Wednesday, 11 December, 2019

The Transit App 3.1 Update


Bikes on the Transit App

We’re big fans of The Transit App because of its universality and dynamic form, and previously wrote about the big version 3.0 release. Last week, The Transit App pushed out a major update (version 3.1) of their app for iOS users. The update contains two changes: the integration of bikeshare data in select cities and a general user interface revision to the main screen (split incorporation of the movable map and bus arrival information).

The Transit App OverviewThe main screen is an elegant change. Users can now easily see both and realtime arrival of local buses. A simple gesture between the two will either make the screen go all map or all bus times. This removes the extra tapping required in the previous app version to toggle between screens. The map changes also mean minor adjustments in trip planning and dropping pins. The search bar at the top is now universal so that you can both locations and transit lines without evening having to find the nearest transit line in proximity to you.

Meanwhile, the other big change in the app is the incorporation of bikeshare. If bikeshare is a supported feature, it will show up right in the movable map. Icons appear showing how full a particular docking station is, and tapping on it reveals the number of bikes available and the total number of docks at the station. Cities currently supported for bikeshare include: New York City, Chicago, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Miami, Minneapolis, Columbus, Paris, Toulouse, Strasbourg, and Rennes. The Transit App plans to support additional cities for the bikeshare feature in the future, and we would suspect that those cities will be where transit data is already available through the app. In other words, we hope to be seeing Seattle’s Pronto! included down the road. (Of course, it always helps to let them know what cities and services to include.)

No Longer in the Jungle


Picture 7


This guy stumbles on like a rock tumbling through an unstoppable river. An imposing physical presence. We’re somewhere at the bottom of Rainier Valley. He’s clad in a white oversized T-shirt that would be a dress on me, the shirt peeking out from under a puffy black jacket of colossal proportions. He asks if I go to Genessee, pronouncing it “Jensee.”
“Absolutely, yeah. And hey, I’d appreciate it if you kept that closed.” I’m gesturing at his paper bag, which contains a bottle of you know what–something other than pink lemonade!
“Oh, it is.”
“Thanks man, I appreciate you.”
“No probl’m.”

At Genessee, he mosies up , leaning forward, peering into the unknown distance. “I think I go one more.”
“Oh no worries,” I say. “We’ll see if somebody else wants this [bus stop]. Thanks for tellin’ me.”
“Sorry ’bout tha,'” he says after watching me greet somebody getting on.

He’s treading lightly, politely. I see him in the mirror, and in my periphery. Quarterback body, gold necklace, and a trim goatee, hints of jailhouse tats peeking out above the shirt.

“Oh, it’s all good. So kinda right up there, by Safeway?”
“Yeah. Hey, uh, thank you, for doin,’ for bein,'”
Hardcore manliness stops him short from an easy finish to the sentence, but the sentiment is no less real. I know what he means.
“Oh my pleasure man, it’s no worries. I like bein’ out here.”
“Thanks, dude.” He feels more comfortable now, more revealing: “I’m new here. Jus’ come up from California.”
“Oh wha’ part of California?”
“Dude, right on!” I exclaim, preempting the next question all Angelinos ask each other, which is, ‘what part of LA?’ “I’m from LA too, I’m from South Gate!”
To this his eyes light up, all pretense and vulnerability falling away: “WHAAAAA, no way! That’s just up from me, I’m from Lynwood!”
“No waaaayyy! Right there!”
“Oh, you right over there. You in it.”

This happens more often than one might imagine. On the 70 I took a couple toward the airport and discovered we all once lived on Firestone Boulevard in Downey. Recently on the 44 a woman overheard me discussing LA, and revealed that she’d come up from San Diego in ’96. “There’s a lot of us Californians taking refuge up here,” I marveled. “There are,” she responded. “Some folks don’t like it, us bringin’ our LA ways up here…”
“They’ll just have to deal!”

Strangers in a strange land, no longer strangers. My friend looking for Genessee leans back in his chair in a way he couldn’t before. Relaxed now. He’d felt comfortable enough in my space to share that vulnerability, that he was new here, and the payoff was worth it. We pass under the dark trees at Byron, making our own sunshine.

He seems particularly glad that we come from the same mad realm of South Central. The Jungle, as it’s called. Whatever challenges he’s up to here in the Valley, they’ll be easy compared to life in the Jungle, and he knows I know that intimately.
“Out there, you know how they do,”
“Oh yeah!”
We’re in fistpound handshake heaven.
“Be safe!” we say to each other at the end of the ride. It is not a pleasantry for us, but rather a genuine urging, a belief that the other’s life is worth some extra caution. It’s late, and dark, but we’re both glowing.


West Seattle Waterfront Streetcar?


By Charles Bond and Gordon Werner

Potential route for an Alki streetcar.

In the discussions about the new Alaskan Way project and the 1st Ave streetcar, the topic of the old Greg Benson waterfront streetcar often comes up. Since the loss of their home on the waterfront, the cars have been tossed back and forth between the 1st Ave and Alaskan Way plans with each project seeming to assume that the other will take care of them. A new idea, however, is putting the cars somewhere else entirely–like along Alki Beach.

First, a little history

Streetcars used to run along the waterfront from where the Olympic Sculpture Park currently stands to Pioneer Square and the transit center on Jackson St. The streetcar storage barn was demolished to make way for the Sculpture Park and, though promised, a replacement never materialized. In the subsequent years, much of the track for the streetcar line was removed, though many have suggested it be added back to the new Alaskan Way design or for occasional use on the 1st Ave streetcar line. Unfortunately, both alternatives have problems.

The problem with 1st Ave/Alaskan Way

As documented previously on Seattle Transit Blog, in order for the streetcars to be used with the 1st Ave project, the old waterfront streetcars and boarding ramps would have to be modified for ADA-accessible equipment and to accommodate the streetcar floor height, respectively. They would also need to use different track gauge and voltage than they currently do and to allow boarding on both sides of the car. An Alaskan Way-only alignment has the potential to run the cars unmodified, but that would restrict the cars to only Alaskan Way, severely limit the usefulness of the connection, and likely be unable to keep up with transit demand in this corridor.

Why Alki Beach?

If these cars operated on Alki Beach, they could run in a single dedicated lane with passing zones as it originally did on the Seattle waterfront. They could connect the water taxi with the popular parks and shops on the north coast and boost both transit access and tourist appeal to the Alki Beach area. In a dedicated lane, the streetcar could run with relatively high frequency and fewer vehicles than buses generally need. Also, since the 37 bus route is slated to be canceled with the upcoming Metro cuts, this corridor could use some extra service.

Where would funding come from?

This is easily the biggest challenge, but there might be some creative solutions. Since there is a tourism component to this and lot of public support for restoring the waterfront streetcar, there might be some way to scrape up funds for this project using crowd-funding, local tourism boards, or other agencies/cruise lines that might be interested in generating more area attractions.


This idea is not problem free, of course. The aforementioned funding sources may be inadequate, the loss of parking required for exclusive lanes would garner resistance, and this small project does not serve the core transit needs for West Seattle (just some small piece of the transit service likely to be lost with the upcoming metro cuts). The line would also have to be designed carefully not to interfere with the existing bicycle facilities along the Alki trail. Nevertheless, it may be more meritorious to put these old streetcars into service somewhere where they would see daily use rather than relegate them to occasional festival service in the heart of downtown.

Sunday Video: Seattle Dream Pt. II


Seattle Dream Pt. II by F-Stop Seattle on Vimeo.

Watch this 5-minute timelapse tribute to our favorite city. You won’t regret it.

UPDATE: It appears that the video is currently unviewable. You can watch the original Seattle Dream instead, which is just as inspiring.

UPDATE 2: The original has been reposted, albeit with different background music.

What We’re Reading: Fireworks

Fireworks over Lake Union by Tiffany Von Arnim on Flickr.

Development in Seattle: The city council is putting the breaks on the Stadium District planning effort, largely because they have no direction on the matter. 10 crazy comments that people make about Seattle microhousing. The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has preliminary stormwater regulations out for review. And DPD has some new handy dandy interactive neighborhood data maps.

City Hall Drama: City Light director Jorge Carrasco has an embarrassing week that ended in no pay raise.

New digs: We may be getting a Downtown school in the next few years, the first elementary in the area for over 65 years. KEXP could soon be moving into their new digs at the Seattle Center, but they’re holding a fundraiser to make it a reality. And Seattle’s first pot shop looks to be set to open on Tuesday, but it could take a while for others.

Maps: A new tool for NYC residents lets them know the development potential of parcels throughout the city. Google Maps has a fun new game to test your geography knowledge and give you points. Track a century of development in the US using these cool, old USGS interactive maps. And, another app tracks how we move through cities (check out the Seattle data).

Transportation: The mayor has made his pick for a new director for SDOT, Scott Kubly; Kubly is getting a lot of praise. We’re very quickly approaching the fiscal cliff for transportation in the US, and it looks really bad. Mercer Street made a switch for walking and biking to south side of the street on Thursday. And the Seattle Transit Blog goes in depth about transit-oriented infrastructure projects for Bellevue. Seattle gets called out for one of the eight worst interchanges in the US. Which one is it? I-5/1-90.

Enjoy Seattle summer: The city was lit up last night for the Fourth of July, and CHS has some great photos to prove itPublicola has a great summer calendar so that you don’t miss out on any of the action in the city.

Good reads from elsewhere: A study shows that there are only 86 affordable homes in London. There is also a worry that too many main streets in London are going the way of gambling businesses. Belgium has a cool perspective-skewing artwork that encompasses 99 buildings. As growth booms in Arlington, Virginia, traffic volume on streets has plummeted. Vacant lots in Chicago are selling for $1, but there’s a catch. If you’re familiar with Nice Ride Minneapolis, then you know it’s pretty nice. And Matthew Yglesias makes the case that a land value tax couldn’t even save San Francisco from its development crisis.

Neighborhoods: Should you be afraid Rainier Beach? From this resident’s perspective, absolutely not. She loves it dearly because it’s a solid neighborhood. Meanwhile, Lake City residents are fighting to save this strip of beach for public use. It turns out our little big icon of Pioneer Square has turned 100 years old–we still love Smith Tower dearly, happy birthday!

Tim Eyman loses…again: Eyman’s supermajority for taxes (to be passed by just a majority) initiative fails to make the November ballot. We were hoping to have the opportunity to vote against yet another one of his nonsensical efforts. Oh well. 🙂

Waterfront Rezoning: The Commission District


The borders of the DMC-160 zone, from On Tuesday, recommended zoning changes to the Seattle Waterfront were presented to the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD).  The area considered for changes is colloquially known as the “Commission District” and roughly spans from Pike Place Market to Pioneer Square between Alaskan Way and 1st Avenue.

The rules and exemptions proposed by DPD are intended to promote construction of residential, hotel, and street-level retail throughout the neighborhood. While many of the proposed zoning changes are good ideas, they don’t go far enough in providing for a truly pedestrian-centered waterfront.

As mentioned in a previous post, the proposal would make several zoning changes to encourage residential and hotel development through exemptions to floor area ratio (FAR) restrictions, and by designating Western and Alaskan Way as Class I pedestrian streets. The Class I designation brings with it restrictions on storefront utilization and street-level parking complexes in order to encourage active use of the sidewalk and shield the public from parking garage eyesores.

12th Avenue ParkSome of the proposals may very well have the desired result, but the more effective way to promote pedestrian activity in the area is by significantly reducing the amount of automobile activity. DPD and the City Council could do this by redesigning designating several streets in the area under discussion as woonerfs or as exclusive pedestrian right-of-way.

The streets in question are perfect candidates for the kind of project planned for 12th Avenue next to Seattle University. Anyone who visits the waterfront now can tell you that streets like University and Seneca have limited automobile use already. By designating them as exclusive or priority pedestrian right-of-way, DPD has the option to make them into an extension of the waterfront open space already planned for Alaskan Way. They could also go a long way toward accomplishing their stated goal of creating an “active, pedestrian-friendly frontage” on Alaskan Way, without the use of zoning restrictions.

If city leadership is willing to set an example with this area, the waterfront could be home to a dense, walkable community a stone’s throw from many transit options. The date for the public committee hearing on the proposed zoning changes is July 15th.

Cody Little is a first-time contributor to The Urbanist. He is a naval officer and lifelong resident of the Puget Sound in the process of transitioning to civilian life.

Waterfront, Delridge and Ballard Updates

Living Buildings Pilot Program, courtesy of the Department of Planning and Development.

The PLUS Committee chaired by Councilman Mike O’Brien held a meeting on Tuesday, available on the Seattle Channel. In attendance were Department of Planning and Development (DPD) staff, a few citizens who gave public comments, and Councilmembers Burgess and Licata. The meeting had three items on the agenda:

  1. A briefing by DPD on the Living Building and Deep Green pilot programs
  2. Proposed amendments to the downtown zoning along the waterfront
  3. An update on area planning in Ballard and Delridge

Agenda Item 1: Briefing on the Living Building and Deep Green Pilot Programs

Two DPD staff briefed the Council on Council Bill 118080, which relates to land use and zoning amendments to sections 23.40.060, 23.410.12 and 23.90.018. The amendments would revise the Living Building program & Seattle Deep Green Pilot program, adopted by the City to facilitate and encourage the development of buildings that would meet the Living Building Challenge or Seattle Deep Green, an alternative program with slightly reduced sustainability standards. The amendments proposed by DPD would put the Deep Green program on hold to give DPD time to specify the program’s requirements and clarify flexibility in allowable exceptions. Their intent with the Deep Green program is to align it more accurately with the recently updated Seattle Energy Code. DPD raised issues such as requiring a third party to assess projects for compliance and increasing the maximum penalty for projects that fail to pass from 5% to 10% of construction costs.

Rob Harrison, a local architect and green building advocate who wrote on this topic for Citytank last year, spoke at the meeting and derided the punitive nature of the pilot program. He suggested (and I would agree) that the City should reward those who wish to participate rather than punish them if they participate and don’t comply. This approach may have discouraged participation in the program, as only two buildings have been part of the program (the Bullitt Center and the Brooks headquarters) while one remaining open spot in the program remains unfilled.

Seattle Waterfront, courtesy of the City of Seattle.

Agenda Item 2: Downtown Zoning Downtown along the Waterfront

DPD is proposing an amendment to the DMC-160 (Downtown Mixed Commercial) zone, which includes Alaskan Way and Western Ave. In the context of supporting the waterfront vision, this amendment’s objective is to emphasize residential use and other active uses like hotels along this portion of the waterfront. The City wants to enhance the pedestrian environment in this part of downtown in preparation for the changes coming to the waterfront. I am encouraged that they see the great need to activate this soon-to-be front door to the city with lots of residents, hotel patrons, and shoppers. The proposed changes to the Land Use Code include:

  • Limiting non-residential FAR to the current base of 5 with no allowances to exceed it
  • Raising the minimum FAR limit for hotels from 7 to 8

Discussion centered on hotel use and DPD’s intention to treat it more like housing from a code perspective to spur development that promotes evening activity in the area. Beyond FAR adjustments, the proposal would change Alaskan Way and Western Ave from Class II to Class I pedestrian streets, leading to higher standards for transparency, more stringent blank wall limits, etc. In other words, a better pedestrian experience. Finally, there would be some minor adjustments to bulk and mass standards to try to improve the pedestrian scale. I didn’t agree with everything DPD raised—for example, I’m not sure why it’s necessary to limit non-residential FAR in order to spur residential development—but overall I was pleased with the amount of attention DPD staff gave to the pedestrian experience. Downtown Seattle certainly hasn’t always gotten the ground-level, human-scaled experience right—it has its share of towers-in-a-windswept-plaza—but it’s positive the City is at least now making decisions based on how to enhance the street level experience.

Ballard, courtesy of the Department of Planning and Development.

Agenda Item 3: Area Planning and Community Development

DPD gave a brief synopsis of neighborhood-level planning currently underway in Ballard and Delridge. In Ballard, the City is partnering with the Ballard Partnership for Smart Growth to study several issues, such as Sound Transit’s Ballard-to-Downtown High Capacity Transit studies, community concerns about large-scale development on Market St, and whether neighborhood employment growth is keeping pace with residential growth. Discussions and meetings are ongoing.

Delridge, courtesy of theDepartment of Planning and Development.

The discussion of Delridge was brief and fairly vague. The Delridge community is interested in partnering with the City on more planning work to address neighborhood concerns. Parts of the Delridge neighborhood are food deserts, which the community would like to address for health and accessibility reasons. Beyond that, the DPD laid out three abstract objectives:

  1. To create great neighborhood places
  2. To improve health outcomes
  3. To build community capacity to take action


Of the three agenda items, I am most intrigued by the proposed downtown zone amendment. The waterfront project has certainly caused much chagrin to the urbanists in the city (primarily due to the tunnel) but there are still some very positive aspects to the project. It is imperative that we end up with a waterfront that is more walkable, vibrant, and active.

Nick Etheredge is a first-time contributor to The Urbanist. He’s a former Mechanical Engineer looking to transition into a career in urban design and planning. He loves cities and loves Seattle.

I Don’t Know What a Trolley is, Part II


Picture 26


Let’s see, where were we. Continuing our exploration of what trolley buses are, from the previous post~

All other trolley systems in the US have backup motors for dewirements or reroutes, and Metro’s new fleet* will as well. But the fact that we have to drive without them now makes Seattle’s trolley operators, in my humble estimation, the most skilled. You just can’t mess up. The more backup features your vehicle has, the less you have to pay attention. This is one reason why, statistically, expensive luxury vehicles get into so many accidents. They’re too safe.

So how exactly do these things work? Let’s get technical for a moment:

You may have noticed from riding trolleys that the operator will often slow down in completely random areas like the middle of intersections, often while a short “beep” sound is heard. Is the driver daydreaming about parking there and walking off to lunch? Is he under the influence? No, he’s just being a pro. The poles are passing through switches in the wire, called “special work.” Special work is where lanes of wire intersect– the wire for buses on eastbound Pike crossing the wire for buses on northbound Third, for instance. The easiest way to lose poles is by driving too quickly through the special work- slowing down for them actually saves you time.

The “beep” noise you hear if you’re sitting at the front is the bus passing through a deadspot. For the duration of the time that beep noise is happening, there’s no power in the overhead. Just as you can’t splice two electrical wires of extension cords together, the sections where live wires intersect need to have “deadspots–” a section of as little as six inches or as much as several feet where one of the lanes of wire is dead, so the other can be live. You can identify the deadspots because they look like big suitcase handles above the wire, as seen below.**



You have to slow down for a deadspot, or else you might blow your poles by driving the shoes too quickly through the resistance the subtle changes in surface metal the deadspot provides. But you also can’t slow down too much, or else you might come to a stop and subsequently get stuck, now forced into the embarrassing business of having to go out and figure out what to do with the poles.*** Nor can you just power through it with your foot on the floor- that arcs the power, causing the bus to shudder, and will sometime kills your vehicle. Not wise, especially on the steep hills.

How does the driver know where a deadspot is? You have to memorize them. Some operators get a feel for the rhythm of the intersections, remembering they need to slow down here or there. I and other drivers take a more fastidious approach. I like having landmarks. I want to know, down to the inch, where each deadspot is. Thus, I’ll memorize landmarks for where the front of the bus as we pass through each deadspot. This mailbox, for example, that birch tree, or the “open” sign in the Vietnamese market– right as the front doors pass by those, I hear the beep. Perfect.

Only one of the lanes of wire in a crossing of wires has a deadspot. The other remains live. In the planning of the trolley network, the lane of the wire with the live current generally goes to the direction of travel that needs it most in that moment, perhaps because of an incline or a turn. For example, the left turn from southbound Third onto eastbound James, pictured below, has no deadspots, while the northbound wire on Third there does; the turning bus needs the live wire more because he’s about to go up an incline. Makes sense (On the other hand, we won’t talk about that left turn from Madison onto 15th!).

Picture 19

How do buses switch from one lane of wire to another? In Seattle there are two ways of doing this, specific to the way each switch is built. Often you put on your turn signal, and this sends a radio signal to the Fahslabend switch in the wire, causing the metal tracks to shift, as on a railroad. You can hear a metallic “click” when this happens. Many operators drive with their window open so they hear everything going on upstairs and can more easily navigate the wire. It’s also easier to wave to your compatriots driving across the street! Atlantic’s (the trolley base) drivers are more tightly knit, as we need to work together more intimately then other drivers do. There’s also the shared camaraderie of doing what is variously considered the best, hardest, worst, greatest and toughest work.

As your poles pass through the switched track, the tracks reset so the next coach passing through isn’t also forced onto the wire you chose. This is the case on Jackson westbound when turning onto northbound 4th. If you didn’t hear the click, it’s time to go out and move the poles.****

Picture 8


The other type of switch is called a Directional, or Selectric. You’re northbound on Third, turning right on Cedar, because you’re a 3 or 4. While doing so, your bus will be at a 45-degree angle to the roadway in the middle of the turn, and this angle will cause your poles to trigger two contact points in the wire overhead. Above, the bus’s poles would be traveling from lower left upwards; note the two small rectangular strips with tiny wires emanating from them and going to the actual switch. Those are the contact points.

Because your bus would be at an angle during the turn, your two poles will touch those contact points (one on each actual wire) simultaneously, the wire will realize you’re turning, and you’ll hear that metallic click again, right as your bus passes through the switch. Once again, it resets for that route 2 behind you, who wants to go straight up Third without turning.*****

All of this might sound baffling or needlessly confusing, but on the road one finds a pleasing rhythm that I consider relaxing.

Basically, I love this stuff.

There’s no engine, so the vehicle doesn’t vibrate or rumble. There’s just that gentle whir of the motor and accompanying electric hum. In the resulting quiet you hear more– people shuffling or talking, the sounds of life going by inside and out. You can’t rush. It’s not an express, after all, it’s the neighborhood trolley route, picking up and dropping off and cycling that lift like nobody’s business. You get into the rhythm of things. I tell people they’ll love trolleys if they’re a workaholic and really patient. It’s possible to go for months without losing poles.****** You find a cadence, memorizing all the deadspots, gently playing with the brake and power, making each ride smoother than the last. Those of you who are stickshift drivers and like driving manually can perhaps sympathize. It takes more thought, but that’s part of the fun of it.


The system and concepts of trolleys were developed many decades ago, but sometimes you really don’t need to fix things that work perfectly. There’s no arguing with the fact there isn’t a better way of moving a 30-60,000 pound vehicle through Seattle. Trolleys don’t have exhaust pipes. They are a zero-emissions vehicle. The electric motors have very few moving parts, and basically last forever. They qualify for fixed-route status and thus receive federal funding. The cost-savings of not having to buy fuel for a vehicle for twenty years is quite literally incalculable. They have more torque and better braking then diesels, are quieter, cleaner, more efficient and last longer. Matters like quietness, air quality, environmental justice, neighborhood character, lower road impacts- these may not be monetarily quantifiable advantages, but they need to be considered as the undeniable and important benefits that they are.*******
Picture 23


Aside from their advantages over diesel and hybrid buses, they also surpass streetcars for a number of reasons we would be mindful to remember: they are dramatically cheaper to implement. It’s impossible to overstate the price difference– and they offer either comparable or slightly superior results. They are faster than streetcars. Rubber tires have greater traction than steel wheels on steel rails, making braking and the climbing of hills safer. They can maneuver around traffic and blocking incidents where a tram is rigidly forced into a path of travel. We’ve all been on the South Lake Union Streetcar when a few inches of a car in the way forces it to a standstill. Disabled trolley vehicles can pull off the roadway, whereas a streetcar essentially needs to break down on a side track to avoid blocking. Trolleys can pull to the curb to service zones, eliminating the need to construct islands in the street. Regenerative braking puts electricity back into the grid, conserving power. Additionally, as a reader on my site pointed out from his travels in Zurich, they can also surpass a streetcar’s capacity.



They are the nerve center of Metro’s bus system. In a network with 223 routes, the fifteen trolley routes carry over a third of all the ridership. If anything, the wire should be expanded. Most of our trolley routes are old streetcar routes, and the longevity of the corridors continues to make them a predictable and trustworthy option for many.

You’ll notice how some residential streets are wider than others (12th Avenue on north Beacon Hill, as opposed to 14th; 6th Ave W on Queen Anne); that’s because they used to be streetcar lines. There was a time when most non-freeway routes in Seattle were on the wire. The old 15/18, routes in West Seattle… we currently have 55 miles of wire, which is great. But Vancouver has over 300.

I look forward with hope to a time when moving closer to such things becomes possible, and commend the officials in place today who have encouraged and allowed the current system to be what it is, and who have the vision to see what its future can be.********

Picture 21


*The new trolleys will be purple! You heard it here first!

**Except on Broadway. Those new intersections at Pine, Madison, and Jefferson were subcontracted out to a different company for the streetcar construction, and that overhead wasn’t built by Metro. You’ll notice the wire looks different, is more fragile, moves the lanes of wire out to different widths than everywhere else in the system, and the deadspots are difficult to identify– just a black covering around the copper above the wire. See how the new wire at 3rd & Denny, built by Metro, is sturdier and results in less dewiring.

***Somehow there is almost always a way out of this situation. Usually there’s another lane of wire you can use for a few feet. If the road is narrow enough (for those of us who’ve gotten stuck on that six-inch sectional insulator deadspot at 15th & John in Capitol Hill), you can use the wire on the other side of the street, so long as one pole is on live wire and the other is on grounding wire.

****The “siding wire” (lane of wire you can pull over onto, so other trolleys can pass on the main wire) on both sides of 5th and Jackson is famously insensitive, and often won’t recognize your coach. Those are two switches which could use an upgrade; for now, I find if I slow down to a near-stop the wire will hear my plea. The more often a switch is used, the more reliable it is.

*****Vancouver has a third type of switch, called a Power-on-Power-off. They use it instead of our Fahslabend turn-signal-activated switches. Up there, coasting through a switch versus powering through one determines if the wire will be triggered to switch your poles. Coaches are equipped with a toggle switch to do this in circumstances where accelerating through a switch would be unreasonable (going down a steep hill, for instance).

******Having said that: some words for new trolley drivers, if I may be so bold. Don’t listen to operators who tell you they never lose their poles. Everyone loses poles sometime. Concentrate instead on giving a smooth ride- it is possible, even in a Breda. Learn the rules for weaving on Third, don’t power through deadspots, and definitely don’t worry about who’s behind you. They were as new as you were once, and if they’re impatient, that’s their problem. Be the gold standard. Also keep in mind that at the end of the day, not hitting cars and trees is more important than staying on the wire! Aside from the wire, with respect to the higher volume of clientele and the grief they will give you: your job is not to be a human being, but a saint.

*******Didn’t learn enough about trolleys reading his? Check out the 132-page evaluation done by Metro in 2011, which explains in more detail than I can about why that purchasing new trolleys is an advantageous solution for economical, operational, and quality-of-life reasons.

********What’s that snazzy new vehicle in the last image? One of Vancouver, B.C.’s 282 New Flyer trolleys, the gold standard for a trolley system, if I may say so.