Wednesday, 20 November, 2019

The new bus in town…


hi!On Friday, November 7th, King County Metro opened up for public viewing the prototype of the forthcoming King County Metro 40′ Electric Trolley Buses (ETBs).

Manufactured by New Flyer, the new Xcelsior™ XT40 (and XT60) feature many design similarities with the existing fleet of RapidRide buses and the new 35′ and 40′ hybrid buses that Metro is currently bringing into service (all of which are produced by New Flyer).

This bus is part of a $164 million contract that was negotiated with New Flyer for 141 new 40′ and 60′ ETBs to replace the entire existing fleet of 155 ETBs. $138 million, or about 75% of the cost, is being provided by Federal grants and clean energy subsidies. Furthermore, the overall cost has been further reduced due to San Francisco combining their order with ours. The average cost for these new buses are $900,000 for a 40′ ETB and $1,200,000 for a 60′ ETB. In comparison, the equivalent hybrid buses are approximately $650,000 and $1,000,000 each. The order for the new fleet was determined when it seemed that service cuts were unavoidable. Thanks to the recent Seattle transit initiative passing, however, the additional service requirements may require the purchase of additional vehicles to support the expanded service within the city of Seattle.

The new ETBs feature many improvements over our existing fleet. They use 20-30% less energy to operate, and thanks to regenerative braking, they will actually provide power to the system when braking. Much to the relief of passengers, these buses are 70% low-floor (like our existing fleet) and for the first time will have air conditioning. The seats on these new buses are two-toned (yellow and gray) versions of the existing RapidRide style seats.

Single seats by the rear passenger door Rear Seating, looking forward Rear section steps Port-side Wheelchair position

The 40′ ETBs feature a number of changes from both the existing fleet of ETBs as well as their related 35′ and 40′ hybrid fleets. Additional space has been created near the rear door by removing twi seats on the left-side of the bus. This creates, in effect, two single-seat rows. Furthermore, the seat layout in the rear, raised passenger section has been redesigned as well. There is now only one seat on each side over the rear wheel well facing the center aisle. In addition, there is an extra forward-facing row of seats directly in front of the rear seat row. There are actually more seats now in the rear section of the bus than the front.

The steps from the rear door up to the raised rear-section of the bus have also been changed from our existing low-floor buses to a more European style featuring angled steps.

There are two wheelchair positions in the front of the bus featuring new restraint systems that can be used by the public without assistance if they so choose (with some training). Directly behind the driver’s cab, there will be a space without a seat. This is to provide access to the electrical cabinet located there and is unavoidable.

The bus features LED lighting inside the passenger compartment, and the bus features LED low-beam headlights. There are at least three internal cameras and five external cameras that feed into the Bus Data Recorder in case of accidents or incidents.

Unlike our current fleet, these new buses have the ability to travel up to 10 miles off of the overhead electrical wires. This is possible due to the use of Li-ion (Lithium Ion) batteries. The operator is able to retract the trolley poles at the push of a button to go around obstacles as well as make any impromptu reroutes when needed. In addition, the trolley poles are designed to automatically retract and stow themselves in cases where the bus dewires. This will hopefully help further minimize delays.

The “Next Stop” display signs are being combined with the “Stop Requested” light on these buses. When a stop has been requested by a passenger, the display will alternate between the Next Stop information and “Stop Requested.”

Currently, Metro has received two prototype 40′ ETBs. They are being used right now to fine tune their operation on our terrain as well as making sure all the systems and features work as expected. Provided that there are no issues, we can expect to see these buses enter service sometime around August of 2015.

Though still in the prototype/refinement stage, the changes to interior layout and systems should lead to much improved ETB bus service in Seattle in the coming years. The interior feels much less constrained and confined than the current fleet of 40′ Trolley Buses and much less cavernous than the current 40′ Orion Hybrid buses.

Currently, Seattle’s 14 ETB routes carry 20% of King County Metro’s riders to some of the city’s busiest destinations and this new fleet of quiet, reliable buses will surely be welcomed by all who rely upon them each day.

For more photos of the new ETBs, check out the photoset.

Sunday Video: Urban Solutions from Vancouver


Discovery Waterfront Cities of the World: Vancouver by jsnspringer on YouTube, h/t Catherine Neill.

A great video by Discovery on urbanism in Vancouver, BC, which talks about gentrification, architecture, housing diversity, social welfare solutions, and more.

What We’re Reading: No Downtown School

Salmon Bay School by Joe Wolf on Flickr.

No Downtown school: Seattle Public Schools bails out on an opportunity to pick up a Downtown property for a new elementary.

Breaking records: The Fremont Bridge is very likely to see more than 1 million bike trips by Christmas.

The weed: Uncle Ike’s scores a temporary victory while more states legalize marijuana use. Of course, Congress might interfere with DC.

Obscure designs: A worry for the next Guggenheim Museum, could it just be weird? And is that even a bad thing?

Disaster in SFO: What San Francisco might look like if sea levels rise 200 feet.

Charming blocks: A look at New York City’s one-block streets and their charm.

120 square feet: Now this is some creative micro-housing.

It really is bad: A commuter has logged all his Sound Transit 510 trips for 3 years. Turns out traffic is getting a whole lot worse on I-5.

Will it live: Maryland just elected a Republican governor who hates transit, but will he kill the Purple Line and other projects in Maryland?

Minimum wage: It turns out that even in conservative territory, minimum wage increases are incredibly popular.

Transit vote: Free lifts to the polling station on transit doesn’t appear to increase ridership.

No trains Saturday: Light Rail will be shutdown next week, so know your options.

Tons more service: Now that bus service will get a boost in June, what could we end up seeing for future service?

Berlin Wall everywhere: Pieces of the Berlin Wall are everywhere around the globe, and they’re good reminders of the ugly past.

Regeneration: A power plant in Wisconsin will now have new life as a student center.

New condo tower: First Hill will see a new condo tower come to the neighborhood.

Bridges and the city: An exploration of how cities and their bridges interact, it’s a situation of the good, bad, and iconic.

Speed humps: Excessive speeding is cut up to 80%-90% in Seattle where speed humps have been implemented.

Capitol Hill Station: Four developers have submitted their proposals for development, one has dropped out. Plans will be unveiled to the public in December.

Mileage fees: A good case for changing how we charge for driving, the best option is a per mile fee.

Second and Union: A new proposal by Skanska for an office tower at Second and Union dubbed “2&U”

Housing, politics and a basic pride of place


Fifth in an illustrated series about place-decoding from the South of France.


What do the politics of urban housing have to do with a seasonal caravan park in Provence? For me, the answer is clear. Our political discussions, mired in jargon and positioning, often lose sight of a human pride of place inherent in even the simplest forms of shelter.

A major American urban theme, today, addresses the challenge of maintaining housing affordability, and determining who should pay to insure available residences close to work and necessary services. Other themes include scrutiny of residential configurations, and debates over how small is too small for today’s dwelling unit size. In Seattle, various stakeholders, from elected officials to developers and nonprofits, continue jousting over an arguably not-ready-for-prime-time housing linkage proposal and new limitations on the size of micro-housing units. A new Advisory Committee will attempt a varied tool-based cure.

I recently keynoted a Seattle housing non-profit’s annual breakfast. There, I had to answer a big question: What, exactly, is affordable housing? My answer simply stated that people need affordable access to the sought-after elements of urban life. To paraphrase, people need affordable access to homes of whatever size and shape that they can take pride in.

When people take pride in where they live, their homes’ appearance shows a bonding with the place, often with considered ingenuity.


This ingenuity is clear at the Domaine du Pin de la Lègue (a 53 year-old caravan park near Fréjus, France). From the Domaine, I asked myself last month, why not focus on how to see and decode the expressions of people’s pride in and around the walls and ceilings that protect them?

I am talking about the basic decorator and landscaper within us all, our human tendency to create a sense of comfort with the outside world so that we blend more easily with where we live.

What will change when Link comes to Capitol Hill and the UW?


Link Connections Logo

What will change when Link comes to Capitol Hill and the UW?

This is the question that Sound Transit and King County Metro are starting to ask.

Beginning in 2016, Link Light Rail will connect Downtown Seattle with Capitol Hill and the University of Washington at Husky Stadium. This new subway service will provide Sound Transit and King County Metro the opportunity to make changes and adjustments to bus service in the neighborhoods surrounding the light rail stations.

With this opportunity in mind, Sound Transit and King County Metro are looking to the public for their input, ideas, and suggestions.

Representatives from the transit agencies will be conducting eight information sessions between November 6th and November 20th at the following locations:

Thurs, Nov. 6 11:00am Street Team: eastbound bus stops on Stevens Way
2:30pm Street Team: Campus Parkway & Brooklyn
Wed, Nov. 12 3:00pm Street Team: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, Westlake Station-Bay A
Thurs, Nov. 13 7:00am Street Team: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, Int’l District Station-Bay A
6:00pm Link Connections: Community Conversation
Mon, Nov. 17 6:00pm Link Connections: Community Conversation
Wed, Nov. 19 10:00am Info Table: University of Washington Medical Center
Thurs, Nov. 20 11:30am Link Connections: Community Conversation

If you are unable to attend any of these information sessions, King County Metro has an online survey that you may fill out.

For more information, please visit King County Metro.

Not an Impulse


Picture 2


Triangle Park, across from the Frye–the very same “it’s-not-the-Frye-unless-there’s-an-ambulance-out-front”–right in the heart of upper Pioneer Square, is not known for harboring commuters with an urgent need to catch specific buses to outlying destinations. Especially not at midnight. Nevertheless, tonight a runner streaks out of its dark recesses toward my stop at Prefontaine, right as that famously short light turns green. As I’ve said before, I’ve noticed many runners are “impulse riders” who don’t actually need your specific route. They just need something going up a few blocks. But you just never know. His eager smile and hustle convince me to tarry–African-American man, bald, in a huge black sweatshirt with some sort of red lettering.

After some pleasantries, we’re rolling. I’m curious. “Did you need the 49, or are you jus’ goin’ up the street?”
“I needed the 49. I just missed the 66.”
“Well shoot, I’m glad you made it.”

This man didn’t just need the 49, as it turns out, he needed it clear to the end of the line! And, would you believe it, he ended up being a Metro employee! He cleans the buses every night, and we talked shop and life for the rest of the ride. I never would’ve guessed, him flying out of Triangle Park like that. Today was a double shift for him, and he mentioned in a complaining tone that upon arriving home, he won’t be able to get to sleep instantly.

“How come?”
“‘Cause my kids, man, they gon’ ask how my day was….”
He says it in a tone indicating he knows he shouldn’t be complaining, buuuutttt….
I cut in, exclaiming, “that’s ’cause they love you, man!”
He grins, relaxing.
“Yeah, dude!” I continue. “They’re gonna say how was your day, they gonna ask whatchoo did, you’re gonna ask what they did, they’ll probably show you some stuff, and it’ll all be beautiful! It’s the great human condition! You know!”

The girl sitting behind us, with the wavy auburn hair, smiles as she listens.

12 Photos from Iceland: Streets Done Right


Iceland takes pride in robust and modern street infrastructure techniques. To anyone who has been to Europe or elsewhere abroad, much of this will seem quite familiar. However, during my recent trip to the country, I was taken aback by just how serious Icelanders were about road safety; prioritization of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit; and making life for the disabled better. While Iceland trails the United States in per capita car ownership, the country has an astoundingly high rate of 745 vehicles per 1,000 people–putting the nation in the top five globally. For perspective, the United States has a rate of 809 vehicles per 1,000 people. Meanwhile, the United States also has nearly 3 times as many traffic-related deaths per capita than Iceland. So, maybe–just maybe–we have something to learn from the Land of Fire and Ice when it comes to doing streets right.

1. The Chicane
Chicane in Reykjavik

A chicane in the foreground; woonerf with divergent lane in the background.

 2. The Plaza Woonerf

Woonerf street with a median street furniture, doubles as an extended plaza.

A woonerf street with median street furniture. The street also serves as an extended plaza space to a theatre.

3. The Pedestrian-Oriented Parking Lot

Parking lot with elevated pedestrian pathway that doubles as speed control ramp device.

A parking lot with an elevated pedestrian pathway doubling as a speed control ramp device.

4. The Textured Street

Photo 25-10-2014 11 38 32

A textured street that has a modest and well marked crosswalk.

5. The Separated Bike Lane

Photo 25-10-2014 09 14 38

 A new separated bike lane headed eastbound in Reykjavík. The bike lane trimmed the street width down, but also took some sidewalk width to implement. Large bricks and pavers separate the road from the bike lane and sidewalk. Asphalt is used to keep the pavement soft for bicyclists. Speeds are reduced to 30 kph (~20 mph).

6. The Bus-Only Lane

Photo 24-10-2014 17 21 50

A bus-only lane marked with a red advisory strip.

7. The Elevated Crosswalk

Photo 25-10-2014 11 41 12

An elevated crosswalk/ramp that contains advisory strips for approaching vehicles. Signs are well posted to the approach to notify drivers. Pavers are colored to differentiate zones for pedestrians and warn them that they are about to cross vehicle travel lanes.

8. The Queue Jump

Photo 25-10-2014 09 23 33

A queue jump light exclusively for buses to keep them moving ahead of regular car traffic through Reykjavík.

9. The Woonerf

Photo 25-10-2014 11 37 18

A full-on woonerf with some bollards and differently colored pavers.

10. The Safe Community

Photo 24-10-2014 15 07 16

A sign reminding drivers that they need to keep it slow in villages, towns, and cities for all the right reasons: people live, pray, work, and play here (50 kph = 30 mph).

11. The Tabletop Intersection

Photo 25-10-2014 09 18 57

The tabletop intersection slows drivers down and draws their attention to pedestrians and cyclists. Meanwhile, this intersection type makes it easy for pedestrians to cross at any point with minimal grade change, especially for those with accessibility issues.

12. The Low Curb

Photo 25-10-2014 09 27 04

The low curb makes crossing intersections easy for pedestrians and those with accessibility issues. To provide enhanced safety, the crossing is well marked with eye-catching colors and designs on pavers with some separation features. Advisory pavers strips with special textures let pedestrians know they are crossing a bike lane and vehicle lanes.

Tweet of the Week: Lunchtime Streets


San Francisco is putting many of its smaller streets to better use with a people-focus. As you can see from Will’s tweet, San Francisco has some cool lunchtime streets with cafes spilling into the right-of-way. Seattle already has great alleyways being used as public gathering spaces, art corridors, and even as street frontages and space for sidewalk cafes. Perhaps we can find more spaces here in our own backyard and take cues from cities like San Francisco.