Posted by & filed under The View From Nathan's Bus.

Sep23#33

 

“Don’t get on!” says the other driver to the passengers. She’s brought me her bus at the end of her shift, for me to take over instead of continuing with my own broken bus. A coach change, as it’s called. “Should I let ‘em on?” she asks me, as I get my things from the broken bus and prepare to board the new one.
“Oh, sure.”
“Okay, you can get on!” she hollers, leaving with the defective coach shortly thereafter. I saunter onto the new coach with the last few straggling passengers. The interior lights are turned off, and it’s dark tonight. Everything’s pitch black, save for the subdued orange glow from the sodium vapor lamps outside.

“What d’you think,” I say to the crowd inside, “should we have the lights on or lights off?”
“Off!”
“You want ‘em off?”
“Yeah!”
“Say you want ‘em off?”
“Yeah!”
“Good! Me too!” I say as we get in gear, driving the 7 into downtown in ‘stealth mode.’ “May as well make it interesting.”

“I like it like dis,” says an older gentleman up front, dressed in a sports jacket and shades. I’ve never not seen him wearing shades. “Yeah, man. It makes everything kinda sexy!” He drawls out the last two words for maximum effect, to agreeable giggles all around. Kiiiinda seeexehh.

“You should do radio,” I tell him. “You got the voice!” He and others nearby continue chatting, brought together by the anomalous situation of Stealth Mode. The people seem unusually excited by my willingness to bend the rules– not a big surprise, I suppose, but this isn’t the same as letting people ride free or get transfers. The thrill has a different root.

 

They’re not benefitting in any way.


Tonight there is simply the innocent excitement of doing things a little differently, of getting to be here for this moment, unlikely to be repeated. Those parts of life you tell your friends about, and you can tell it doesn’t quite translate; maybe the ephemeral joy was too small, too precious, not quantifiable enough to be a story. But you were there, and it was kind of wonderful. The street woman in the chat seat thanking me now for being “awesome” is referring, I think, to the sense of equality she feels, the easy willingness of me to engage the crowd as a friend, not an authority figure. It’s not really the lights. It’s her and I joking around, the latent respect, unspoken but real, friends leaning back on the front porch chairs. Do you ever get that sensation of the yearning for belonging satisfied, an acceptance that sends tingles down your spine?

Passengers get on as we continue through town as a 49. Some are nonplussed. Others get revitalized, echoes of playground excitement on their faces. The hipsters try not to act surprised; others actually don’t seem to notice, which makes me smile even wider. The street folk are delighted– lights off plays a little better to the 7 crowd than the 49 crowd, but we’re all into it. I make an informational announcement in any event, just to let these new people know that I’m actually sane.

“Just want to let you know we’ve got the lights off tonight,” I say, trying to figure out on the fly how I’m going to explain this. “When we were on the 7 part of the route some of us thought it would be, uh, ‘kind of cool,’ to turn off the lights… of course let me know if you want the lights on again, I’m happy to turn the lights on… welcome aboard the 49, everyone….”

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Posted by & filed under Cycling, Plans and Policy, Transportation.

Pic 1

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) expects to repave arterial streets every ten to twelve years, and each cycle presents an opportunity to comply with the City’s Complete Streets ordinance and improve mobility for all users. One such project is due to be completed next summer in northeast Seattle. The repaving of Roosevelt Way between NE 65th Street and NE 40th Street will include the replacement of a parking lane with a protected bike lane in the area south of NE 45th Street. In an unprecedented move, a temporary version of the protected bike lane will be constructed within the next two months before the full repaving next year. This may hint at the growing influence of active residents and a change in the City’s responsiveness to safety concerns.

Roosevelt Way is a one-way southbound street with two drive lanes, two Project Mapparking lanes, and a painted bike lane. The street carries bus routes and the speed limit is 30 mph. Roosevelt is one of the most dangerous streets for cyclists in the entire city; between 2007 and 2014, the street has seen at least 63 bike-car collisions. But Roosevelt Way is popular with bicyclists because it is the fastest and most direct route to Downtown via the University Bridge, which is one of only two Ship Canal crossings in the area.

University Greenways, a neighborhood group that advocates on bike and walking safety, examined the 30 percent design drawings (PDF) last month. (Disclosure: I am a volunteer with the group.) At that point, the project did not include a protected bike lane at all, despite the City’s Bicycle Master Plan designating the route for a buffered facility. The group also conducted a walking audit of the project area. In a letter to SDOT (PDF) and a guest post on Seattle Bike Blog, they highlighted a laundry list of problems that the City should focus on, and some of those are being addressed. Many new curb ramps and sidewalk bulbouts will be built at intersections to comply with ADA guidelines and to reduce crossing distances.

In a surprising response, the 60 percent design drawings (PDF) released this month shows SDOT will remove the right-side parking lane south of NE 45th Street (where the most bike-car collisions have been) and replace it with a 7-foot bike lane and 5-foot buffer with plastic, reflective bollards. Similar to the rapid construction of Downtown’s 2nd Avenue cycle track in September, SDOT is going above and beyond by creating this lane almost immediately instead of waiting until the full repaving next year. This is a great victory for bicyclists both in the neighborhood and citywide, and illustrates how grassroots efforts can influence the outcome of multi-million dollar projects. Other neighborhood groups should be encouraged to speak out for bike and walking infrastructure so that people of all ages and abilities can move about safely and efficiently.

Existing Cross Section

More still needs to be done, though. The protected bike lane conflicts with a loading area for a busy medical clinic and ends at a critical junction before the University Bridge where cars and buses merge. Roosevelt’s sister street, the northbound 11th/12th Avenue, has the same configuration and is also planned to have a protected bike lane, but it is not being repaved at this time. Funding for full sidewalk repairs has not been secured for the Roosevelt project area. Money is also being sought for additional bulbouts at bus stops, which allow buses to stop in-lane and waste no time by pulling back into traffic. At an open house last Tuesday, one staff member expressed confidence that the money can be found in time. The project is currently being funded by the 2006 Bridging the Gap levy and federal money.

Roosevelt’s protected bike lane should also be extended northward as far as possible, or at least to NE 65th Street. Participants at the meeting had understandable concerns about the loss of parallel parking and loading zones for businesses and apartment buildings. This is a common issue that is brought up with any removal of parking anywhere, of course, but there is a possible compromise. Many of Seattle’s multi-lane arterial streets allow parking in the curb lane, except during peak hours of 7-9 AM and/or 4-6 PM. During those hours the parking lane becomes a drive lane. This system could be applied to Roosevelt, so the right-side drive lane would become a parking lane or loading zone during off-peak hours.

Pic 2

SDOT will have the chance to test this idea next summer when the repaving process will necessitate the closure of one drive lane during off-peak hours. Myself and others at the meeting urged staffers to do traffic counts to test the feasibility of this idea, and they were receptive. The street only carries about 11,000 vehicles per day, which is well within the threshold for a road diet (PDF).

The City shouldn’t need to be pushed to comply with its own plans, but oftentimes it’s necessary. Persistent, polite, and knowledgeable input from local residents and businesses is needed to ensure Seattle’s streets transform into the multi-modal network everyone needs.

Scott Bonjukian is a graduate student at the University of Washington’s Department of Urban Design and Planning. He writes about local and regional planning issues at his personal blog, The Northwest Urbanist.

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Posted by & filed under What We're Reading.

Watch out travel junkies: Venice is out to fine those two-wheeled bags from tourists because area residents are tired of hearing the rattling noise from them. But at least Norway is giving out some sweet passports to their citizens.

Delivering safety: Smaller delivery vans could go a long way to making streets safer in cities. NACTO has a new street manual in mind just for these miniature Eurovans.

Urban sports: Downtown stadiums could be what saved Major League Soccer from folding in the 2000s. Seattle Sounders get a feature! And, yeah, this year had record attendance across the league. Guess who’s number one?

Seeding green: Capitol Hill could see its first recreational marijuana retailer in February.

Brewing change: The former Olympia Brewery site is getting picked up for redevelopment that will include a mix of uses, brewery, distillery, brewpub, and more.

Bike superhighways: Developing a plan to implement bicycle superhighways across Copenhagen took more than just the effort of the central city, it took the commitment of the surrounding communities to make it a reality.

Keep the sidewalks open: A very compelling case for always making sure that pedestrians don’t get the shaft during construction.

Map of the week: Poop! Yep, really, poop. Thank you, San Francisco and your lack of hygiene.

Drop some $$$: Sound Transit is ready to get the numbers out there for the capital expansion projects for Sound Transit. It isn’t inexpensive, but it’s totally worth it; The News Tribune of Tacoma argues for more rail all across the region.

Utrecht modern: A modern rowhouse with dormers fits perfectly into a block of Utrecht, Netherlands.

Party crashers: It was the Verrazano Bridge’s 50th birthday this week, but the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority got photobombed and protested at the bridge’s party. Why? The bridge connecting Staten Island and Queens doesn’t have a path for cyclists and pedestrians.

A step backward for the BGT: UW Transportation had a very short-lived solution to the intersection of Pend Oreille Road and the Burke-Gilman Trail; it looks like the intersection will revert back to its previous layout.

Public health fees: Temporary food stands are looking to see a big increase in permit fees from Seattle and King County Public Health, which could put a squeeze on vendors.

Catch the carbon: A look at all of the carbon pricing programs across the globe, and the coolest of animated maps showing them.

Park revitalization: How creating green waterfront parks helped lift Pittsburgh to renewed success.

36 hours: A video about how to spend 36 hours in Seattle.

Failed privatizationStreetsblog takes a look at how private tolling companies are fleecing taxpayers and financial institutions and using bad projections to do it in a three-part series.

So iconic: Even a six-year-old can map the London Underground pretty accurately.

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Posted by & filed under Cycling, Transportation.

4769824486_14dfa1fed7_z

Attributed to Via Tsuji

If you haven’t had the chance you should read this great article explaining why smart people say dumb things when talking about bikes. It is an interesting analysis, trying to pin down the reasons people people react so negatively to cyclists but it doesn’t address the range of recurring comments. Most of these comments have been thoroughly debunked and appear dead but seem to come back to life every now and then. These are zombie arguments.

This article is meant to be a resource for killing those zombies arguments.

1. Cyclists receive special treatment

city chooses to acccomodate one group (bicyclists)

This claim often rises from the dead when there’s a street design change to accommodate cyclists.

Building bicycle infrastructure isn’t special treatment. All modes have unique infrastructure, including cycling. The amount of infrastructure for cyclists pales in comparison to other modes. This estimate puts the number of  separated, green lanes for cyclists at about 288 miles nationwide. Compare this to the 3,952 lane miles in Seattle that were designed and built to prioritize the safety of motorists. The only treatment that cycling receives which is different is vastly less infrastructure.

But all of that is beside the point. There are many paths, side streets and greenways not built for cyclists but that can be used comfortably. More importantly, suggesting that modes are in competition misunderstands the nature of streets, to allow everyone to travel where they are going efficiently and safely. Street design should allow modes to complement each other and this is the case with bike infrastructure. Bike lanes reduce collisions which isn’t just good for bikers, it’s good for drivers, who may be found culpable in accidents, and pedestrians, who are less likely to be hit. In addition to safety, bike infrastructure encourages more cycling, reducing congestion by reducing the number of cars on the road. In fact, the best evidence shows that bike lanes don’t increase travel times but do improve safety.

2. Changes to accommodate bikes are being driven by powerful, shady interests.

This zombie argument screams paranoia and usually infects naysayers when new bike infrastructure is proposed.

Of course, like nearly every other political group in the city, cyclists have tried to exert political power through organizing. Nearly all of this success springs from the fact that most people support safer bicycle infrastructure. Polling indicates nearly 78% of Seattlite voters have favorable feelings towards cyclists and 45% ride their bikes at least a few times a month. If someone is looking for the special interest group supporting cyclists in the city, the best place to start might be their neighbor.

3. Cyclists don’t pay for their fair share

cyclists don t pay fair share-edited

This argument ambles back from the dead to eat lanes built for bikes.

Most people don’t realize where the money comes from that builds our roads and other transportation infrastructure, assuming gas taxes and car tabs pay for all of it. This is false. Car tabs and gas taxes only begin to cover a small percentage of costs related to car infrastructure. A lot of the money comes from general funds, unsustainable debt or is passed on to others as externalities. In Washington, only about 33% of total road spending is paid for with gas taxes and user fees. For example, in 2009 gas tax revenue only accounted for 4% of SDOT’s budget. There are a lot more resources illustrating this basic point.

This line of thinking again misunderstands how our transportation network actually functions. All forms of transportation are subsidized and most people use multiple modes. This of course means that a lot of cyclists drive cars and pay their car-tabs as well as gas taxes. Regardless, roads are public. Even if someone paid no taxes at all, they would still have a right to use the road and society would have a moral duty to ensure the road is safe.

4. Cyclists are scofflaws

scofflaw-cyclists

This zombie argument stumbles after memories of perceived slights.

As can be seen in the comment above, many complaints about cyclists breaking the law are instances in which the cyclists is behaving legally, like riding on the sidewalk. But do cyclists break the law more than the general population?

Of course not. Unsurprisingly, the data indicates that 94% of cyclists wait at read lights. It should also seem obvious that drivers break the law all the time. This research indicates that 79% of people think it is safe to speed.

The truth is cyclists don’t have some character flaw that makes them more disrespectful of the law. Like motorists who speed or pedestrians who jay-walk, they also occasionally break the law. Most importantly, because some individuals break the law doesn’t mean that all cyclists are less deserving of safety while using the road.

5. Cyclists are dangerous

cyclists-are-dangerous

This zombie argument tries to force defensiveness. I usually takes the form of here’s an example of “someone killed by a cyclist.”

We shouldn’t minimize deaths caused by cyclists or suggest that cars are evil but we should focus on real dangers. A study over a four year period in the UK showed 98% of fatalities in urban areas were cause by vehicles. There were only 9 pedestrian fatalities from bicycles compared to 1,361 from cars.  If we are actually worried about safety, it makes sense to focus on what actually makes our roads unsafe. Cycling is responsible for a tiny amount of injuries in comparison to driving. Over a five year span in New York, there were 3 pedestrian deaths caused by cyclists, compared to 766 by motor vehicles. Driving a car requires a magnitude of responsibility greater than riding a bicycle. This is why there are age limits to get a driver’s license but most people learn to ride a bike as a child.  Time spent ticketing cyclists for not wearing helmets is time taken away from enforcing speed limits or other laws that are meant to prevent the 30,000+ deaths and 3+ million  injuries every year connected to motor vehicles. The fact that there are examples of deaths cause by cyclists is not a good argument against bike infrastructure or to increase enforcement of bike laws.

 

 

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Posted by & filed under Civics and Culture, The View From Nathan's Bus.

Picture 3

 

I still wonder if it had gone differently had I been a little more present when they got on. These two men were the last two to rush aboard at Fourth and Pike, just in time now, right as the light turned green.

The first man was a squat and burly older figure with an ex-football frame, that familiar silhouette of muscular shapes gone plump. Shorts and a torn T-shirt, fifties, white. He asked if I go to Broadway. Yes, I answered distractedly, checking around to see if it was still possible to take the light. Just behind him the second man boarded, a tall, thin fellow in his sixties, dressed in a neutral beige jacket, khakis and walking shoes that curiously didn’t identify any class  or status affiliation. He may have been homeless or a millionaire, European or American. He nodded as I said, “glad you made it.” I closed the doors and said into the mic, “okay, we’re gonna take this light here, hang on,” smoothly accelerating away with six seconds left. Plenty of time.

We continued up Pike without incident. Ex-football man sat up front watching the proceedings, grunting with satisfaction as I dove into the bus lane to skirt traffic. I thought about engaging him but didn’t, enjoying a moment of quiet time. Maybe I should have. Beige fellow was seated next to him, but they didn’t speak with each other and were clearly strangers.

At Bellevue and Pine, we rolled to a gentle stop for the red light. Football stood and came up to me, saying, “hey, can I get out right here? I kinda wanta go to that store, what is it, Benson’s, back there on the corner.”
“You know, I’ve actually gotten in trouble for doin’ that, so I gotta say no, but there’s a stop around the corner.”
“But I wanna go to the store.”
“Yeah, there’s a stop just up the block here. Didn’t you say you wanted to go to Broadway?”
“I know. I wanna go right back there.”
The light is staying red, and staying red, and staying red. “I can let you out around the corner here, we got a stop just up the block.”
“You can’t let me off right here?”
“We’re almost there.”
“How about if I go out the emergency window?” He points at the first door side window that has a red emergency lever, which happens to be directly behind those first side-facing seats, where the neutral beige man is sitting.
“You can do that,” I say, not expecting him to.

He stalks his squat frame over to the window and pulls down the red lever, pushing out the window, preparing to stick his leg through, but– there’s one small problem. The beige guy is in the way, sitting right in front of him. He’s been sitting there, oblivious to the above conversation, and now he’s confused: there’s a burly guy with a handlebar mustache standing right in front of his face, doing–what? Sticking his leg over my shoulder–

“What? What the fuck are you DOING?!” he screams.
“Outta my way,” mutters Football.
“STAY THE FUCK OFFA ME!” Neutral Beige lifts his legs to his chest and shoves them with all his might into Football’s stomach. Football is propulsively thrown backwards, crash-landing into the wheelwell right behind me. A girl sitting in the midst of all this stands up, disentangling herself, and walks to the back. I imagine she’s thinking, since when did fights happen at the front of the bus?

The burly man lunges forward–“STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME,” from the the Beige guy, hollering at top volume–lunges forward and grabs the old man’s legs and yanks backward, almost appearing to be trying to pull his legs apart from his body. Now the old man’s waist and legs are on the floor with his top half following quickly behind. He is on the floor but not completely, his neck still pinned on the seat bottom, and Mr. Football is collapsing on top of him, going at it with his fist. A right into the man’s face or left shoulder, hard to tell, somebody’s knee hitting the floor. Neutral Beige flounders with his arms, blocking, rotating rather ably out from underneath, shouting in stammers. “Get the, fuck off…fucking asshole….” We’re moving into the language of grunts.

All this has been less than ten seconds. That red light is still red. I open the front door, saying loudly, “guys, guys, guys, okay,” and Football stands, extricating himself from this mysteriously capable older fellow and running into things on his way out the door, howling in tongues, throwing scraps of paper at me, trying to get back inside but I’m closing the doors, yes just in time, thank you, and the light is mercifully now turning green. I roll slowly away. He’s out there still, like a fairy-tale monster who just won’t go away, still chasing after us, smashing his fist into the front side window, shattering it into a thousand spiderwebs. So much energy. Where does it come from? Why do fights always happen over the most picayune matters?

Eventually, of course, he’s gone. Neutral Beige is gathering himself, talking to the others around him. I ask, “how ya feelin’? Can I call the police for ya, if you want to make a statement…?”
“Nah, it’s up to you.”
“You sure?”
“Oh yeah, I’m fine.”

I looked at him. He was sitting there, much like before the incident, but there was something new in this scene. His being was completely energized. He exhaled with a relief that couldn’t fully hide his excitement.
“You feel alright?”
“Oh, yeah, it’s nothing.”

Actually, he felt great.

You could smell it. Exhilaration was coursing through his veins, and he was no longer old or young or tall or whatever; he was the original version of himself, the invincible youth we all remember being, and his quality had just been proven to himself in no uncertain terms. Wouldn’t you feel great? The worst thing you could imagine, the worst-possible scenario had taken place on his bus ride home. He was attacked by a younger, bigger, stronger man without provocation, and he had held his own with no assistance. I’ve still got it, you think to yourself, and everything is in its right place. It’s not something you discuss with others. He just sat there, trying not to smile.

“I hope you have a great rest of the evening,” I told him when he got off.
“Oh, I will,” he said, allowing himself a small grin, the vitality beaming through. I think he was the happiest person on the bus.

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Posted by & filed under Plans and Policy, Transit, Transportation.

Tacoma Trestle

Sounder on the Tacoma Trestle. Chris City/Flickr

The Tacoma Trestle is a 0.65-mile long trestle in Tacoma that stretches east from Freighthouse Square (the Tacoma Dome Sounder station) to the BNSF mainline next to the Puyallup River. The trestle is wooden and over 100 years old. It dates back from when the Milwaukee Road stretched across the country from Chicago to Seattle. The trestle is currently being used daily by Sounder trains and is a key part of the Point Defiance Bypass.

The Point Defiance Bypass is an upgrade to an existing rail line that stretches from Tacoma Dome to DuPont running along the I-5 corridor. Currently, Amtrak Cascades trains have to use the Point Defiance Tunnel, which is single-tracked and runs through slow curves on BNSF’s mainline along the edge of the Puget Sound. The Point Defiance Bypass will give Amtrak trains a faster way to get between Tacoma and Lacey while also becoming much more reliable. When completed, trains will save up to 9 minutes per trip compared to today’s route.

Tacoma Trestle Bridging

The Tacoma Trestle is a choke-point on the Point Defiance Bypass. The trestle is single-tracked, unlike the rest of the bypass, which will be double-tracked. Being made of wood, the trestle is highly vulnerable to earthquakes and can’t support as much weight as modern bridges.

A replacement of the trestle was approved in 2008 as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure (ST2), and a $10 million TIGER grant issued last year has helped move construction forward by 5 years. The concrete trestle will be supported by two round columns side by side. Art is being considered including lighting, concrete forms on the retaining walls, or steel cut panels to make the new structure more visually interesting than just standard concrete bridging.

Tacoma Trestle Platform

The new trestle will be double-tracked to support more Sounder and Amtrak service and will feature a crossover between the two tracks as well as an expanded platform at Freighthouse Square in order to accommodate Amtrak trains. Minor street repairs and upgraded railroad signals are also part of the project. The completion date for the project will be late 2017.

If you’re interested in providing comments on the Tacoma Trestle project, be sure to take Sound Transit’s survey.

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Posted by & filed under Events.

Rosengard - Renewable Energy

Tonight we’re hosting a special presentation on Sustainable Rosengård. Paul Byron Crane, a local landscape architect with the City of Everett, will lead a conversation on Rosengård. We’ll learn how this Malmö, Sweden neighborhood has gone from a largely ignored and disengage place to an active and forward-thinking district. You’ll can us at GGLO (a local architecture firm) located in Downtown Seattle from 6pm to 8.30pm. We’ll have food and drinks on hand. The presentation begins around 6.30pm with a mix of video and PowerPoint. Q&A will follow the presentation with time to chat with other guests.

Here’s a brief summary of the presentation:

Rosengård, Malmö, Sweden successfully moved from a period of riots, due to a disenfranchised immigrant population to actively empowering and engaging young women in participatory place making. Thirteen young political refugee teenager women from Iraq and Afghanistan organized and led design workshops, community events working with Rosengård residents and the City of Malmö Environmental and Parks Departments.

Learning how to accomplish physical change to support positive sustainable development, the spaces between existing buildings shaped their proposed projects; a playground, enhanced town center, and community gardens. These projects in this presentation have been recently built by the City of Malmö adding to Rosengård’s social capital.

Through dialogue and community organizing of 6,400 participants, 136 workshops, events comprised of over 60 % of political refugee women. Their informed holistic decision-making, through an empowered strong local process, together with deliverables of strategic physical improvements started the process of building a sustainable Rosengård. The “pink” large play area and the enhanced town centers “social square” was completed in September of 2013. With the leadership and collaborative genius of these young girls Rosengård has now become the new Eco district in Malmö, Sweden.

We hope to see you tonight!

Sustainable Rosengård
Tuesday, 18 November
6pm to 8.30pm
GGLO at the Harbor Steps
1301 1st Ave #301Seattle, WA 98101
Free

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Posted by & filed under Transportation.

This comic has been making the rounds across the internet recently, and sparks a really interesting discussion about how we use our streets and spaces for people. There are two messages that this comic sends:

  1. We have handed over a lot of space to cars; and
  2. Streets might as well be impassible valleys for pedestrians.

But just how should our streets be organized? Is it reasonable to say that streets ought to be oriented around cars only at the explicit cost of others like pedestrians? Or should we be creating streets that give equitable consideration to all modes?

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