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Seattle's newest transportation system.
July 29, 2010 11:43 PM   Subscribe


 
Pff. It's only a proper Seattle transportation if there's a bunch of money sunk into planning it. Then a bunch of referendums to make sure it's really, really wanted, then it all falls apart at the final hurdle and leaves a big pile of debt.

TBH I'm a little suspicious of the light rail and the fact that it hass an actual physical existance - that seems very unSeattley to me.
posted by Artw at 11:50 PM on July 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Ha! That was a pretty perfect TED parody. Also, "You go to take the viaduct, but it's collapsed" and then a picture of rubble is awesome. Everyday I drive on that thing and think how I will have to jump from my car to avoid certain death as the top level falls to the street....
posted by lattiboy at 11:50 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's just too Jetsons for me.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:53 PM on July 29, 2010


South Lake Union Trebuchet?
posted by Back to you, Jim. at 11:53 PM on July 29, 2010 [19 favorites]


Achievement Unlocked: commuting to Microsoft in the style of a flying squirrel!

(I sort of wish I could do this. Except my current commute to the MotherShip is about 300 feet. So flying in a parabolic arc might actually be longer.)
posted by ntartifex at 11:55 PM on July 29, 2010


yes.
posted by germdisco at 12:00 AM on July 30, 2010


To make sure there are cost overruns, the city plans to launch a pile of cash into the air every day for the next two years.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:14 AM on July 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


To make sure there are cost overruns, the city plans to launch a pile of cash into the air every day for the next two years.

Whoa, whoa. Not so fast. Shouldn't we put that cash in a tunnel?
posted by LURK at 12:39 AM on July 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


The audience was laughing...but it was nervous laughter. (They remember Seattle's best and brightest's friggin monorail.)
posted by maxwelton at 1:14 AM on July 30, 2010


If we can test it out with Tim Eyman I'm sold.
posted by uri at 1:17 AM on July 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


I thought Seattle already had one of these?
posted by quadog at 1:26 AM on July 30, 2010


Would be better without parachutes. Big rope nets for catching, spread all over the eastside.
posted by uni verse at 4:24 AM on July 30, 2010


I like it!

-Trinsic
posted by TrinsicWS at 4:29 AM on July 30, 2010


That's funny. But if you replace the catapault (what could go wrong with that?) with a series of clear plastic pneumatic tubes.

Board your pod, punch the icon for your destination and let onboard computers control the air-switches that direct you to *your* destination, then you just sit back and enjoy the view while you soar silently along. In case of depression, one-ways to the Aurora Bridge are free.
posted by Twang at 4:49 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, a topic on which I can make uninformed snark! We were just in Seattle for a week and I was impressed how they seem to have every type of mass transit available - trolley, light rail, bus, monorail, commuter trains. And every style of payment, too: pay-as-you-board on the inbound bus, pay as you exit on the outbound, pay at the station with a credit card for the trolley, random inspection on the light rail... Plus, in my experience on the bus, it mostly seemed payment optional anyway ("I only have 20 minutes to see my girlfriend!" was one excuse for non-payment, and transfers seem to be valid for an entire day).
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 4:50 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The pictures are very pretty.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:08 AM on July 30, 2010


The pictures remind me of that Star Trek episode where they all get sucked in to that video game and the bad guys take over the ship.

Also, launching projectiles through "private airspace" is just begging for trouble.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:15 AM on July 30, 2010


I was once offered a "test flight" on a trebuchet by a man called Dave Aitkenhead. Dave was a pretty mellow chap who was one of the first people to do a bungee jump - long before AJ Hackett commercialized it - and had a long track record doing various dangerous sports.

On his property in Somerset (UK), Dave had built a trebuchet and fitted it with a car seat from an old Volvo. It sounded fun, and it was still quite experimental. But the landing put me off - ending up 30 yards away in Dave's pond, on a cold autumn day.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Dave got his trebuchet working but pretty quickly someone died, having been catapulted but not made the safety net.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:24 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, and don't forget about that Duck Bus, or whatever it's called.
posted by sundrop at 5:24 AM on July 30, 2010


Seems like something you'd see on "iCarly", but without the spaghetti tacos.

Mmm, spaghetti tacos.
posted by briank at 5:50 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just bring back the public toilets already.
posted by jquinby at 6:18 AM on July 30, 2010


Whoa, whoa. Not so fast. Shouldn't we put that cash in a tunnel?

Either that, or remodel, destroy, and rebuild a stadium.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:23 AM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dave was a pretty mellow chap who was one of the first people to do a bungee jump
One of the first white people, maybe? Nope.

posted by kirkaracha at 6:31 AM on July 30, 2010


I would say that the main target of parody here is futurism from half a century ago. Compare the style of the drawings to here. The modernist ideas of the 50's 60's and 70's are easily mocked today, but this just makes me sad. Don't the smart kids today have any hope for the future? What is the message here? That there is no solution to urban transportation problems? I don't buy it. Give me my PRT, dammit!
posted by bitslayer at 6:34 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd love it! On my daily two-bus commute (from First Hill to Madison Valley and back again), Commutapult would mean no overly-fragranced passengers to give me migraines!
posted by Carol Anne at 6:51 AM on July 30, 2010


One of the first white people, maybe? Nope.

Yup, Dave was one of the first bungee jumpers. I'm well aware of land diving, thanks!
posted by MuffinMan at 7:35 AM on July 30, 2010


This is the town that redesigned it's monorail so it could collide. I think that picture of the happy future would probably have a couple of fireballs falling out of the sky. Still, small price to pay for progress.
posted by nomisxid at 7:44 AM on July 30, 2010


The heroin stalls? This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by uni verse at 7:50 AM on July 30, 2010


(to jquinby)
posted by uni verse at 7:51 AM on July 30, 2010


If you follow the halfbakery you're likely familiar with the catapult-transport ideas posted therein, including the near decade-old granddaddy of them all.
posted by bz at 7:59 AM on July 30, 2010


We should also make sure that the funding for this coincides with reductions in bus funding, because unless people stand outside in the rain and wind for an hour waiting for the next bus, they'll never understand why they need to switch over to a new, inconvenient, more costly transit option that doesn't go where they're trying to go.

That's a key part of ALL Seattle transit plans.
posted by yeloson at 8:11 AM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Twang: "That's funny. But if you replace the catapault (what could go wrong with that?) with a series of clear plastic pneumatic tubes.

Board your pod, punch the icon for your destination and let onboard computers control the air-switches that direct you to *your* destination, then you just sit back and enjoy the view while you soar silently along. In case of depression, one-ways to the Aurora Bridge are free.
"

HAHAHAHA suicide is hilarious.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:17 AM on July 30, 2010


Let me ask you a question....do you think about traffic? Because I do, constantly. Traffic is caused by the single car driver. Single people get in their cars every morning, they drive, and wonder why there's gridlock. If you had a giant catapult...
posted by numbskeleton at 8:28 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


HAHAHAHA suicide is hilarious.

Fuck 'em if they delay traffic.
posted by Artw at 8:45 AM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


It'll never happen.

The commutapault itself, OK, that could happen. But the last picture on the website seems to show some kind of useful-looking rail line in Seattle.

THAT will never happen.
posted by gurple at 9:38 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This stings. I sit on a stationary bus on the 520 and think about THIS VERY THING Every. Single. Day.
posted by chaff at 9:44 AM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seattle's newest transportation system.

Sure as shit beats the "system" we've got now.
posted by Relay at 10:17 AM on July 30, 2010


What we need is to pass a law that the commutapult be the only way people are allowed to commute from the Eastside to the Westside and vice versa. All roads from Seattle to Bellevue shall be destroyed. Only 'pults, and eventually, teleporters which shred your physical entity to its discrete atoms and rebuild you on the other side of the lake will be available. (Because we already know Eastsiders have no souls.)
posted by TochterAusElysium at 10:29 AM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hahahaha silly Seattlites. I moved away in January after three years of enduring the 520 to and from MS. What I didn't realize is that in those three years, everyone moved here to Austin and traffic has become ridiculous. And it's still hot. Lucky Seattlites.
posted by hanoixan at 10:50 AM on July 30, 2010


You’re going now? But it’s almost summer!
posted by Artw at 10:51 AM on July 30, 2010


That was cute for about a couple of minutes. Then the laughter made me cranky.
posted by klausman at 10:51 AM on July 30, 2010


Valve is on the Eastside. We still need it.
posted by Artw at 10:52 AM on July 30, 2010


The heroin stalls? This is why we can't have nice things.

How dare you call the public toilets heroin stalls. They were obviously multi-use. I saw plenty of hookers using them!

But the last picture on the website seems to show some kind of useful-looking rail line in Seattle.
THAT will never happen.


Not as long as people keep opposing the idea that a tunnel system under the city won't work. Which is kind of funny because there already is one that cuts right through the middle of it.
Has anyone tried out the light rail? Is it any good?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:08 AM on July 30, 2010


And don't even get me started on the stupidity with the waterfront!
posted by P.o.B. at 11:10 AM on July 30, 2010


Has anyone tried out the light rail? Is it any good?

it's pretty nice, but the stops are all in utterly weird locations. The International District stop on the existing bus tunnel takes you closer to the Stadiums than the supposed Stadium stop, and all the ones between that and SeaTac are in the middle of nowhere.
posted by Artw at 11:13 AM on July 30, 2010


The light rail is a decent way to get to the airport and back. It will become a lot more useful when they finish extending it to the U-district.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:36 AM on July 30, 2010


I've got some friends who live right by the Beacon Hill stop, which means the light rail for them is basically magic. Hopefully in the next 10-15 years that area will get aggressively upzoned. Of course, I'm sure the classic Seattle NIMBY brigade are out in force to keep that from happening.

Prospective future development aside, the Columbia City stop at least is in fact not in the middle of nowhere... it's just that it's ~two blocks away from the retail core and you can't see it from the train stop. They need to do some more branding on it — big horking signs at the station saying "no, seriously, you are in Columbia City, it's right there, two minute walk, you can't miss it" and "really, train's right over there, it's awesome, take it next time you're down here" signs to match in the retail area.

Also, though, I know that "anecdote" is not the singular form of "evidence," but each time I've taken the train in the last month (either to visit my Beacon Hill friends or to go to the airport), it's been more crowded, and I've sort of had to give up on expecting to get a seat to myself on my way back to downtown. At first I was skeptical of the routing too, but in retrospect I think they've done a surprisingly good job... the Rainier Valley is sort of off the radar for people in rich-white-north Seattle, but there are in fact people there and they do in fact need and use good transit.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:59 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I do love Sound Transit, no joke. I sometimes take the train from Edmonds, and it is a little like heaven to have free parking at the station, wi fi on the train, a beautiful view of the Sound all the way, and an internal feeling of eco-friendly virtuousness.

Also, I used to fantasize about a different take on this idea when I was a kid living in the Boston area walking to and from school with frozen toes -- I used to wish for a nice, warm, floating bubble with a comfy seat inside, that would float me to and from.
posted by bearwife at 1:15 PM on July 30, 2010


Those two blocks from the Columbia City stop to the retail are extra long blocks as well, but yeah, some aggressive signing might alleviate the impression that it;s in the middle of nowhere.

The two stops south of the I-District stop are basically unsaveable though.
posted by Artw at 1:36 PM on July 30, 2010


The Stadium stop makes sense for people going to baseball games, I think, though definitely anyone using it for the football stadium is making a mistake / being lied to by the station signage. They should have given that stop a different name — "Edgar Martinez Middle of Nowhere Station" or something. The SODO station is definitely ??? though. I've never seen anyone but fare inspectors use it. The industrial businesses down there are too spread out for people to use it for their commutes, I think, and I'm pretty sure it's not that efficient to use it to catch buses on the SODO busway. I've read that it will be the transfer point if we ever build a West Seattle line, for whatever that's worth.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:53 PM on July 30, 2010


Is there actually a way to the baseball stadium on foot without crossing some horrendous traffic and a parking lot full of buses?
posted by Artw at 2:05 PM on July 30, 2010


Sigh. This thing will never get built. I've voted for the Commutapult FOUR times in the last decade, and every time there's some stupid fiasco with the city council or with federal funding or with basic physics as it relates to the human body's capacity to withstand sudden acceleration. Why can't we just get building, already? Portland built one in like six months, and with only a fraction of the NIMBY whining about property values near the launch sites.

I even supported the deep-orbit variant, but ever since The Stranger ran a piece about probable cost overruns that being white-washed by the city council, I've had my doubts about that too. It seems that the city will be on the hook for extra costs, and we won't be able to get the state to pay for a dime.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:48 PM on July 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


the Rainier Valley is sort of off the radar for people in rich-white-north Seattle, but there are in fact people there and they do in fact need and use good transit

That's weird, because it seems to me like south Seattle does get better transit options, probably because of its proximity to Southgate and Seatac. I'd love to see light rail or subway to Queen Anne, Magnolia, Fremont, etc. and get smoke-belching buses off the road.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:23 PM on July 30, 2010


They need to do some more branding on it

I've heard in Japan the train station stop's names are bought by a business that resides there.

Is there actually a way to the baseball stadium on foot without crossing some horrendous traffic and a parking lot full of buses?

No, not really. But it depends on where you park. There is a lot of free parking up in Chinatown and I've found it's fairly easy to get there from the I.D.. If you walk through Paul Allen's building to the tunnel over the trains, and than throught the Seahawks stadium lot. You end up crossing busy traffic twice, but in the least intrusive way.

The Stranger ran a piece about probable cost overruns that being white-washed by the city council,

The Stranger has had some kind of weird hard-on for the monorail for years and has continously crapped all over the light rail for years. Than the light rail finally opened up and I've heard nothing but good things about it.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:55 PM on July 30, 2010


The number 7 catapult will be stinky and full of bums.
posted by Artw at 3:56 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but on the 358 the bums will not only pee on you but get mad at you for not inviting him Abraham Lincoln's B-day bash on Saturn. That will either be before or after you watch an assault by one of the many gang-bangers that hang out on that pod.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:06 PM on July 30, 2010


Then the light rail finally opened up and I've heard nothing but good things about it.

...except that it terminates in SeaTac's parking garage, necessitating a five minute walk (the horror!) to the airport itself. The Commutapult solves this problem nicely by launching you directly into your seat shortly after takeoff.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:25 PM on July 30, 2010


That's weird, because it seems to me like south Seattle does get better transit options, probably because of its proximity to Southgate and Seatac.

If you've waited 45 minutes for a bus that should have been there in 20 minutes, and then a ride that should have taken 15 minutes takes another 45 minutes, well, then you'd know the Southend has never really had good transit options. Having the light rail blast out a whole line means unless you live near one of the stops, you could easily be walking an extra mile to get home after that as well.
posted by yeloson at 4:48 PM on July 30, 2010


The other true sign of a Seattle transportation system is that going east to west should be an order of magnitude more difficult than north to south. I'm not seeing much provision for that in this plan.
posted by Artw at 5:11 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uh oh, here's a topic dear to my heart...

"it's pretty nice, but the stops are all in utterly weird locations. The International District stop on the existing bus tunnel takes you closer to the Stadiums than the supposed Stadium stop, and all the ones between that and SeaTac are in the middle of nowhere."

Only if you live in the north end. Those of us who actually live in SE Seattle find the stops quite useful. Now, North Link will go to the middle of nowhere, won't it? Roosevelt? (Roosevelt is as nowhere to SE Seattleites as Columbia City probably is to the North Enders.)

"I've got some friends who live right by the Beacon Hill stop, which means the light rail for them is basically magic. Hopefully in the next 10-15 years that area will get aggressively upzoned. Of course, I'm sure the classic Seattle NIMBY brigade are out in force to keep that from happening."

That's where we live. Yes, it is magic if you live in the right area. It has transformed my life, seriously. I walk much more than I used to and shop in places that are train-accessible instead of car-accessible. I used to drive to work and now I don't. I could have taken the bus before, true. But buses get caught in traffic and are slow. The train doesn't get stuck in traffic. I drove to work during a time of day when I often had to deal with Mariners game traffic. Now I never even have to think about it anymore. It's great. I've visited places like the Pike Place Market more in the last year than I had in the last decade or two, probably -- because I can now get there quickly and easily via Link.

There has, unfortunately, been at least some NIMBY activity up here, but those who do it would probably be offended by the term. In general Beaconians seem to be supportive of upzoning around the station but there are always some people who are not. There is also the idea that some folks had, to turn the area immediately around the station into a park instead of putting in some retail/housing, which is getting some mixed reactions.

"Also, though, I know that 'anecdote' is not the singular form of 'evidence,' but each time I've taken the train in the last month (either to visit my Beacon Hill friends or to go to the airport), it's been more crowded, and I've sort of had to give up on expecting to get a seat to myself on my way back to downtown. At first I was skeptical of the routing too, but in retrospect I think they've done a surprisingly good job... the Rainier Valley is sort of off the radar for people in rich-white-north Seattle, but there are in fact people there and they do in fact need and use good transit."

YES. North End folks tend to not only forget that SE Seattle exists, but they are the ones who tend to go around complaining that the route "doesn't go anywhere" and should have just gone straight to the airport. I find this a little offensive, frankly. Thousands and thousands of Seattleites live in SE Seattle and deserve good infrastructure -- particularly since much of that part of the city was neglected and redlined for a long time.

I have noticed the increased ridership myself. Every month there seems to be more riders on the train, even in off-hours.

"The two stops south of the I-District stop are basically unsaveable though."

Stadium: useful for Mariners game attendees.

SODO: there are a lot of workplaces in the Sodo area, you know. Truthfully, it's a lower traffic station, but there are a lot of bike lockers at SODO station, and can be useful for people to get to and from workplaces in the Sodo industrial district. Keep a bike in the locker and you can get from the train all over SODO easily. However, that area sucks hard for pedestrians. I walk from SODO station to Home Depot sometimes (try carrying lengths of molding along Lander to the train station if you want some weird looks -- apparently only people with cars are expected to buy things at HD, which is obvious when you notice the most obvious pedestrian route to the building is fenced off and you have to walk there via the driveway), and it feels very strange -- like you are an alien in the land of automobiles.

"Is there actually a way to the baseball stadium on foot without crossing some horrendous traffic and a parking lot full of buses?"

Uh, west from Stadium station on Royal Brougham? I suppose you might be thinking of 4th Ave as horrendous traffic, but it's not that bad to cross, and you pass the Metro base on the way. Now, the problem is that when they reconfigured Royal Brougham they put in this weird backtracking overpass pedestrian route to get over the railroad tracks. But, still, it's not that long.

"That's weird, because it seems to me like south Seattle does get better transit options, probably because of its proximity to Southgate and Seatac."

Southgate? You mean Southcenter, right? I don't think of "proximity to Southcenter" as being a major part of our transportation here, but maybe I'm too far north in South Seattle.

Basically if you live on North Beacon Hill you are 10 miles from Northgate and 10 miles from Southcenter. Neither mall is close, but the downtown bottleneck is between you and Northgate, so Southcenter is a better option. The train doesn't go there, though, so to heck with 'em... I shop downtown now whenever possible.
posted by litlnemo at 6:58 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love the transport in Seattle but having grown up in LA my standards are probably low, and I don't leave the Queen Anne/Belltown/Denny Triangle/Downtown/Capitol Hill core very often.

I actually do miss BART. That system is incredible for how far and how fast it'll get you around. Seattle + a BART-like system would be a major win.
posted by loquacious at 9:16 PM on July 30, 2010


The other true sign of a Seattle transportation system is that going east to west should be an order of magnitude more difficult than north to south.

Part of that is regional geography. The elevation difference from east to west is much greater than north and south — once you get out of the north-south axis you're climbing up a hill or traveling over water. It's harder and more expensive to move mass transit up and down hills and over congested bridges.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:05 PM on July 30, 2010


Yeah, there's a lot of cases where being a city planner in Seattle seems dead simple, since in those cases the only thing you really have to do is look at what San Francisco does and then slavishly copy it. Though ideally Seattle would tear down its misguided waterfront freeway before an earthquake takes it out.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:52 PM on July 30, 2010


I live in Rainier Valley, right off of MLK. I love Rainier Valley - and it's mostly because of the new train.

As someone who doesn't drive due to medical reasons, being by the Columbia City stop has been a lifesaver. I need to go shopping? I take the train to either the ID, where there's Uwajimaya, or to Othello or Mount Baker, and go to either the Safeway or to that huge QFC. And as for the oft-maligned SODO stop, it actually is used quite often. People do indeed sync up with the busway buses there, and go to places like Lakewood, Tacoma, Georgetown (I do this often on the 106), etc. Getting to work at MS was also made easier; I'd just take it to the ID station, and transfer to the 545 bus right at the beginning of the route, thus guaranteeing a prime bus seat.

Occasionally, friends and acquaintances will poo-poo Rainier valley - it's too 'unsafe', it's too 'ghetto', too many 'poor people', etc. Litlnemo is right - to the vast majority of Seattlites, the city ends at I-90. Then I point out that 'we have the train', and I see their eyes wilt. We may have a bad rap - but we also have fast, safe, functional public transportation. Something the rest of the city won't get for a decade or so. And they know it.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:01 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Mariners game attendees"? I don't know what the heck I typed that for. But you know what I meant.
posted by litlnemo at 12:24 AM on July 31, 2010


Disregard that. Attendees is the right word, and I managed to confuse myself by rereading my post while watching a movie at the same time.
posted by litlnemo at 5:28 AM on July 31, 2010


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