Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.

Tag Archives: Transportation


Big cities don’t function without transit, and that means transit has to be allowed to succeed. That means it won’t go to your door, or protect you from the company of strangers. You don’t have to use it, or like it, but if you live in a city, you depend on its ability to attract huge numbers of people while using little space, so that there’s enough room for everyone.

— Jarrett Walker: Elon Musk doesn’t understand why mass transit succeeds

Schematic of Amtrak Cascades 501 derailment

“Schematic site overview [of the Cascades derailment site]. Note that one car lies, inverted, under the bridge. The train’s rear vehicle, the locomotive, is top-right. The lead locomotive is in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5.”

Graphic by By MrAurum, reproduced under a Creative Commons license


Honestly, I think the real number of fatalities tied to cell phones is at least three times the federal figure… We’re all addicted and the scale of this is unheard of.

— Jennifer Smith, founder of, “a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating the lifelong devastation that results when a loved one is killed or injured in a distracted driving crash” (via Bloomberg).

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Amtrak, America’s passenger railroad, has been facing the prospect of deep service cuts ever since Donald Trump and his minions rolled out their first budget proposal. But, buoyed by Congress’ refusal to (so far) implement the proposed evisceration of its long distance routes, Amtrak this week rolled out a brand new ad campaign that brilliantly showcases the advantages of rail travel, called Break the Travel Quo.

The first spot touts the fact that you can bring up to four bags on Amtrak… for free!

The second spot explains that there’s an alternative to driving on increasingly congested roads: rail travel. Highway traffic jams can be bypassed with Amtrak.

The third spot offers a reminder that most Amtrak trains have a dining car that serves food that doesn’t suck. You can eat three hearty meals, three times a day!

And the fourth spot reminds travelers you don’t have to use your devices in “Airplane Mode” while going by train.

Well done, Amtrak! Well done, indeed.

None of these spots are as good as “Kids Repeat” from 2009, but it would be extremely hard for Amtrak to top that commercial, which is probably its all time greatest ad. Watch Kids Repeat yourself below, either again or for the first time:

Recommended Link

I-84 closure an important reminder that the private depends on the public

Interstate 84, Oregon’s main east-west link, is closed indefinitely in stretches between Hood River and The Dalles due to the Eagle Creek Fire and unstable slopes produced by the fire. That’s hurting truckers like David Cassidy, whose livelihood is made possible by the availability of public infrastructure paid for by taxpayers.

Heads up: Lots of construction projects will affect Puget Sound highways this weekend

Passing along an advisory from WSDOT: “We have a busy weekend ahead of us packed with roadwork and special events. Please take a look at the map provided below to help us spread the word to travelers in our area. Our goal is to help drivers stay informed so they can give themselves plenty of extra time to reach their weekend destinations.”

Recommended Link

World’s first light rail on a floating bridge: For I-90, Sound Transit had to invent ‘a brilliant solution’

“Sound Transit’s consultants have invented a flexing track connection, using earthquake science, to safely move future light-rail trains on the I‑90 floating bridge,” reports The Seattle Times’ Mike Lindblom.


People who walk regularly around Seattle are torn between bafflement and dismay at what they traverse on foot. On any given day, they encounter buckled, battered and sometimes closed sidewalks; broken curbs; faded or entirely unpainted crosswalks; and crumbling stairways.

— Former WSDOT Secretary Doug McDonald: Seattle isn’t doing enough to make its streets safe and pedestrian friendly

Recommended Link

California Legislature votes to raise gas taxes, vehicle fees by $5.2 billion a year for road repairs and transit

Patrick McGreevy and Melanie Mason, reporting for The Los Angeles Times: “After a week of fierce debate between opposing interests, the state Legislature on Thursday approved a plan to raise gas taxes and vehicle fees by $5.2 billion a year to pay for the repair of California’s pothole-ridden, decaying system of roads, highways and bridges.”


We know how this works from 520, 405 HOT, and lots of other toll projects in other cities. At first people say “I’LL NEVER PAY.” They stubbornly spend the extra time to avoid the toll. Then, one day, they have an emergency, or find themselves running horribly late. “Just this one time,” they grumble, and they take the toll road, complaining about the “extortion” to anyone who will listen. Then they start to internalize that the trip on the toll road was a lot quicker and simpler. And so gradually, they move to taking it whenever they’re short on time, to whenever they’re a few minutes late, to routinely. And at that point, they start to make rational calculations about when using the toll is worth it, and stop saying “I’LL NEVER PAY.”

— David Lawson, commenting on the future of SR 99 at Seattle Transit Blog


One highlight was riding Amtrak across the border. There’s something about train travel that melts stress away.

— Daniel Beekman: A first-timer’s fresh view of Vancouver, B.C.

Recommended Link

A letter of thanks to King and Snohomish counties for ST3

Addressing King and Snohomish voters, who supported Sound Transit 3, Tacoma News Tribune columnist Matt Driscoll writes on behalf of people in Pierce County to say thanks for “saving our transportation bacon”.

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Seattle Subway: “Over a century after the first vote for a fast and reliable train system in the Seattle area, it’s finally our generation’s chance to right a hundred years years of wrongs and build a reliable train system to allow people to travel completely separate from traffic, as well as making many other investments in our region’s transportation system.”

Recommended Link

Joe Fitzgibbon rebuts Reuven Carlyle: Sound Transit’s property taxing authority does not poach education dollars

State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon has responded to Reuven Carlyle’s recent guest post for Publicola opposing Sound Transit 3, saying Carlyle outlined a “false choice” in his piece. “This does a disservice both to our region’s residents who have waited 40 years too long for a regional transit system and our state’s public school children, parents, and educators who have waited 40 years too long for full public education funding,” Fitzgibbon argues.


My husband and I went on an adventure on our bucket list, riding the Link light rail. We were so impressed with everything, from the reliable schedule to the smooth ride to the clean and welcoming stations. Definitely a positive for Seattle!

— An anonymous Seattle Times reader, praising Sound Transit’s Link light rail system (from Transporation rants: garages that close too early, and bicycle thieves)

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“Just a few days before the SR 99 tunneling machine started tunneling under the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the Washington State Department of Transportation flew a video-equipped drone through the SR 99 tunnel to show Seattle Tunnel Partners’ construction progress. On an average day, the tunnel is bustling with construction. To avoid disrupting crews, this video was recorded in between regular work shifts.”

Recommended Link

German automakers who once laughed off Elon Musk are now starting to worry

“Some in Germany are now, rather belatedly, seeing Tesla as a long-term threat to the pride and joy of the country’s economy: the car industry that employs 750,000 workers and indirectly accounts for 1 in 8 jobs,” The Los Angeles Times reports.

Recommended Link

Tim Eyman declares war on Sound Transit — again

The Stranger talks to NPI and Transportation Choices Coalition about Tim Eyman’s latest destructive initiative, which would wipe out billions in funding for multimodal transportation projects, eviscerating money for transit, bike paths, trails, and infrastructure for pedestrians.

Recommended Link

Sound Transit to add longer trains to meet unexpectedly high demand for light rail

University Link only opened to the public last Saturday, but already, it’s so popular that Sound Transit has decided to begin permanently lengthening trains to accommodate a surge in ridership. Beginning next Monday, the agency says commuters can expect to see more three-car trains in regular service, alternating with two-car trains.


University Link can get you from the UW to Capitol Hill in about four minutes or less

Sound Transit built University Link with the promise that trains would offer a speedy underground ride between Westlake Center, Capitol Hill, and the University of Washington. Now that U-Link is open to the public to ride, we’ve been timing trains to see how well they do in actual service.

This post will chronicle the results of our tests.

Tests between single stations

  • UW to Capitol Hill, southbound: 3 minutes, 47 seconds
  • Westlake to Capitol Hill, northbound: 2 minutes, 31 seconds
  • Capitol Hill to UW, northbound: 4 minutes, 19 seconds
  • Capitol Hill to Westlake, southbound: 2 minutes, 53 seconds

In these tests, the stopwatch was started the moment the doors closed at the station of departure and stopped when the doors opened at the station of arrival.

Tests between the northern and southern terminuses

  • UW to SeaTac Airport, southbound: 46 minutes, 34 seconds

Note that the test included time spent on dwells at stations in between, not just the amount of time the trains were in motion.

Video Clip

Yesterday, the very first Boeing 727 airliner made its final flight from Everett’s Paine Field to Seattle’s Boeing Field to become part of the Museum of Flight’s collection. It went off without a hitch. Watch the final landing and taxi of this meticulously restored aircraft in the above video clip.