« Why Streetcars Suck: Simple Example | Main | Gadget transit »

Streetcars suck in Seattle too

Yesterday, I posted a quick hit about our bus ride down to First Night which noted several times where a bus was actually more useful than a streetcar would have been. It's actually fairer to say "less awful", of course, since anybody who knows me knows I don't find bus transit remotely acceptable on a corridor like this either - it needs true light rail like Austin voters approved in 2000.

Now, I see that things aren't going so great in Seattle with their stuck-in-traffic streetcar either:

On Sunday, the southbound streetcar was out of service at Westlake Avenue and Lenora Street because a car was parked in the way.

"In spite of the fact we have clearly marked areas, and despite signs we have, for some reason a driver parked their car so it caused a problem for the streetcar," Sheridan said.

He did not know how long the streetcar was out of service, but one witness said he saw the streetcar still stopped at 8:30 p.m.

This entry was posted in the following categories: I Told You So , Transportation


TrackBack URL for this entry:


This is what it will take to dissuade people from violating bus/streetcar lanes. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/01/04/MNBCU8CKA.DTL

And, of course, the ongoing expense of this enforcement makes it foolish to just not have reserved guideway down the middle of the street (where nobody's going to be tempted to park their car 'just for a minute' with the flashers on to run into the store).

Transportation solutions which rely on active enforcement quite often fail, because the amount of resources it would require to enforce actively _enough_ aren't available or aren't palatable. Think here about the sea change in traffic engineering from "over-engineer roads and rely on the cops to enforce the speed limit" to "we'd better design roads that encourage people to drive the proper speed".

But in the case of Seattle (and Austin), this isn't even a 'streetcar lane' so it's even harder. Some population that WOULD understand "don't stop in a bus-only lane" will NOT understand why they can stop in some right lanes they drive in but not others. ("can stop" used here in a practical, not legal manner).

And if you doubt any of that, just read the comments on your citation - full of angry car drivers who insist that the buses not pulling into bus stops are the problem worth discussing instead. Non-starter.

I don't deny that dedicated rights-of-way are ideal. Sadly life does not always = ideal. I just don't think dedicated RsOW are doable along every inch of a route where you'd want to get rail through. Not to mention some jackass is always going to manage to eff things up (see http://trainjotting.com/2008/01/03/more-on-the-guy-who-drove-onto-the-train-tracks/)

I'd say enforcement would be pretty easy: camera, Wi-Fi, GPS, and a hot button the operator could press to start recording and alert private tow trucks that there's a cash cow on the rails. Not that I _like_ that idea necessarily ..I can envision politicians drooling over the fine revenue.

Streetcars couldn't not pull up to the stop, btw.

It's not a small difference, though. Physical separation (even just a reserved lane in the MIDDLE) gets you about 99.99% of the way to fully separated right-of-way. All the enforcement in the world can't get you close to that; and people won't stand even a modest increase in enforcement - as you can see in the comments to the related articles on the newspaper sites (San Francisco, for instance).

beit - it's not that you always need reserved guideway, but a streetcar line with NO reserved guideway is a complete waste. It doesn't give the riders any advantage at all over a bus - and in fact brings along expensive enforcement mechanisms needed to keep the lane clear when a bus could just go around the obstruction.

Post a comment