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Brian Ferris
Works at Google
Attended University of Washington
Lives in Seattle
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Software Engineer
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  • Google
    Software Engineer, 2011 - present
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Seattle
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Zurich - Raleigh
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Googler - Transit and Mobility Hacker
Introduction
I work for Google in Seattle, doing cool things in a cool city.  I'm a bit of a transit nerd and I like helping people get from point A to point B.

Interested in transit issues?  Be sure to follow my transit-specific page.
Education
  • University of Washington
    Computer Science, 2004 - 2011
  • North Carolina State University
    Computer Science, 1999 - 2004
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Brian Ferris

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Went to amazon.com and this was my Additional Items to Explore list (this was above the fold on the front page!):

1) Wallmonkeys WM301745 Verbandwechsel Peel and Stick Wall Decals (Verbandwechsel is German for changing bandages)
2) Puff-n-Fluff Dog Dryer
3) Fried Acheta - BBQ Flavour Worm Insects Crispy Snacks
4) Pretty Women Beauty Silicone Face Slimmer Mouth Muscle Tightener Present

I don't know if Amazon is trolling me or if this is really my algorithmic most-likely-to-buy list.
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You might want to remove your CC# from your account!
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Satya Nadella's rules for AI:
* AI must be designed to assist humanity
* AI must be transparent.
* AI must maximize efficiencies without destroying the dignity of people.
* AI must guard against bias
* ...

These are all great, but I'm not sure many of us humans would pass the bar. What hope do we have of building an AI that doesn't pick up our own natural tendencies?
Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (technically four) have been a stalwart of science fiction for decades. With recent advances in artificial intelligence, though, computer scientists and tech...
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We've already tossed Asimov's laws aside in the name of self-driving cars, since of course we've put car-priority over human-priority long ago.  Might as well try some set of rules, I guess.
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View from the south end of the Seattle viaduct, overlooking the South Portal of the new tunnel and related construction.

Every time I hear the word portal in discussion of the tunnel, I like to dream that this isn't some over-budget, behind-schedule transportation boondoggle. Instead I imagine that surveyors found something more than just dirt, muck and decades of accumulated trash in the in-fill around Pioneer Square. They found a gateway. A portal. And it was big. So big that it required the world's biggest tunnel boring machine to gain access. It was all going well, but that was no steel pipe that Bertha hit two years ago. They had reached the door and the ensuing delays and retrofits were all just a cover for what would come next: going through. Everyone knew that activating the portal would risky. Sink holes? No big surprises there.

The real surprise was when something from the other side pushed back. Time to seal the portal? You bet: https://twitter.com/MikeLindblom/status/693273614523600896
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It turns out I actually own one of these gadgets.
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The fog last Friday morning was a bit eerie, but this time-lapse of the fog + sunrise is alternatively amazing.
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Programming note: Five Guys now has milkshakes.  Please update your waist-line as appropriate.
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A couple things about bikes:

* I live in Ballard and commute to Fremont by bike a couple times a week.  The commute is pretty easy (flat, Burke Gillman Trail) but there are two sketchy bits: crossing Leary Way and crossing Shilshole Ave.  The lack of a protected crossing for pedestrians and bikes on the 1/2 mile of Leary between 15th Ave and Market is a known problem that the City of Seattle and SDOT are working on in the form of a new signaled crossing at Dock Pl (along with turning 17th Ave into a greenway ala 58th St - cool!).  Shilshole still remains a problem and it's not clear it will get any better until the Missing Link is finally (if ever) figured out.

* Which is not to say people aren't trying.  Perhaps inspired by Seattle PARK(ing) day last Friday, someone hand painted a green bike box and crossing across Shilshole where the BGT terminates, along with a bike path along the sidewalk up to 17th Ave.  Ironically, the Cintas delivery truck was completely blocking the home-made path when I went by on my way to work.

* Meanwhile, bike-vs-car tensions remain high.  I've seen my fair share of both motorists and bicyclists blow through stop signs in Ballard, so no one is truly clean here.  That said, I watched a fun interaction between a motorist and a cyclist on Friday.  Motorist was at a stop-sign and pulled out in front of a cyclist who had the right-of-way.  The cyclist probably could have avoided the car, but chose to collide/kick the car to show their disapproval.  Much yelling ensued.  What was interesting is that there were at least four of us on bikes watching the whole interaction go down.  The 58th St greenway definitely gets some use by bicyclists ; )

* Today was Seattle Summer Parkways in Ballard, where 7 miles of residential streets were closed to vehicle traffic and opened up to pedestrians and bikes.  Lots of fun for families on bikes, but maybe not so much fun for the volunteers manning intersections who had to explain to motorists why the road was closed.  I did the full Ballard loop on my bike.  Pretty sure I saw former-Mayor McGinn out cruising.

* Bikes!
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Brian Ferris

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tl;dr - If this thing ever gets built, it’s probably going to be on South Shilshole and that’s ok.

So maybe you’ve heard, the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link EIS has been out for a couple weeks now (so exciting - https://plus.google.com/+BrianFerris/posts/QSK5qfPhGXD). A lot of ink has been spilled on the subject already:
* Official SDOT Page: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/BGT_Ballard.htm
* Seattle Bike Blog: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2016/06/22/missing-link-megastudy-confirms-build-the-trail-already/
* Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2016/07/06/voice-your-opinion-on-the-missing-link/

What's my take? As I mentioned before, my perspective on biking has changed a bit now that I regularly take my daughter to daycare in Fremont via bicycle. Specifically, I’m more a more conservative rider and I’m more acutely aware of sketchy conditions. The Missing Link is the definition of sketchy riding, but fortunately I only have to deal with it for the short section between 17th Ave and where the trail currently terminates at 46th St. No matter what gets built, I think it will be an improvement for me.

As for the remainder of the Missing Link, truth be told, I will probably rarely have a need to use it. Regardless of what gets built, I’m more likely to jump on the 58th St Greenway when heading west to Stone Gardens (or Golden Gardens). That said, this is the internet. I’m still going to give my opinion ; )

Funnily enough, my opinion initially started as this: build it on Ballard Ave.

Being a more conservative rider these days, I spend a lot of time riding on Ballard Ave. Compared to Shilshole and Leary, Ballard Ave is practically dead in terms of traffic. Safety aside, the historic buildings and shady trees of Ballard Ave are way more pleasant than the industrial backlot that is Shilshole. Old Ballard is a place people want to go. Why not put the trail there?

Of course, there is the small matter of the Sunday Farmers Market, our weekly pageant of micro-greens, strollers, dogs, street food, buskers, and other entries from https://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/. The market is already a hot mess on a busy weekend, especially the stalls along the south-west edge of the street, where the cramped sidewalk makes it tricky to navigate by foot, let alone push a stroller. In my naive world, I’d imagined putting the trail up Ballard Ave and single-tracking the market further up and down the street. More space to walk, more space for bikes, what’s not to like?

The Farmers Market maybe didn’t quite see it that way (see http://www.myballard.com/2016/07/06/farmers-market-concerned-about-ballard-ave-missing-link-option/). The signs and flyers at the market the past few weekends were pretty clear: if the Missing Link ran up Ballard Ave, it would literally destroy the Farmers Market (there would be an actual explosion). While the rhetoric was over the top, it was also effective (witness all the market patrons filling out comment cards at the SDOT booth). While some might have a bit sympathy for Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel, people f-ing love their Farmers Market.

And to be fair, after talking the idea over with a few people, the idea certainly has drawbacks and I don’t really need the trail on Ballard Ave in the first place. Ballard Ave will continue to be a pleasant place to bike, jog, and walk even if the trail doesn’t get built there. In fact, I think there are many causal riders who would continue to bike it even if Shilshole South was built out (and hard-core riders who would still bike on Shilshole even if Ballard Ave was built out). As long as the trail has good connections to Ballard Ave, then all will be well.

So what does that leave us? Leary Way? As much as I look forward to contending with the worst intersections (15th and Leary, 20th and Leary, Market and Leary), some of the busiest bus stops in Ballard (Market St leads the pack), and a different set of business stakeholders who will likely fight it tooth and nail (Carter Subaru?), Leary doesn’t seem like it stands much of chance, even with a road diet.

That leaves Shilshole. And more specifically, Shilshole South. By the numbers, it seems like a no-brainer. Only a handful of intersections, few of which would need a stop light. It’s what the people always wanted (and what the city council originally proposed). It would be a final FU! to Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel. What’s not to love?

Let’s start with the ugly. By my count there are 25 existing driveways and intersections that the trail would cross between 11th Ave and 30th Ave for the proposed alignment. While the Freelard section of the trail has shown that this maybe isn’t the end of the world, there’s no question that I’d always be on high alert when biking through here. There will still be a sketchy railroad track crossing near the Ballard bridge. Biking through here will never be as pleasant as pretty much any other section of the trail. When the day comes that my daughter inevitably starts riding on her own, I would be reluctant to let her ride here in the same way I would on other parts of the trail.

All that said, it would still be a massive improvement over what we have today in terms of rider safety. More importantly, the alignment seems to include a stop-light at 17th Ave, which would solve my mini-Missing-Link woes. So just build the damn things already!

That said, if I could just make a few suggestions…

While the choice between Shilshole, Ballard, and Leary gets most of the attention, what happens west of 24th Ave is no less important. The proposed alignment continues along 54th St (and I’m using the term “street” charitably here), following the tracks until they reach the locks. While this is certainly the most direct route, it’s not without issues. For starters, this back alley is sort of scary to pass through even during the day, let alone at night. While the new Nordic Heritage Museum project on Market will certainly class up the joint (as would the trail itself), I wonder what it will feel like when finally done.

The connection from the trail to 24th Ave is going to be tricky for north-bound riders. I’m not exactly how they’ll transition from the trail on the south-west edge of the street to get riders across the road into the north-bound lane. I guess you could extend a section of the trail all the way up to the light and then riders could cross over at the light? I can already see riders doing sketchy things to save a light cycle.

Part of me thinks they should just put Market St on a road-diet west of 24th Ave, since there isn’t enough traffic to justify four lanes (and people haul ass as result). As noted in the EIS, this would leave plenty of room for the trail on Market itself and would put the trail front-and-center instead of hiding it out back. Thoughts?

Anyways, if you are one of the one or two people who actually read all of this, congrats! You must be a true bike nerd or really bored or both. Now’s the depressing part where I remind everyone that no matter which alternative we pick, it probably wouldn’t be finished before 2018, assuming it’s ever finished.

On that cheery note, time for bed.
Seattle Department of Transportation, Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link Project, Burke-Gilman Trail Extension Projects, City of Seattle, University of Washington Burke-Gilman Trail Projects
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Just another exciting Friday night, reading environmental impact studies.
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+Alan Liu agreed that the shorter missing link between 17th Ave Greenway and the BGT is no fun. I've been biking my daughter Mira to daycare in Fremont, so I'm even more acutely aware of sketchy biking conditions these days.

The new crossing signal at Dock and Leary is definitely an improvement. I know most cyclists skip it in favor of still crossing Leary at 17th Ave in the morning when traffic volumes are still low in order to cut the corner, but in the afternoon, the signal is essential for getting across Leary in one piece. It's certainly frustrating that the signal has a 2-minute delay, but I have that same frustration with most of the pedestrian crossing signals on 15th Ave as well.

Unfortunately, that still leaves crossing Shilshole/46th. There is no question that Shilshole and 17th Ave intersection is a hot mess. When heading from Ballard to Fremont, I usually just bike on the sidewalk from 17th Ave down to the crosswalk on 46th where the trail terminates. With a toddler strapped in the back seat, I think I get more sympathy from drivers and someone will usually stop (or I just wait for a break in traffic). The sidewalk is obviously not great, given that there are active businesses there, but it's the best of a bad situation.

As for the missing link itself, I don't know if I have preferred option yet. More on that later, but I think no matter what gets built, it will improve the connectivity to the 17th Ave Greenway. I think both he South and North Shilshole alignments propose a new signal at 17th and Shilshole, so that would go a long way to improving crossing safety. The Ballard and Leary options would also establish connectivity.

Anyway, more thoughts on all this later.
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"If the Big Dig were to be built today, it would benefit from the new tunnel-boring technology currently deployed in the Swiss Alps [...] and for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement at Seattle’s waterfront."

Based on Seattle's experience, I'm not sure "benefit" is a word I would use.

But an interesting article nonetheless as we consider where Seattle's big-dig may leave us in a decade.
The $15 billion project is a road paved with failures, successes, and what-ifs.
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...Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement at Seattle’s waterfront. You mean the one that's been broken/stuck for 2 years and just started moving again?
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Just 32 lbs of various flours.
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Though I do love that movie (see also the bendy-bus conversation scene), we were mostly just taking advantage of Bob's Red Mill's Cyber-Monday 50% sale + free shipping.
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Given the imminent traffic apocalypse in Downtown Seattle with Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit this week, I'm wondering if we all would be better off if he just AirBnB-ed it at Bill Gates' place instead.
The area from Fourth to Seventh avenues and from Lenora Street to Olive Way will be closed during the visit. Pedestrians will have to pass a police security checkpoint to enter the area. Even the South Lake Union streetcar will be affected.
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Just a heads up that the playground is currently closed for renovation through early summer of 2016.
Public - 7 months ago
reviewed 7 months ago
Public - 9 months ago
reviewed 9 months ago
Quality food and cocktails. Some gluten-free options. Service was great.
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
Good location, food, and drinks. A nice addition to Pioneer Square.
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
69 reviews
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Pulled pork and brisket were both tasty and I appreciated that they had a number of gluten-free options.
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
I think the fundamentals are good for your basic burger fan. However, big +1 for gluten-free bun + fryer options.
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
Great views of Anacortes, especially at sunset.
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago