How We Roll, August 9: train crowding in Seattle, Trader Joe’s parking lots

For those of you who, like me, think our species’ paths will still diverge…

Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Speaking of and here’s a thing to read whilst transiting, a really good (and free) New Yorker article on the Mashco people of Peru.

Love the bikecar concept.

Why I love Trader Joe’s parking lots (Strong Towns) 

Short and provocative article that is part of a larger package on Strong Town advocating for cities to dump parking minimums.

As for TJs, the article argues that TJ execs are smart, not spending a lot of money on sprawling parking lots that would be under-used most of the time.

As for the parking minimums, ST makes the point that many parking lots have plenty of spaces in cities most of the time. But people tend to focus on peak usage, meaning the perception is not the reality. The result: continued pressure on city officials to demand X amount of free parking with new developments, land that most often could be used for better purposes (housing, parks, etc.).

The thing I’ve never understood: if a business or housing complex wants to take a stab at getting by with no or little parking, why don’t we let them give it a shot? The answer, of course, is that we’re trying to project neighborhoods from traffic and parking demand — if TJs or some other business isn’t offering parking, it’s likely that people will park on the street or other nearby lots.

Let’s face it: there’s something to that. And if the will of the people is that everything should be reachable by car, then perhaps parking minimums make sense. On the other hand, we could probably argue that encouraging everyone to drive everywhere hasn’t worked out super well traffic-wise, urban planning-wise and climate-wise. Your thoughts?

Related: a new study tries to estimate how much walkability boosts the price of a home. Bottom line: walkability seems to increase worth of your home. Not a huge shocker. But I also know plenty of folks who are perfectly happy to live in neighorhoods or subdivisions that may be walkable but still require a lot of driving to get anywhere outside of the Deerwood Estates or Bearnomore Gardens (made up names).

Sales tax referendum could fund area’s first large transit operation (Post and Courier)

The Greater Charleston area in South Carolina is considering asking voters for a half-cent sales tax increase to help fund, in part, the region’s first bus rapid transit line. Key graphs:

As with the 2004 referendum, most money would go toward improving and expanding roads. However, the sizable sum proposed for CARTA and the bus rapid transit line in the latest plan signals that local authorities are looking increasingly toward public transportation to solve traffic problems.

The question is whether voters feel they would benefit from a bus rapid transit line, either by using it themselves or by believing it could take enough cars off the road to make a difference.

If they’re hoping to solve their traffic, good luck. If they’re hoping to provide a good alternative to it, then perhaps the BRT will work — if properly designed. If it goes to the ballot, Charleston will at least be in good company: L.A., San Diego, parts of the S.F. Bay Area and Seattle are also asking voters to consider sales tax or bond measures to build more transit.

Sound Transit keeping a close eye on crowded trains (Seattle Times) 


Sound familiar, anyone?:

Transit managers have deployed a few more railcars but don’t have enough to convert the entire fleet of two-car trains into three-car trains. Crowding isn’t severe enough to justify major costs to run a three-car fleet, they say.

Some crazy parallels. Light rail in Seattle expanded earlier this year and, as mentioned above, Seattle is going to the ballot this fall looking for funds for a massive expansion. Ridership has gone up and, in a few instances, crowds have been extremely heavy — although not quite maximum crush loads (the story is accompanied by an excellent graphic).

Sound Transit is ordering another 122 rail cars. Attentive readers know that Metro has an order of 235 light rail cars and has received 41 of the initial 78 base order thus far.

Another key excerpt:

Besides the costs of electricity, mechanics and parts,David Huffaker, deputy director for operations, offered another reason to think twice before adding railcars now:

Seattle-area customers could become spoiled.

“Adding more three-car trains when unneeded would raise expectations about our ability to provide seating capacity, both now and in the future,” he told the transit board. “The bottom line is that we cannot guarantee everyone will have a seat during the peak hours, nor is that how the system was designed and funded.”

So here’s the big picture thing: although transit ridership has been flat or declining in many parts of the U.S., there seems to be a demand for rail transit — especially when new rail lines or extensions open.


4 replies

  1. Before making any major changes or additions that cost money, it should be considered that often better knowledge about the particular situation can result in efficiencies that may partially or completely offset the costs of particular upgrades. This knowledge is mainly statistical, usually involving only three statistical elements. Whether we are talking about trains, buses, automobiles, bicycles, parking spaces, diamond lanes, or just about anything involving transit, those three elements are: how many people, where, and when. Gathering that information with sufficient accuracy, in the past, has been problematical and expensive. However, today, with modern, low cost information acquisition and computational processing systems, it is possible to do this economically. Many of the information-gathering devices already are in place, or need only minor modifications for this purpose. The fare box on buses, the turnstiles at train stations, security cameras, even operator’s reports, all (and more) may be utilized to establish and corroborate useful data. GPS and time stamps can yield location and time-of-day. The time stamp may also be used to record the date, which establishes the day-of-the-week. Correctly designed, a simple computer program can yield all sorts of useful and valuable information, which may then be used to make important decisions affecting all aspects of operations and their efficiency. If the design and engineering of such a system is of interest, please contact me at the e-address below.

  2. Huffaker’s response is one of the reasons so many people have it out for the gubmint. Imagine a mother saying to her child, “I’m not going to feed you three square meals a day. I have the means now, but I may not always have the money in the future, so I don’t want you getting used to it now.” Or a dry cleaner to a customer: “I could remove this stain from your shirt, but I won’t. There may one day be a stain I can’t remove, and I don’t want you getting used to the idea that I can always remove stains. Learn to love the stain.”

  3. Toronto uses subway cars that are open all the way from one end of the train to the other. And bench style seats so more people can fit on the train. You should use these styles.

    • Perhaps the new Subway cars for the Purple Line can be designed like this. We need to educate the Metro Board of Directors about this.