Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘Seattle

Some Sound Transit light-rail screeches just won’t stop

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Seattle Times

Just to raise the sights a little, light rail, often promoted here as the solution to all our transit concerns, is proving far from problem free in Seattle. Noise is a serious issue – and they are working hard to do something about it.

Surface light rail does have impacts on its surroundings. Indeed, it would be foolish to think that any technology has no impacts at all. Wind farms look very good in comparison to off shore oil wells these days, but are still a threat to birds.

While I do not recall there being very many public outcries against the noise of our rapid transit, the one that bothers me as a reasonably frequent passenger is the squeal on the Canada Line as it winds its way around the granite outcrop underneath Queen Elizabeth Park. Initially I thought this might get better as the track was conditioned – or through a combination of wheel turning and rail grinding. I cannot say I have noticed any improvement. That did seem to work at some places in Seattle – but not all of them

Rail grinding last winter improved the sound on much of the line but loudness inexplicably increased near the river

They are also going to to try flange lubricators

Transit contractors installed lubrication machines to reduce screeching on curves. The biodegradable gel automatically is squirted on the rails, where wheels pick it up and spread it near Mount Baker Station. The lubrication is helping somewhat, and Gray said one lube point will be moved closer to the Beacon Hill Tunnel soon.

Since the squealing only occurs inside a tunnel there are no neighbours to annoy, and I suppose that users of the Canada Line are expected to simply tolerate it. It does not happen on SkyTrain since the trucks under the cars have steerable axles. I don’t think that is an option with conventional traction motors which tend to be hung on the axles on most electrical multiple unit trains. But I would also think that since the noise is created by metal grinding on metal that is must have cost implications in track and wheel wear too.

Canada Line nb tunnel under False Creek

Written by Stephen Rees

June 7, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Funding Transit Elsewhere

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Two news stories today provide some insight into how other places are tacking the same problems that face us. And I am afraid neither is good news.

Greater Manchester in England has rejected congestion pricing by a very large margin.

A majority of voters in all of the region’s 10 boroughs voted against the plans, with 812,815 (79%) no votes and 218,860 (21%) in favour of the charge.

It means the application for government Transport Innovation Fund (TiF) cash will not now go ahead.

The overall turnout across the 12 local authorities was about 53.2% with 1,033,000 people casting their vote.

While the turnout was better than we get for our local elections, I still want to know why the other 1m voters did not care enough to go put a cross on a piece of paper.

Closer to home Seattle is still wondering what to do about its downtown viaduct. One of the options includes a commitment to increase transit service but there is a problem with that.

state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said the state money can’t be used for increases in Metro bus service that are part of the surface-transit package, because the state constitution requires gas taxes to go toward highways.

“There’s been no decision on, if transit service is part of the package, how that gets paid for,” she said.

That’s the problem with predicated taxation. It severely hampers choices. Originally the federal gas tax was also limited this way but that changed under ISTEA and now regional transportation planning agencies have the ability to choose from a wider range of options. Even so, federal funding is still restricted to capital projects – which gives an incentive to ignore maintenance and wait until replacement is needed to apply for new capital funds. That is one reason why America’s highway infrastructure is in such a poor condition.

It is also worth reading a bit further in the Seattle Times piece to see how political personalities influence these decisions. Of course the role of Mr Speaker has evolved quite differently south of the 49th.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 12, 2008 at 10:23 am

It’s time to lift our heads a bit

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I have been beavering way on local and regional issues and have not been looking further afield recently. So let’s see what’s going on outside.

Our nearest Cascadian neighbour is getting ready for another round of voting on things. They seem to think that asking their citizens to approve government spending on transportation (and other) projects is a Good Idea. Odd. It never seemed to catch on here. Anyway, a group not too dissimilar to the Livable Region Coalition here, called The Washington Public Interest Research Group has released a study on the benefits of transit. “And it’s using its conclusions to help campaign for expanding light rail service beyond Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport.”

King County Metro transit saved an estimated 12.5 million gallons of oil and $32.7 million in gasoline costs and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 87,907 metric tons, because transit buses eliminated other vehicle trips.

Sound Transit, according to the report, saved more than 6.8 million gallons of oil and $17.9 million in gasoline costs and reduced carbon-dioxide emissions by 49,622 tons.

Community Transit in Snohomish County saved more than 1.9 million gallons of oil and $5 million in gasoline costs and reduced carbon-dioxide emissions 12,697 tons.

Pierce Transit saved more than 2.7 million gallons of oil and $7.1 million in gasoline costs and cut CO2 emissions by 4,201 tons. In amounts of oil, cost and pollution savings created, the report ranks Puget Sound’s transit systems 14th among 25 major metropolitan areas, topped by the New York-New Jersey area and with Las Vegas last.

Unfortunately they do not have a really competent web master like we do so you will have to rely on the good old PI, since the PIRG web page is out of date and does not have the report yet. Tut tut.

Meanwhile over at the centre of the known universe, federal money promised for transit expansion has yet to be sighted. Christopher Hume the Toronto Star’s columnist is getting downright snippy

Talk about gridlock. It was a year ago yesterday that the Prime Minister himself, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, stood in front of a TTC bus in Downsview and promised almost $1 billion to help fund regional transit.

Since then, nothing has happened: zilch, zero, zippo. Except for the energy spent bickering, our elected “leaders” have failed to advance the file one iota. Not a penny has flowed.

This should not be surprising; back in 2000, Ottawa promised $25 million for the revitalization of Union Station – that hasn’t been delivered, either.

Hume seems to think it is because the Tories aren’t urban – not having any seats in any of the major urban areas where 80% of Canadians live. Tough being a minority government, ain’t it?

Written by Stephen Rees

March 7, 2008 at 5:57 pm

Posted in politics, transit

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