mr. Poe | December 6, 2007 10:14 AM

People will be excited about it until it's been there a while and it becomes just as dirty and smelly as the buses. Then it'll lose its charm.

Posted by Orv | December 6, 2007 10:24 AM

Uh, from someone in a city with trains (DC) I got to say residents and tourists love trains. They are immediately easy to figure out compared to buses. (Although DC is starting to remedy some of this problem by putting huge bus system maps--with trains too--on bus shelters so that people not use to the buses can figure out what goes where.) Hard to explain, but trains are kind of like a "gateway" mode of transit. They start on the trains, and before they know it they're riding on buses too.

Posted by Dan | December 6, 2007 10:25 AM

People will be excited about it until it's been there a while and it becomes just as dirty and smelly as the buses. Then it'll lose its charm.

Naming it "SLUT" sounds more appropriate than ever.

Posted by JMR | December 6, 2007 10:26 AM

Actually, I'm buying SLUT t-shirts as Chrismakuh gifts. My son and I both love the name!

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 6, 2007 10:40 AM

Trains are great, but "Iíve never been on a bus"? Really? How is that even possible? How do you know you don't like them?

Transit isn't really about "being" on the bus; it's about moving from place to place. Is this the psychology of the private automobile (quasi-sexual identity politics transfered to ginormous hunk of metal) moving into the transit realm? Transit is about how we FEEL now?

Posted by Fnarf | December 6, 2007 10:42 AM

If you met someone at a bar, would it would be embarrassing to take them home on the bus. But on a train is pretty cool.

Posted by doink | December 6, 2007 10:54 AM

Anybody worth picking up at a bar arrived by bicycle.

Posted by nbc | December 6, 2007 10:58 AM

Yes. Trains are smoother and less herky jerky.

But also yes, this SLUT makes little sense. It is another un-integrated vanity project.

Every transportation improvement should (a) have very short headways and faster travel times that going in traffic, (b) be connected to an integrated network (create synergy with other parts of the transit system), (c) pencil out financially with disclosure of real capital and operating costs per new rider.

We, the public, can't manage what we can't measure.

Perhaps this short, slow trolley expenditure of $50 million (does that include operating costs going forward btw??) gives us the most "mobility bang" for the buck -- but most likely not. Perhaps it can later be part of a bigger system, but shouldn't we plan first and build later?

We have bus routes in Seattle that are overcrowded and need more buses. We have plans for more ferries and more light rail. Without sensible planning we will not know how to spend dollars wisely. Just throwing money at various projects is not "plannning" and is not accountable.

Without integration, competing governments will continue to spend money on piecemeal, unconected pet projects; this will not in the end produce a functional rapid transit system without great luck.

Posted by Cleve | December 6, 2007 10:58 AM

Anyone see the "Cyclists, skinny tires, streetcar rails ó not a good mix" article?

Posted by Anon | December 6, 2007 11:30 AM

The #82 Kimball/Homan rocks my world. That bus is like ALWAYS RIGHT THERE. It's supernatural. Beats the shit out of the excruciating slow zones/constant maintenance on the blue line. Move past your prejudices and you might be suprised.

Posted by chi type | December 6, 2007 11:31 AM

Transit *is* about how we feel. People are not 100% rational.

The Portland trolley has actually been a pretty big success. Check out their ridership history if you disagree. I 75% buy the argument that it increases development near it, too.

That said, the SLUT is still short and slow -- it seems like a particular smack in the face that the SLUT is going open 2 days from the day the monorail was originally supposed to open.

Posted by Steve | December 6, 2007 11:37 AM

Since the SLUT is free for the month of December, won't it simply be filled with Seattle's freezing homeless? Should be fun.

Posted by DOUG. | December 6, 2007 11:53 AM
the SLUT is free for the month of December,

Does it become the WHORE when they start charging people to ride it?

Posted by Judah | December 6, 2007 12:27 PM

People like trains and not buses because buses bring up images of poor (black) people. Should we really be building public infrastructure to accommodate racism?

Posted by jamier | December 6, 2007 12:30 PM

Yeah right Dan, just keep chanting your bullshit rail-transit fetishist mantra. People like trains as long as they don't have to pay the costs for them. If you went up to the assholes using the sprawl subsidizing Sounder rail, surely one of the best things to ever happen for McMansion developers in South King County, and told them that they needed to pony up say, 25 percent of the cost to ride in to work each day, which would work out to about 30 bucks, all of a sudden you'd see a lot of people saying "Hey, the bus is a lot cheaper". Oh, and buses are flexible. If one bus route goes out because of a landslide you can route the buses to other roads, if a train route, say the north part of the Sounder, gets taken out by a landslide (how many times a year does this happen anyways?) you're shit out of luck unless you have other tracks to run on (we don't) or unless you can put people on buses (begging the question of why aren't they riding the bus in the first place).

Posted by wile_e_quixote | December 6, 2007 12:34 PM

I hope they expand the SLUT and eventually link streetcar lines together.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | December 6, 2007 1:45 PM

A few more counterpoints:

1. Streetcars do something that no bus can do: Putting the rails in the pavement makes the statement that the transit is there to stay. That promotes transit-supportive density...which promotes more transit.

2. Because the line's going to be there for awhile, it very likely has far more sophisticated signal preemption than the bus network does. So it will go faster by far than diesel buses, and faster by a bit than trolleybuses.

3. Going to South Lake Union gets ya half way to the U-District, and it looks like SDOT's finally figured out that it makes far more sense to get to the U-District via Eastlake than tunneling thru Capitol Hill.

Posted by TLjr | December 6, 2007 2:42 PM

so many boring naysayers in this thread. this increases development. it will link into a wider system, already planned. it looks fucking great. we're becoming a real city.

Posted by jelky | December 6, 2007 5:00 PM

jelky nails it. So many of these anti-rail people are old-timers doing everything they can to hold on to the past. They don't want Seattle to become a real city. They want to Seattle to forever remain the provincial backwater it was on the eve of the '62 World's Fair. Fighting against light rail, streetcars, compact urban development, and immigration (domestic and foreign) is their last ditch effort to hold onto to an ideal of a city that only existed for a brief period is already (hallelujah!) gone forever. Knute Berger, David Brewster and Emory Bundy are their gods. CrossCut is their bible.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | December 6, 2007 7:29 PM


1. SLU's been densifying for some time, and would likely continue to do so with or without the SLUT. Anyway, shouldn't you wait to make this judgment until AFTER the line's been operating for a while?

2. It could have signal preemption, but it doesn't. Then again, a bus could have signal preemption, too.

3. Existing buses also take you to the U-District. In fact, most buses go farther than 9 blocks, and cost significantly less than $50MM/route.

It's pretty. It's kinda neat. It will probably be fun to ride. But it's not a cost-effective or efficient use of transit dollars.

Posted by joykiller | December 6, 2007 9:05 PM

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