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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 10, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Light rail: Trains are too loud, disrupt Metro routes

Light rail shouldn’t disrupt bus service

The Seattle Times did a fine job of reporting the disruption to the Metro bus service due to the light rail traveling through South Seattle [“Rail may shake up bus-rider routines,” NWTuesday, July 7].

It is interesting that Sound Transit hopes to have the bus riders of the Rainier Valley “ride the rail.” I thought the purpose of the light rail was to create a viable option for those still driving their fossil-fuel-burning vehicles that are clogging the roads and freeways — not to inconvenience the conscientious citizens who are accessing the already great bus system.

— C. Joy Estill, Seattle

Easy science would quiet light rail

The Times reported [“Tracks’ din stirs Tukwila outcry,” NWSunday, July 1] that the Tukwila Sound Transit light-rail tracks show a “10 times louder” noise impact than the predicted decibel levels. Correct reporting, but highly inaccurate.

The decibel measure reports energy levels, not “loudness.” Loudness is a perception as adjusted by the very clever human ear. The human ear registers only a doubling of loudness for every 10 decibels of increased energy. Still, a doubling of loudness is bad enough, especially for screechiness to which the decibel scale is totally deaf.

But this is just another example of the disconnect between policy chutzpah, journalism and important technical details. As for policy wonks, even a short memory reminds us that a more direct Sound Transit path to the Seatle-Tacoma International Airport was bent by Tukwila politicos to include a station of their very own, in place of what otherwise might still have been a relatively straight regional track alignment. The first routing corruption was bending the track for political reasons through Rainier Valley — and away from Boeing Field and the entire Duwamish industrial area. Now the alignment is both local and regional — and therefore neither.

And then there is the underlying issue of rail-car technology. The original regional environmental impact statement discounted rail technologies that deal with above-grade track noise. For most of a century, the Paris subway and elevated system has used very quiet rubber tires on a guideway. Not nearly trendy enough for world-class Seattle. Better to resurrect under a new name the trolleys of the 19th century.

The Times could help by getting in right — early in the public decision process — on how policy alternatives actually fit or do not fit with obscure technical details that make a difference. Never an easy thing to do, and not always appreciated by elites who pride themselves in “making the tough decisions.”

— Peter Beaulieu, Shoreline

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