Subarea Equity

Subareas (globaltelematics.com)

There are a lot of engineers, both on stage and in the seats, so it’s not surprising that when I point out that ST’s subarea equity formula isn’t perfect, it spawns a couple of dozen comments trying to find the perfect formula.

Precise formulas are not the answer. In general, arbitrary divisions are obstacles to sensible resource allocation. A flexible policy is one that can better serve regional needs and win votes. And the point of my East Link post is that current policy is flexible.

In fact, a flexible policy within the framework of a subarea rule probably works out best in practice. Voters do seem to show little regional solidarity and resent dollars moving elsewhere. Furthermore, when ST3 rolls around subarea equity may guard against some cynical maneuvers that the ST board could try. It’s best to leave well enough alone.

Comments

  1. zefwagner says

    My problem with sub-area equity is that it is based on where sales tax revenue is generated, as if that correlates at all with where transit is needed. Federal Way is understandably angry about having their light rail delayed just because South King is suffering from the recession more than other areas. If they would add a good deal more riders to the system, they should get the service regardless of where the taxes came from.

    The alternative method would be to allocate service hours to subareas based on factors like population, population density, employment density, major institutions, and social equity. This is exactly how the new Metro policy works, and it should be extended to Sound Transit as well.

    • Adam Bejan Parast says

      I’m going to challenge you on that not that I necessarily agree or disagree.

      I would contend that if Sound Transit used measures like you propose to build a regional high capacity transit system, more of the LRT system would be built in Seattle, not the other way around. Subarea equity essentially forces Sound Transit to extend light right outwards rather than fill it in where it could carry the most passengers. So in that sense Federal Way probably wouldn’t even be in line to get LRT if it wasn’t for subarea equity.

      And that is the whole irony about Bellevue and Federal Way complaining about subarea equity. Because of subarea equity they got a shot a LRT, but now they don’t like it and want money from Seattle.

      Subarea equity was a bad deal for Seattle to start with, and now back pedaling on subarea equity would essentially screw over Seattle on that bad deal.

      • Andrew Smith says

        Well, Federal Way would certainly be in line a lot sooner than a tunnel in Bellevue would be.

        It’s like the King County Flood district (or king county sheriffs, or state highway funds) but in reverse. There are no floods in Seattle, so we get nothing from that other than suburbs that don’t wash away.

        It makes sense for the suburbs to get less transit than the city, just as it makes sense for the city to get less flood prevention infrastructure.

      • Cascadian says

        Andrew, how do you figure that Federal Way rates higher than Bellevue in any list of priority transit projects? It has only 75% of the population and is much less of an employment center. South Link just isn’t as important as either University/Northgate or East Link.

      • Kyle S. says

        No Andrew, you’re still not making any sense.

        The tunnel in Bellevue is a component of the second-most important segment of Link (after U-Link).

        Extending light rail to the sticks of Federal Way is not nearly as important for the health and vitality of our region’s transportation infrastructure.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        I think Andrew is making sense.

        His point is that the difference in cost between surface and tunnel in Bellevue doesn’t add any riders to East Link – but spent in Federal Way, it would.

      • reality based commute says

        The funding gap to get light rail to Federal Way is far larger than the tunnel gap on East Link. And there is much more of a nexus with North King dollars.

      • Chris Stefan says

        The decision to use North sub-area money to help pay for the tunnel in Bellevue is a political one, but one I feel is necessary. Having ST help fund the Bellevue tunnel was required to get to “yes” with the Bellevue City Council over the final East Link alignment. After all of the wrangling over the alignment it would have been unfortunate to have the whole thing end up in court. This way everyone ends up with an alignment they can live with.

      • d.p. says

        But the precedent it sets, Chris, is not a pretty one.

        After last week’s debt-ceiling hostage situation, I don’t think any politically savvy person should doubt the potency of bad precedents.

      • zefwagner says

        Well, you would still have to have some measure of “geographic equity,” which is also part of the new Metro policy, it just should be the least important factor. Either you have some amount of service covering the entire tax district, or you change the borders.

        It is very debatable whether Federal Way should get light rail based on the merits. Some form of Bus Rapid Transit might serve that market better. I was just saying that the decision shouldn’t be based on something as arbitrary as where sales tax receipts are highest. Population and population density are probably the most important factors, since they directly impact ridership.

      • Anandakos says

        Zef,

        Part of the value of having a Light Metro system (Link) is that it helps shape future regional growth. There are three “holes” in the region where light rail might be used to build “string of pearls” mid- to high-rise development where it doesn’t already exist, at least to a degree.

        Those “holes” are Aurora/Linden between 130th and Swedish Hospital in Lynnwood (yes, I know it’s not called “Aurora” in Snohomish County), the Bel-Red region southeast of the I-405/SR520 intersection in Bellevue, and the area souhth of 200th along Pacific Highway South. Look elsewhere and you will find that other places that are flat and have decent access but are not currently developed with single-family housing or active industrial facilities are too small or remote for major density.

        These are the region’s three best shots at absorbing future population growth without sprawling all the way to Yelm and Startup. Link appears likely to bypass the Aurora corridor to the north, sadly, but at least the other two should be pushed to the hilt.

        And if south link proves as successful as I think it can, build that cut-off along Airport Way.

        Those are all areas Link will

      • says

        “The sticks of Federal Way” are generating high value ridership through travel to sports venues. Without it, your LINK numbers would be even more abysmal than the currently 1/3rd of projected.

      • Mike Orr says

        Aurora from 130th to 185th still has a strong possibility. They discovered that I-5 would be more expensive than expected because the freeway is so old it would have to be partly rebuilt if a rail guideway is installed. That could increase the cost to match an elevated Aurora line. Then I-5 would have no cost advantage and the other factors would become more important. Namely, that Aurora would add three minutes to travel time, but it would offer an unequalled opportunity for TOD. I think the TOD would win that argument, if the cost advantage of I-5 is small.

        In Snohomish County the factors are different because Lynnwood TC is a must-serve destination. Lynnwood is rezoning its downtown to be like Bellevue, so there’s no way light rail could bypass it or it would be a useless fake metro. There may be a chance of moving the Mountlake Terrace TC station to Aurora Village but I don’t think it’s likely. And it doesn’t matter where Link goes between 244th and 200th because there’ll be no stations in between. 99 already has Swift, and Lynnwood is rezoning the areas around Swift stations for TOD.

        On Pacific Highway and Bel-Red, it’s already Link’s official route, so there’s nothing to worry about unless Federal Way convinces ST to move it to I-5, which is unlikely.

      • Anandakos says

        Replying to Mike,

        Why swing back to the I-5 corridor at 185th? Continue north to serve Aurora Village and a station at 218th to serve Premera and the hospital then use the interurban ROW to get back to I-5 on a diagonal. It’s less than a block east of Aurora there.

        Mountlake Terrace Station is already set up as an express bus freeway stop. There will still need to be express bus service between Everett and Seattle along the freeway; that can serve MLT.

        And honestly I’d prefer more stations along Aurora/Linden than the two planned: 130th, 145th, 165th, 185th, 200th and 218th SW. If Link ever pushes past Lynnwood express trains can skip-stop some stations.

      • Chris Stefan says

        Montlake Terrace is likely to get really pissy if their station is skipped. OTOH even though Montlake Terrace has ambitious plans for the area around the TC a station at SW 218th makes more sense in terms of TOD potential and serving all-day destinations. I can’t say as I care all that much though. The bigger fight is convincing ST to serve Aurora at all.

        As for stations on Aurora 165th doesn’t really make a lot of sense. 155th is a much better location due to all of the retail near that intersection (Safeway, Central Market, Sears, etc.). Similarly 175th is a good station location because of the Top Foods, Shorewood high School, Shoreline City Hall, etc. Also I believe Shoreline is trying to make this intersection their city center.

        The best potential station locations to my mind are 130th, 145th, 155th, 175th, 185th, and 200th (Aurora Village TC). Since some of those are a bit close so drop 145th and 185th. I woudn’t serve the Shoreline P&R at 192nd. I think closing the lot, selling the land and working out something with Aurora Village for shared parking would make more sense.

      • Mike Orr says

        ST will truncate its express buses when the north corridor is built. The travel time will be about the same or slightly faster, according to my comparisons. CT may be more reluctant to truncate its express routes but the option will be there.

        I puposely said “130th to 185th” to accommodate the whole variety of station proposals. 135th, 155th, and 185th may have better walksheds than 130th, 145th, and 175th, but east-west bus service to them would be more difficult. The latter are major streets that go past Aurora with a traffic light, and a bus could stop directly at the corner. The former are small streets that can’t really justify frequent transit, and the bus may have to turn onto Aurora if there’s no through street, which would be a bottleneck when Aurora is busy.

        I believe the crossver to I-5 would be right near 205th/244th, not at 185th.

      • Cheesewheels says

        If they select an Aurora alignment through Shoreline, it MUST be elevated. They absolutely cannot deal with a Rainier Valley style implementation; it would be ruinous for traffic and pedestrians.

        Anyway: My preferred stops would be at 130th, 155th/Central Market, 175th OR 185th, and Aurora Village TC before cutting over to MLT Freeway Station along Edmonds Way, then follow I-5 to Lynnwood TC.

  2. Andrew Smith says

    Subarea equity was put in place to stop precisely the sort of shenanigans that would be a part of Seattle paying for a Bellevue tunnel. If you treat Sound Transit tax receipts as one bug slush fund, you are going to walk down the path toward what you wrote at the bottom of the 2008 post:

    I can picture the ST board, mulling over ST3 and unburdened by SAE, maximizing the investment in the outlying areas, where support for transit is tepid, and banking that earnest Seattle liberals (who are in any case outnumbered) will support it anyway.

    Martin, explain to me how if you replace ST3 with “Bellevue Tunnel” this is not precisely what is happening.

    • Cascadian says

      It seems obvious to me that Seattle gets a huge benefit from Bellevue’s tunnel. The cross-lake commute, both ways, is central to how the city works. Many people who live on both sides of the lake work, shop, and play on the opposite side, all the time. Few people never cross the lake at all. Anything that speeds up transit on that corridor helps everyone on both sides.

      A faster connection between the region’s two largest employment centers (and first and third largest in population) improves the functioning of the entire transit network. While I would prefer more Sound Transit projects in North King, without a good connection to Bellevue the likelihood of a single dollar for more Seattle projects later on is low. Only if this was the last round of Sound Transit expansion would it make sense for Seattle to object to helping out with the Bellevue tunnel.

      • Andrew Smith says

        It seems obvious to me that Seattle gets a huge benefit from Bellevue’s tunnel. The cross-lake commute, both ways, is central to how the city works. Many people who live on both sides of the lake work, shop, and play on the opposite side, all the time. Few people never cross the lake at all. Anything that speeds up transit on that corridor helps everyone on both sides.

        The fact there is a large benefit is irrelevant. We all get a large benefit from infrastructure projects in China, universities in Australia and trees in Brazil, we should have to pay for those?

        If your neighbor comes to you and says, “Chip in some money so I can build a fence between our houses, the fence will obviously benefit you as well.” You have to consider whether you have other, more important things to spend your money on, right? You might say “Yes, I would love to have that fence, but I’d rather fix my broken hot water heater.” Or something similar. It becomes even more questionable when the neighbor says “I have enough money to build a nice wooden fence, but I’d really like to make it out of brick and stone… You need to pay for the upgrade?” “but I have no hot water…”

        What’s meaningful is this: Given the limited resources, which projects should Seattle’s transit dollars go to?

        An obvious way to measure that is to look at ridership. There is virtually no difference in ridership between the tunnel and surface options in Bellevue. There’s an obvious difference in ridership between a “Central streetcar” and nothing. On a dollar per rider basis, any project in Seattle is cheaper than any project on the Eastside, especially for Seattlites.

        This is all a long way of saying, for Seattlites, East Link as a whole is simply not as important a project as other in-city projects. Sure, they’ll benefit from it, just as they benefit from the airport connection. But they won’t benefit from it as much as they would in-city projects. Even if the ST2 project weren’t happening and Bill Gates gave Seattle $10 billion to build transit tomorrow, no one in the City would a penny of it on East Side light rail: they’d start building streetcars and a second subway line.

        Not because they hate the Eastside, but because it’s just not as valuable a line to Seattlites.

      • lazarus says

        Ah, no. The regional benefits of the Bellevue tunnel are pretty meager – just slightly higher ridership and slightly quicker transit times. ST’s studies basically show that the benefits of the tunnel just don’t justify the cost. Agreeing to the tunnel was a political compromise and not a technical need.

        And, if you are really going to abandon subarea equity in favor of regionalism, then you certainly wouldn’t send North King money to East King – you’d send it to South King. Expanding LR to deeper into South King has serious regional benefits – greater system coverage, improved ridership, better future expansion opps, etc.

        And I’m a bit surprised that nobody from Federal Way has pointed out the apparent hypocrisy here. If we gave East King the Federal Way treatment we would be talking about truncating East Link and jettisoning service to Overlake/MS. That, after all, is what we told South King to do.

        That said, if this financial bind is real for ST, then North King will probably just end up picking up the tab for more of the part of East Link that is currently in North King. Currently East King is paying for the entire connection to Central Link even though some of it is in North King.

        Personally I’d rather fund the Aloha Extension of the 1st Hill SC, but….

      • Sherwin Lee says

        Some of these comparisons with Federal Way are a bit ridiculous. East King has the money to build East Link sans the tunnel. South King can’t really build squat past S. 200th without a new package.

      • bellevueguru says

        Andrew, you’re missing my point entirely. You’re opening a pandora’s box by talking about projects ST has never fathomed giving a thought to. You’re simplifying this $150 million as if it could go toward any project in Seattle. It can’t. You’re basically talking about a bunch of what-ifs versus a 30% engineered East Link line that could be stopped dead in its tracks without a downtown Bellevue tunnel.

    • Martin H. Duke says

      Andrew, without knowing what North King is giving up, it’s hard to say. Central Streetcar is.not on the table for ST to fund, period. If it’s the Aloha extension or stuff up to Sbohomish County Line, it’s arguable.

      Anyway, it’s difficult to argue that ST2 suffers from profound underinvestment in Seattle, which is what I was worried about in the old post.

      • Andrew Smith says

        Andrew, without knowing what North King is giving up, it’s hard to say. Central Streetcar is.not on the table for ST to fund, period.

        Central Streetcar is a comparison of how much better the money is spent on projects here (I could use U-Link or even North Link if prefer). Still, it’s not “hard to say”. North King is giving up $150 million, or am I missing something.

        Anyway, this doesn’t answer my question.

      • Andrew Smith says

        Let me be very clear here:

        For the region/country/world as a whole, every dollar spent on transit infrastructure in Seattle is better than a dollar spent somewhere else in the region, because Seattle projects are cheaper per rider.

        It’s worse for the region, and especially bad for Seattle. You don’t have to know what you were going to spend it on to know it’s worse to spend it in Bellevue.

      • bellevueguru says

        Andrew, the Central Streetcar is a bad example because it’s exactly the type of thing that ST wouldn’t even consider funding. If you look at the North King projects on the table that might lose out on $150 million to East Link, the only thing you have is extending Link to the county line, and that doesn’t give the ST Board a compelling reason not to want to give Bellevue its tunnel, given the circumstances there. All the projects you talk about having a cheaper cost per rider aren’t even relevant to Sound Transit.

      • Andrew Smith says

        If you look at the North King projects on the table that might lose out on $150 million to East Link, the only thing you have is extending Link to the county line…

        That’s not true. There’s the Aloha Extension, the Ballard and Broad Street Sounder stations, a study of ballard to the UW. That’s just off the top of my head. Every one of those is better for Seattle than a tunnel in Bellevue. Extending link to the county line is good for the part of “North King” that’s not in Seattle. The second half of your sentance makes no sense.

        Explain to me how it’s okay for Sound Transit to fund Tacoma link but not the Central Streetcar? Yeah, thought so.

      • Chris Stefan says

        While it is a technicality I think the shift of $150 million of East Link costs from the East sub-area to the North sub-area is a bit of a different situation than shifting money from the North sub-area to fund the line South of S. 200th. For one thing the original plan for East Link was to have the East sub-area fund the entire line including the segment from the DSTT to the middle of Lake Washington including Rainier Station. Having the North sub-area pick up part of this cost isn’t funding anything that isn’t within the North sub-area. Giving money to the South sub-area for getting to Federal Way would be funding a project outside the sub-area.

      • d.p. says

        “…a study of ballard to the UW.”

        I know that only showed up in study form in ST2, but since I’m pretty convinced that the study would:

        – quantify the current east-west traffic nightmare;
        – register the current 44 nightmare and futility of throwing good money after bad on that bus;
        – calculate the stunning potential time savings (up to 45 minutes -> 5 minutes);
        – find that a Ballard-UW-ULink-downtown subway would be faster than “direct” Ballard RapidRide or Ballard-Fremont streetcar;
        basically prove its necessity

        …I would like to see that study underway immediately.

        And, what luck!… don’t we have some savings lying around thanks to those bids coming in under budget?

      • Martin H. Duke says

        You’re missing something. We have no idea what portion, if any, will come out of North King, so tagging us for the whole $150m is pemature and likely incorrect.

        There is little to no possibility of serious impacts to North Link or U-Link, which I agree would be terrible.

      • d.p. says

        Ah, but Chris, but if the post facto “suggestion” that we pay for the debatably-Seattle ROW just masks what we’re really doing — subsidizing a tunnel in Bellevue, outside our subarea — then it’s no different from your counterexample!

      • Martin H. Duke says

        From the merits, I don’t have a problem with ST funding any sort of streetcar.

        But the Tacoma Streetcar, First Hill Streetcar, and East Link were all part of the ballot measure. Central Streetcar wasn’t.

      • Mike says

        @ Andrew: You said “For the region/country/world as a whole, every dollar spent on transit infrastructure in Seattle is better than a dollar spent somewhere else in the region,”
        Would you be willing for all Federal $$ to flow to the cities with the best bang for the buck?
        Careful how you answer. Seattle rates very low on the ROI scale when it comes to rail investments. Actually it sucks, and that’s not changing anytime soon.
        Or do you expect your ‘fair share’ of the federal pie just because we contributed to it?

      • Bernie says

        do you expect your ‘fair share’ of the federal pie just because we contributed to it?

        Keeping in mind that Washington is in the minority of States which puts more into the federal pie than it gets back.

      • bellevueguru says

        The last half of my sentence makes perfect sense. Other than North Link, the only funded project you have in North King is the North Corridor with no guarantee that it will be rail. Which do you think is a more compelling investment for the ST Board: a complete line to Overlake, or a as-of-yet undetermined extension to 145th? Out of all those projects you listed, how many of them were funded? How many were part of ST2? Not one.

        Tacoma Link was a politically charged project with the prospect that it would one day connect with Central Link. You can’t seriously liken the Aloha extension to that.

    • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says

      While for East Link alone the tunnel may or might not make a big difference, when looking out to the future I think it will prove a good investment. Whether you are talking a Sand point crossing or coming down through lake city a Kirkland-Bellevue (-Issaquah?) line would bring headways down through the center of Bellevue to the point where you wouldn’t want/Bellevue wouldn’t allow surface running.

    • says

      Wrong. Subarea equity is a way of extending the reach of the transit bureaucracy to as far as possible.

      Is Seattle paying for Black Diamond?

      Yes.

      But it’s not Black Diamond’s fault. The other night I was driving around Covington, East Kent and Black Diamond at around 10:00 pm. There, before me, was the 168…driving around in the dark through shopping centers and corridors that had long since rolled up their awnings.

      Subarea equity is an expansionist policy to infiltrate the suburbs and make “transit” part of their lives even in places where it makes little or no sense.

      • Mike Orr says

        Don’t worry, Black Diamond and Covington are outside ST’s service area so they’re not paying ST taxes. The 168 is of course Metro, and there has been some unofficial talk of shrinking Metro’s service area. (Pierce County is further along in this: they’re withdrawing service from certain exurban areas — those that are expensive to serve and voted no on a PT tax increase — and they may shrink the PT district to exclude those areas.)

        Subarea equity would not exist except that the suburban governments insisted on it. So if you have a problem with subarea equity and transit being extended to where it’s not wanted, take it up with your suburban elected officials.

      • Mike Orr says

        Of course, if those Metro buses in Covington are useless because the people there aren’t transit riders, that contradicts the idea of extending light rail or RapidRide to them, or of setting up high-speed rail to Yakima and Yelm.

  3. d.p. says

    I’m with Adam, Andrew, and Chris Stefan (in the prior thread) on the slippery-slope argument:

    It’s not so much about whether or not the Bellevue tunnel is useful (it is). Tt’s about setting a precedent for rolling back sub-area equity just in time to screw Seattle over on future mass-transit projects that would currently be required to offset ex-urban ones, ensuring that the one (wide-spaced, commuter-oriented) line we have is the only one we’ll ever get.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      Exactly. We need to be very vigilant to protect subarea equity to make sure we get another Seattle line in ST3.

      That said, there’s a decent argument that the $150 million contribution to East Link covers the part of the project in Seattle anyway. I’m not sure it even does cover the whole thing.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says

        Yeah I agree with Ben that sharing some of the cost of the segment on I-90 in Seattle is acceptable.

      • d.p. says

        As I debated with Mike in the other thread, we shouldn’t “cover the whole thing [segment]” just because it happens to fall within our city limits.

        Is there anyone who seriously thinks, if we had our druthers, we’d focus our energies on a mass-transit line to a dead-zone between Judkins Parks and a light-industrial stretch of Rainier?

      • Jason Mitchell says

        d.p., if that mass-transit line also connected Seattle residents to their Eastside workplaces, and brought Eastside employees and customers to Seattle businesses? Absolutely. Characterizing a segment’s utility irrespective of its role in the network is fairly disingenuous. We wouldn’t build a line from Rainier Beach to Sodo either. Fortunately their are some useful destinations a couple stops north and south.

      • d.p. says

        Jason, I think you’re confusing “of some use to” with “subsidy-justifying.”

        Of course Eastside transit is of some use to Seattlites. Just as in-Seattle transit is of use to those from elsewhere (most likely of greater/more frequent use). But that’s not actually what’s being debated here.

        It’s a pretty problematic leap to start saying that, because an Eastside line might occasionally provide us some value, we should suddenly be on the hook for any part of it that falls within our limits. Even if it’s not really “our” line in any way. I call b.s. on that.

        As for your Rainier corridor example: SE Seattle isn’t the city’s densest quadrant, but it has long been among the least well-integrated, culturally, economically, and transportationally. There was a strong case to be made for the political, social, and practical value of that line to the city proper. If the city’s mass-transit were built in a vacuum, it might not have been the first constructed, but it definitely would have been on the list.

        DSTT to the I-90 lid in a city-transit vacuum? Never in million years.

      • Bernie says

        “might occasionally provide us some value”? The current I-90 commute time split is 45% coming from Seattle to the Eastside. Bellevue and Microsoft are growing and the number of jobs in the Seattle CBD has shrunk over the last decade. It’s far from “occasionally”, it’s every damn day that the split gets closer to 50/50.

      • d.p. says

        Discussed in the last thread, Bernie.

        Can’t base your comparisons on current automobile transit, when it is hypothetically possible to someday reach all central-Seattle destinations via transit but categorically impossible to ever reach all sprawling Eastside destinations without a car. You’re not running an apples-to-apples comparison, there.

        Remind us to start charging the suburban subareas a supplementary-usage fee every time their residents cross onto our already-paid-for network. Because that’s precisely what “subsidize the Bellevue tunnel” arguments boil down to.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        But by that logic, shouldn’t the East side have paid for part of the central system?

      • Bernie says

        The eastside did pay for part of the Central system. The bus tunnel was a county project, not City of Seattle.

      • d.p. says

        Best not to start talking about King County Metro expenditures and one-way subsidies right about now.

        (see reminder of demonstrated proof on that matter, further down the thread)

      • Jason Mitchell says

        I’m not confused, dp, just disagreeing. And again, your language is fairly disingenuous. East Link “might occasionally provide us some value?” Come on.

        And talk about problematic leaps: No one here has advocated for anything close to being automatically “on the hook” whenever any lines cross Seattle city limits. Martin’s whole point is that the subarea equity policy allows for flexibility in application. My point (and Adam’s and Ben’s) is that sharing at least some of the cost of a segment in Seattle that undeniably benefits Seattle—to help fund technically and politically expedient improvements on the very same line—might constitute a good use of said flexibility. Case-by-case basis, not a principle applied uniformly.

      • d.p. says

        Fine. As I’ve now said twice, we should start dinging each sub-area for a transfer of funds each time someone starts a round-trip journey in one and winds up in another.

        Because that’s literally the same argument that is being made to justify Seattle’s “need” for a Bellevue tunnel.

        Sadly, I don’t think you’d like they way that plan would pan out for you!

      • d.p. says

        Seriously, Jason, one of these days the urban left is going to have to play some hardball to get everyone else to stop flogging “transfer of wealth” fallacies for political gain.

        Net transfer of wealth is uni-directional in this country. Us to you. No exceptions. If every governmental expense became subject to sub-area equities, you would lose!

      • Aleks says

        Bernie,

        My response is different, but very simple.

        Commuting is *never* a sufficient justification for building a rapid transit line.

        Capital investments in transit are most justified when they improve corridors with strong *all-day* demand. There are many corridors in Seattle which have precisely this characteristic. U-Link and North Link are of course the strongest, but anyone who frequently travels along Denny, or through Belltown/Uptown/LQA, or along 45th, can tell you that those corridors are heavily used (and heavily congested) from dawn till dusk. And those are just the corridors I’m familiar with — I’m sure there are tons of others.

        Building rail would dramatically increase capacity in those corridors, which would be a huge mobility improvement. Long-term, it would also represent a significant operational cost savings.

        In contrast, when Seattleites travel to Bellevue, it’s *primarily* for commuting. (When they travel to Redmond/Overlake/Kirkland, it’s almost exclusively so.) The 550 does serve some all-day demand, but mostly in the other direction. Either way, it certainly doesn’t come close to the all-day demand of Seattle’s strongest corridors.

        When you have infrastructure which is bursting at the seams during commutes, but is free-flowing at other times, that’s a sign that you need operational improvements more than capital investments. In the case of the Seattle/Eastside commute, there are lots of fixes we could consider (some of which are happening) For example:

        – Variable tolling for both bridges
        – Two-way center HOV lanes that are transit-only during peak
        – Direct access ramps and/or median stops with lids where relevant (i.e. 108th, S Bel P&R, OTC)
        – Transit signal priority and/or dedicated lanes where appropriate
        – Off-board payment

        Improvements like these are far cheaper than building rail, and yet, for people whose destination isn’t along the 550, they’re likely to be better.

        So why would we Seattleites want to spend money on the latter, when the former is clearly a much better use of our money?

      • Bernie says

        Aleks, I totally agree. East Link is a waste of money when improved bus service would do more for less. Let’s hope ST has the foresight to make the DT Bellevue tunnel bus compatible.

      • zefwagner says

        Aleks definitely has a point, although it seems like Seattle-Bellevue does indeed have all-day demand in both directions. Redmond is definitely mostly a commuter market, though. This suggests that the tunnel is not a great idea, since the only real benefit is to speed up the trip from Seattle to Redmond. However, if Bel-Red develops significantly it could end up being a major trip generator to and from Seattle, and in any case the Bellevue City Council politically can’t support surface-running rail.

      • d.p. says

        Bel-Red might develop as a commute destination. It will never have a significant non-commute travel appeal for people coming from Seattle.

        Aleks’s point trumps all of mine put together.

        The Bellevue tunnel simply cannot be argued as a “Seattle need” that should siphon Seattle funds. Period. Stop trying to extort us or rationalize a theft-in-progress.

        That the politicians who would perpetrate this theft are the same as those who would gleefully stick Seattle with Deep Bore Tunnel cost overruns is what steams my shorts the most.

      • Mike Orr says

        “Commuting is *never* a sufficient justification for building a rapid transit line… Capital investments in transit are most justified when they improve corridors with strong *all-day* demand”

        It depends on how you define commuting. If you define it as only to work and peak hours only, then yes. But when I visited a friend in Jersey City I saw that the PATH trains run 24 hours at 15 minutes minimum, and it’s used at all times of day. I was surprised when my friend called it “commuter rail”, because to me commuter rail is like Sounder: weekdays peak hour only. To me PATH functioned just like the NYC subway, as it is the fastest way to get anywhere, you can take it anytime without looking up the schedule, and people use it for all sorts of work and non-work trips.

        That’s how East Link could operate, not right after it opens, but over the years as people get used to it always being there, always leaving in ten minutes, etc, and they begin to see the value of actually living near a station so they don’t have to drive or take a bus to it.

      • Aleks says

        If you define it as only to work and peak hours only, then yes.

        Yeah, that’s pretty much the definition of commuting. :) Even if people in New Jersey call PATH a commuter service, it’s clearly serving a corridor with all-day demand. I don’t believe that the requisite level of all-day demand currently exists between Seattle and the Eastside (or between any two points on the Eastside).

        That’s how East Link could operate, not right after it opens, but over the years as people get used to it always being there, always leaving in ten minutes, etc, and they begin to see the value of actually living near a station so they don’t have to drive or take a bus to it.

        My point was that commuting alone isn’t justification for building rail. Commuting *plus* eventual TOD, with the plan to spend the resources and effort to turn the corridor into a major all-day demand center? Sure, that could work. (Though when you consider that Seattle already has multiple underserved corridors with all-day demand, I’m skeptical of a plan that ignores them in favor of corridors that are adequately served at the moment.) But if a corridor is only used for commuting, and only ever will be, then our capital costs are best spent elsewhere.

      • Mike Orr says

        But people are also calling Link “commuter rail” or semi-commuter rail because of its wide stop spacing, but Link does run all day like PATH (except 1am-5am). I think the changes in housing/geography are inevitable once Link is installed, even if it takes ten years to be visible. Because those who want to be carfree will move closer to Link stations, regardless of whether large TOD projects materialize. There are people on the Eastside like that, and they will gradually add to Link ridership, as they gradually have the opportunity to move to a different house/apartment or job closer to transit (Link, RR B, and the soon-to-be-improved all-day routes).

        Yes, there are corridors in Seattle that need HCT more than the Eastside does, and can use it more effectively, but the political reality is we have to get Link into all quarters of the region (north, east, and south). And we do need all-day regional mobility across all quarters. ST Express does not cut it: the 550 is 15 minutes daytime, 30 minutes eves/Sunday, and the 522, 545, and 554 go down to hourly. We need at least 15 minute minimum into all quarters to provide a baseline to build ridership from, to give people an incentive to move near transit. Of course, Link won’t directly address the infrequency in Issaquah-Eastgate or Lake City-Bothell, but a line in neighboring Bellevue and Lynnwood will have an effect on the subarea as a whole.

    • Martin H. Duke says

      We’re not “rolling back subarea equity.” We’re utilizing the existing flexibility in the statute.

      • Andrew Smith says

        We’re not “rolling back subarea equity.” We’re utilizing the existing flexibility in the statute.

        Just because the statute allows the flexibility doesn’t mean that it’s justified. No matter how you look at it, the money is better spent on projects in Seattle. All ridership estimates bear this out.

    • Andrew Smith says

      d.p. is exactly right here. Sharing any cost at all is a huge compromise, and shows that Sound Transit and the board are deprioritising the most important projects (anything in Seattle) for the tax payers in Seattle.

      The Central streetcar is $150 million and 8,000 riders per day. East Link is $6 billion and 50,000 riders per day. Every project in Seattle is a better investment than any project outside of Seattle – especially for Seattlites.

      • Bernie says

        Where are you coming up with these numbers? I think $6 billion and 50,000 are both way way on the high side; like at least 2X high. Although ridership estimates for Central Link have so far been proven to be wildly optimistic it’s fair to say Seattle projects will pull in more riders but since everything from the DSTT to well north of Roosevelt are all stupid expensive bored tunnels I’m not so sure the cost per rider is going to be a lot different.

      • Chris Stefan says

        U-Link (DSTT to Husky Stadium) and North Link (UW to Northgate) even with the expensive tunnels still come out much cheaper per rider than East Link. The ridership is that high and that strong. This is one of the reasons U-Link got one of the highest ratings of any New Starts project EVER.

      • Bernie says

        I didn’t see any breakout of East Link at that ST web page. I’m looking at the DEIS which is 2007 dollars but to Overlake it comes out at about $3.2 billion. Ridership estimates are in the 44-48 thousand range but all include the build out to Redmond which ain’t happening so when you back out that segment it’s more like 40,000 for 2030. And BTW, when you look at system ridership instead of segment ridership the tunnel options add 2,000-4,000 daily over the at grade alignments.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        You can’t compare the Central Streetcar and East Link using cost-effectiveness metrics without at least considering passenger miles.

      • Andrew Smith says

        You can’t compare the Central Streetcar and East Link using cost-effectiveness metrics without at least considering passenger miles.

        I am not sure why a longer commute is somehow better, still it pencils out. One costs more than 30 times as much, will carry a little less than four times as many riders and is about four times as long. Still seems twice as effective at that measurement.

    • Chris Stefan says

      d.p.
      Just to be clear, I think maintaining sub-area equity is necessary to ensure the North sub-area gets more than just token projects in ST3. I do support having the North sub-area pay for $150 million of the cost of East Link (presumably for some portion of the line between the DSTT and the I-90 bridge). However I would oppose any North sub-area money going to extend Link South to Federal Way.

      The case with the Bellevue tunnel doesn’t set nearly the precedent paying for the line to Federal Way would.

      Besides building ANY extension of Link South of S. 200th is of questionable utility. The ridership is very weak even if the line extends all the way to the Tacoma CBD. Connecting to Lynnwood, Redmond, or even Ash Way or Everett offers much stronger ridership and much better cost per rider. For that matter building a line from Burien to North Renton makes more sense and better cost per rider than extending any further South than S. 200th.

      • d.p. says

        I know we’re not in perfect agreement about whether this is a case that justifies a weakening of the subarea-funding wall.

        I wanted to credit you for being the first to cite the slippery-slope argument in the other thread. I’m clearly more fearful than you that a crack in the subarea separation now will give license to blow the dam down the line.

        Also, I’ve come to object to the idea of deciding now that we should “pay for Rainier,” because we’d all know we’re really paying for the Bellevue tunnel by proxy!

      • Bernie says

        So how much would be saved if the Rainier station was skipped? I’m guessing that an elevated station is probably in the $100 million range. While it’s not as big we’ve got a Goodwill here in Bellevue so that station is hardly an eastside priority. If a developer wants to rekindle the TOD proposal at the Goodwill site then they can pay for the station in exchange for the right to upzone.

      • d.p. says

        Cool. Fine by me. Just leave space for the platform and we’ll fill it in after our real transit needs have been met.

        So can we now agree that “chipping in” for Rainier is really just proxy language for extorting us over your tunnel. You’ll have to do better than “give us the money or this molehill gets it.”

        (By the way, $100 million? It’s 100% at grade, between Rainier and 23rd. The station footprint is in existing HOV ROW. Entrance headhouses and stairs/escalators/lifts should be the only expenses of any note. If your hardball somehow convinced ST that they didn’t need to turn every platform into a TIB monolith, than your hardball will have done the whole region a favor.)

      • Bernie says

        So can we now agree that “chipping in” for Rainier is really just proxy language for extorting us over your tunnel.

        Or, the East subarea having to pay for a Seattle station to promote TOD in Seattle is costing the region a grade separated alignment through DT Bellevue.

      • d.p. says

        1. As I said, the Rainier station is a molehill. (And it’s never been about TOD; nobody wants to build by a 10-lane highway.)

        2. $100 million? Really?

        3. Get rid of it Rainier and you still won’t have covered the ideal Bellevue ROW. But you will have lost your moral authoritytrumped-up rationale for getting us to pay for it.

  4. Will in Seattle says

    It seems obvious the tax-subsidized suburbs would starve without Seattle paying for everything.

    If you want to play that game, be prepared for the consequences.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        John ran these numbers and found it was pretty even before the recession hit – and as the recession has been hitting East King much more than North King, Seattle is, indeed, currently subsidizing the eastside.

      • reality based commute says

        As much as it pains me to say this, Bernie is right. Seattle, South King, and East King all generate roughly the same sales tax to support Metro. But Seattle has 62% of all service. Will in Seattle, as usual, is never dissuaded by facts.

        ST is a different ballgame with different rules.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        They have more of a tax base, but we have a much higher farebox recovery. We went through this in detail about 3 years ago, and I ran the number as well. Ben’s right – we were roughly equal. I’d add that I believe thanks to 20/40/40 more suburban bus service was added after our calculations, so Seattle might be ahead even before the recession.

  5. Mike says

    A precise formula may not be the answer, but consistant policy between the sub-areas would seem to be given. NOT SO!
    I started a fairly lengthy discussion on how the East was being treat differently than the Snohomish and South, with respect to who pays for what. It starts at 3:03pm on the 30th, or about half way down.
    http://seattletransitblog.com/2011/07/30/st-board-selects-tunnel-for-bellevue/
    I never did get a good answer here, nor any reply to my question to the ST Board.
    I guess the East should just suck it up and buy Seattle 3.1 miles of dual track and a station to boot.

    • Martin H. Duke says

      If you’re arguing for rigidly consistent treatment between subareas, you’re entirely missing the point of the post.

      • Mike says

        I understood your intent, and agree the greater good should prevail in these matters, but as long as there is sub area equity, the very least that should happen is to justify the unequal treatment given to one over the other. That’s all I’m saying. If for the greater good, East should build a bunch of rail and a station in Seattle, then it should be easy to explain why.
        So far, it’s a big mystery to me.
        The reason sub area equity is there in the first place is because the burbs don’t trust Seattle politicians – maybe with good reason.

    • Andrew Smith says

      This “fairness” argument is not compelling. If you queued up projects for Seattle in the order of important, East Link would be way down the list, certainly after West Seattle, certainly after Ballard, certainly after Ballard-UW, certainly after streetcar network.

      For the $6 billion East Link will cost, you could get double the riders spending the money in Seattle.

      • Bernie says

        How can you say East Link isn’t important to Seattle when the ridership generated by it was crucial to the huge federal subsidies received for Central and U Link? BTW, subarea equity says sales tax must be used for projects that benefit the subarea in which it was collected which is why Seattle isn’t necessarily on the hook for the segment from the DSTT to Rainier station (but certainly should be for the station it’s self). Are there any strict rules about grant money? If part of the reason the grants were awarded was because eastside ridership was factored in shouldn’t some of that cash go toward building East Link? What happens to Seattle’s ability to secure future federal funding if the tunnel debacle puts East Link in the courts instead of on the eastside?

      • Mike says

        Whoa pardner. When did East Link escalate from 3.7 to 6 Bil?
        Are you suggesting that East Link money be diverted to build Seattle’s Ballard, W.Seattle and a bunch of streetcar lines? It would be more productive, wouldn’t it? If not, why even state that!
        While your at it – screwing over Bellevue and Redmond -let’s pay for the Slut too!

      • Andrew Smith says

        Please read carefully. I never said East Link isn’t important to Seattle. I’m just saying it’s not as important as any thing you’d build in Seattle. The same cannot be said in reverse about East Link.

      • Kyle S. says

        I am highly suspect of your prioritization of East Link.

        Freeing up SOV traffic on I-90 has knock-on effects for the rest of Seattle’s automobile transit—which, like it or not, is going to continue to be a major portion of our infrastructure forever.

        With fewer cars clogging up Seattle streets, there is less pressure to continue to build out our road network. This frees up money for other projects, including transit.

        We’re all paying for everything in the end.

      • Andrew Smith says

        $6 billion is the number on that site. $3.7 billion is likely year of expenditure dollars, I remember in the prop 1 days there were dozens of different estimates (with inflation, without interest, etc.)

        No one is advocating taking money from East King to put to Seattle. Some are advocating taking money from Seattle to put to East King. I am suggesting that streetcars, etc. are more important to Seattle than East Link. Obviously, that’s not true for East King. However, no one is asking East King to pay for streetcars in Seattle.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        I doubt the 542 is really an East King priority, and yet they’re paying.for.it.

      • d.p. says

        I don’t know about that. Supposedly it’s got a daily ridership of around 900.

        Since Microsoft has its own transportation system along the same route, how much do you want to bet the vast majority of those riders are headed to UW?

      • Andrew Smith says

        I doubt the 542 is really an East King priority, and yet they’re paying.for.it.

        That’s probably a bad idea (thought for Redmond, it might be, who knows), especially if they are short funds to get LRT through bellevue and the rest of the East side.

      • Michael H says

        There are a lot of people who work at Microsoft (contractors and the like) who aren’t allowed to use the Connector.

      • David Seater says

        There are also many of us who live in Seattle and work on the Eastside, but not for Microsoft. The 542 riders going east over 520 in the morning are certainly not headed to UW.

  6. Jason Mitchell says

    Agree with Martin &co. on this one.

    There’s no doubt the tunnel adds some utility. The time savings and ridership gains might not be great, but as with every other element in a network the concern is cumulative impact. A few minutes lost in Rainier Valley, a few minutes lost in downtown Bellevue, a few minutes where else next?

    Just as important, since this isn’t China, utility must be measured in political as well as technical terms. Seattle, Sound Transit, and transit advocates in general have every interest in ensuring Sound Transit is perceived as a good partner by the communities Link serves. The tunnel is one issue where the Bellevue council speaks with a single voice. Anyone who thinks regional support for rail is so strong that we can alienate the Eastside and still put future rail plans on the ballot with any degree of confidence is nuts. 08-Obama-esque coattails aren’t returning anytime soon. ST2 is a nearly $12 billion project. Another $150 million from North King to placate the largest economic, residential, and political center outside of Seattle is a worthy down payment on future support. Moreover, you can bet other communities in the ST district skittish about rail’s impacts are watching how responsive ST is (or isn’t) to local concerns.

    And again, if East King is paying to tunnel out of downtown Seattle to Lake Washington, I’m happy to meet East King halfway to help pay for Bellevue’s only major East Link request.

  7. Bernie says

    One thing to consider is Bellevue’s contribution. First it’s unprecedented that a local entity would fund half of Link construction costs but more important is where that money is coming from. As I understand it from attending Bellevue council study sessions and meetings the bulk of this is going to be “in kind” payment meaning that they are going to forgo revenue which ST would otherwise have to pay Bellevue for ROW. So, if ST doesn’t take Bellevue up on this then that $150 million (give or take) gets spent anyway. It just goes into the Bellevue City coffers and crappy East Link reliability and travel times result in 5-10% lower ridership.

  8. d.p. says

    To all who are arguing that the Bellevue tunnel is totally useful to Seattle.

    Here’s an equivalent: Let’s add a spur tunnel to Belltown and LQA.

    The extent of Seattle’s core density will finally be connected to mass transit. And that segment is known to attract a whole lot of Eastside workers and visitors. One might even call it totally useful to the Eastside!

    So, like, we’re sorta supposed to build this streetcar along that segment already. Not as good as a subway, but we haven’t yet found the funds to justify a full subway there.

    Oh, wait! Why don’t you guys cover the discrepancy!!? Because it’s totally useful to you! Everybody on board?

  9. zefwagner says

    There has been a lot of talk in these comments about Sound Transit funding Seattle-only projects like the Central Streetcar or West Seattle-Ballard Light Rail. We need to remember that Sound Transit (like it or not) is a regional transit agency, and their board is made up of elected officials from lots of cities. They all want something and they want to see some sort of regional system emerging.

    Tacoma Link was built specifically because of the expectation that it would be part of Central Link at some point. That ended up not happening and might not ever happen, but there was an expectation. The First Hill Streetcar is a special case because people voted in 1996 for a First Hill station, so there was a kind of obligation to be met (plus it will generate a lot of ridership).

    How does it serve the cause of regional transit to build the 1st Ave streetcar? It doesn’t, obviously. It should be built by Seattle. A westside light rail line is a possibility, but only if there is a long-term plan to have it go south to Burien and north up 99 (or head east under 45th and then up Lake City to Bothell). Sound Transit should not be expected to build local projects unless they have some regional significance.

    • zefwagner says

      Also keep in mind that at least Seattle has multiple levels of transit governance. It may seem messy, but it is a good thing that Metro can work on King County projects that ST would never fund, and Seattle (through Transit Now, the Transportation Benefit District, and the Streetcar) can do its own projects that Metro would not fund.

      Contrast that with Portland (my new digs for the time being), where Trimet controls everything in 3 counties and seems to favor building light rail to the suburbs while cutting bus service drastically. Other than the downtown streetcar there doesn’t seem to be any mechanism for the city to buy any additional transit service. Trimet is also governed by an unelected board appointed by the governor. Imagine how awful Sound Transit would be if it was governed by state appointees. Apparently Metro (think a directly elected equivalent of PSRC) has the authority to take over Trimet but refuses to do so.

      • d.p. says

        Seattle’s alternative taxing authorities (independent of revenues by law collected by Metro and Sound Transit) cannot generate enough money to do mass transit right.

        Again, that’s the very reason for having a mass-transit-building agency (ST) empowered and obligated to build projects in our subarea. To deny us that is to deny us mass transit and is taxation without return. Could that possibly be clearer?

    • d.p. says

      Zef, a high-volume corridor reaching destinations of regional appeal and connecting to other regional lines — even one entirely within Seattle — absolutely falls within Sound Transit’s mission.

      If not, ST should have had no North King subarea and zero taxing authority within city limits.

      Your comment is even further along the “let’s eliminate sub-area equity because nothing should happen in Seattle that doesn’t benefit others more” slippery slope than I had feared.

      • zefwagner says

        Your comment doesn’t make any sense. If it is a “high-volume corridor reaching destinations of regional appeal and connecting to other regional lines,” then it is by definition not “entirely within Seattle.” To reiterate, I’m saying that a 1st Ave streetcar would in no way fit with ST’s mission, and westside light rail would only fit if it connects to other subareas. Subarea equity does not mean ST builds isolated projects in each subarea–that would defeat the purpose of having a regional transit agency! East King does not pay for ST Express buses that stay entirely within Bellevue–instead it pays for buses from Bellevue to Seattle. See what I mean?

        My comment says nothing about whether subarea equity is a good idea or not (I happen to think it is good, but shouldn’t be based strictly on tax revenues). My comment is about a regional transit agency building regional transit, while local transit agencies build local transit. Seattle is in the unfortunate position of having essentially 2 regional transit agencies (ST and Metro) and no local agency. I think Metro should split into West King and East King, personally (or the county itself should split).

      • d.p. says

        Bull. Seattle is full of destinations — work, commerce, entertainment, recreation, etc. — used by people from throughout the region.

        We will already have regional lines entering the city from south, east, and north. Anything that connects to them in a meaningful way (i.e. with meaningful frequencies and speeds, giving flexibility of connection) is part of that regional network. You don’t have to waste money arbitrarily build to some Edmonds outskirts for that to be true.

      • d.p. says

        Oh, and Sound Transit has many routes that stay only on the Eastside.

        (Don’t let the development patterns fool you; the entire Eastside comprises roughly the same geographic area as Seattle proper. With fewer inhabitants, of course.)

      • zefwagner says

        Wow, now you’re just making stuff up. Sound Transit does not have any buses that stay in only one subarea. Go to the website and check. There is not a single route that stays on the eastside, they all cross subarea boundaries. That’s why Sound Transit exists!

      • Bernie says

        How do you figure. Seattle 142 sq miles, King Co. 2,307 sq miles (not all is in the ST taxing boundary). Seattle 609,000, King Co. 1.9 million. I think population wise East and South are about equal to Seattle but comprise way more in area.

      • d.p. says

        Sorry, as someone who never, ever, ever needs any of Sound Transit’s routes to the boonies [cough, cough], I didn’t realize that the routes from outer Issaquah to Bellevue Transit Center and from Bellevue Transit Center to UW or Northgate were technically though-routes.

        Because they really aren’t through-routes, and really shouldn’t be. There’s no logical continuity between those two legs.

        Someone riding from Issaquah to UW via Bellevue (two distinct legs, one entirely within the East subarea) is exactly the same as someone headed from Bellevue to Ballard (two distinct legs, one entirely within the North subarea). Only difference is the ridership demand on the leg to Ballard is exponentially higher than on the one to Issaquah.

      • d.p. says

        For the purposes of Sound Transit, the “Eastside” doesn’t really extend past Lake Sammamish.

        Just Google Map it. The lumpy blob between Puget Sound and Lake Washington is roughly equal in size to the lumpy blob between Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish.

      • Bernie says

        Don’t have to Google it, Martin put a map at the top of this post but ST has another map here. Note the Sammamish Plateau and Issaquah are east of the lake. Both East and South are larger (not a lot larger, maybe 20%) than North but only part of North (half?) is Seattle. Virtually all of the population of King County is in the ST taxing district.

      • zefwagner says

        Where do you come up with this stuff? First of all, they are through-routes based on demand. Most people taking the Issaquah buses are going all the way to UW or Northgate–Bellevue is a convenient transfer center that happens to be on the way. Note that the Issaquah to Downtown Seattle bus does not stop in Bellevue at all. Metro has bus routes to serve the main Issaquah-Bellevue demand, that is not really what ST is trying to do.

        Second, how is Issaquah-UW equivalent to Bellevue-Ballard? I would imagine lots of people in Issaquah are students at UW, but where exactly is the demand between Ballard and Bellevue? I suppose some Ballard people must work in Bellevue, but the demand has to be orders of magnitude less than anywhere to UW.

      • zefwagner says

        Let’s say hypothetically that the demand were there. ST would run a route from Bellevue to Ballard, with a transfer point in downtown Seattle. It would still be considered a through-route that is regional in nature, even if some people caught just the Seattle-Ballard portion. That’s my whole point–westside light rail will never get support from ST unless it is seen as part of a larger system. Too many folks in Seattle and in these comments want ST to fund it as a stand-alone line like the monorail. Not going to happen.

      • Bernie says

        Someone riding from Issaquah to UW via Bellevue (two distinct legs

        How would you get from Issaquah to UW without going through Bellevue, cross I-90 and then fight your way north on 5 (bypassing DT Seattle) and then backtrack through the Microsoft traffic on 520? The 555/556 does have two legs; the second leg is Northgate to UW. ST Express moves hundreds of thousands more people every month than Central Link and has done it for years yet North subarea has contributed exactly $0.

      • d.p. says

        Somehow, Bernie’s linked map makes Sound Transit’s gerrymandered Eastside boundaries look even smaller than I thought. (Even with the Sammamish Plateau included, though it only has one route that isn’t even full-time.)

        Still, the link shows that ST’s North and East King subareas are roughly the same geographic size. http://projects.soundtransit.org/x2603.xml?t3xt says 646,000 reside in the former and 491,000 in the latter. With vastly different transit mode-shares, naturally. And Bernie, Seattle covers well over 90% of the North subarea.

        If a line connects to the network, then it’s part of the network. Potential trip-pairs increase exponentially with each line added. Don’t bother splitting hairs about “through-routed demand” on a single corridor — if that were the primary criteria for rail building, the north-south Manhattan lines would be the only ones in America.

        Ballard to anywhere has higher demand than Issaquah to anywhere. The former’s population is double, and denser. One is a nexus of commerce, of water transport, and of nightlife, and the other is a bedroom community. The sweet sounds of drunken Eastsiders wafting into my apartment at this very moment remind me how bi-directional and all-hour the demand is.

        There is nothing “stand-alone” about urban transport that is connected to regional transport.

      • d.p. says

        Also, you’re really grasping at straws to claim that anyone’s using the 555/556 just within Seattle City Limits. It doesn’t even stop in the U-District in one direction most of the time.

      • Bernie says

        Seattle covers well over 90% of the North subarea.

        Vashon 37 sq-mi is 26% of Seattle’s area, Burien 15.7 sq-mi is 11%, Shoreline 11.7 sq-mi is 8%. Explain the math that makes Seattle “well over 90% of the North subarea”.

      • Bernie says

        Oops, my bad. Vashon is not in the ST taxing area. And Burien is in the South Subarea. Only Shoreline and Lake Forest Park are North Subarea outside of Seattle which does put Seattle at ~90% land area. mea culpa

    • Mike Orr says

      Seattle can rightly ask for some in-city projects in ST3, such as 45th Link or Ballard-West Seattle Link. If they connect to Central Link then they’re an extension of regional mobility. Actually, the real question is how can we make it equitable for Shoreline, which is also paying North King taxes and won’t get anything for them until the North Corridor.

      • zefwagner says

        I personally think it’s fine, but you have to convince the ST Board which only has 5 members from Seattle. They are not going to support those lines unless they see a larger benefit than just Seattle residents. People on the eastside go to places like downtown, UW, and Northgate. Do they go to West Seattle and Ballard? In any case, West Seattle is inappropriate for light rial anyway–it is a classic case in which “Open” BRT would be the best solution, since it is a multi-nodal low-density area with a single choke point.

        http://www.humantransit.org/2011/08/bus-rapid-transit-two-kind-of-flexibility.html

      • Chris Stefan says

        Zef,
        The thing with sub-area equity is ST3 MUST include projects in the North sub-area in proportion to the taxed generated. So if lLink to Burien-Renton, Everett, Tacoma, or Issaquah is going to happen then Seattle is likely to get at least a Ballard line.

  10. Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says

    While I support the (Bellevue!) tunnel, why does it have to be a gift of $150M and not just a loan?

    • aw says

      Saying that Seattle is paying for the tunnel is just framing the issue wrong. Seattle is paying for ID station to Rainier Ave. station.

      • zefwagner says

        The tunnel will also benefit Seattle residents commuting to Redmond and Seattle employers with employees living in Redmond. Is it enough people and travel time saved to be worth the money? I have no idea.

      • d.p. says

        AW,

        That’s utterly disingenuous.

        Because it’s not any sort of Seattle priority, nobody though Seattle shouldbe on the hook for “paying for ID station to Rainier Ave. station” until suddenly there was a tunnel-budget gap needing to be filled.

        Call it what you will, but this is about paying for that tunnel!

      • d.p. says

        Zef, again, see Aleks’ comment about justifying all-day mass-transit corridors based only upon 9-5 workplace commute patterns.

      • Bernie says

        Actually I’d thought all along that the North subarea was paying for the line as far as Rainier Station. I can’t find anything that supports this. I believe it was a reply to a comment on this blog, possibly by Ben a year or two ago. But more to the point, you are correct that a multi billion dollar light rail system is totally out of scale for eastside demand and in fact decreases mobility by using up two lanes of I-90 that should be priority bus lanes much better suited to relieve the peak only congestion that is the real challenge.

      • zefwagner says

        It’s all about land use policies. If Bellevue and Redmond get serious about upzoning, especially around stations, there could be all-day bidirectional demand. Absent that, it will mainly benefit commuters for sure.

      • Bernie says

        It’s all about land use policies. If Bellevue and Redmond get serious about upzoning, especially around stations, there could be all-day bidirectional demand. Absent that, it will mainly benefit commuters for sure.

        Upzone where? DT Bellevue is already there. Bel-Red will be upzoned to 12 stories. The Microsoft Campus ain’t going to become mixed use residential. ST2 doesn’t go to DT Redmond and it’s already built out. None of this has the potential for all day bi-directional demand. SeaTac, DT Seattle and UW are it as far as the all day demand that might warrant the cost of light rail. Sure it makes sense to build to Northgate and maybe to South 200th to leverage on this but that’s about it.

      • Mike Orr says

        We don’t know what North King would be paying for because there’s no concrete proposal yet. We don’t know whether it would be a loan or a grant. Obviously, it would be more acceptable if it were a loan, or a charge against the downtown-to-Rainier segment.

        Saying that Seattle would not build a line to Rainier station in isolation is missing the point. It’s an entire network, and the whole is bigger than the parts. (1) Seattle voters approved ST2 in its entirety; (2) some Rainier Valley residents are eager to transfer to Link at Rainier stn; (3) the station is right along the way, it’s s strong existing transfer point, and I-90 is the best location for the line.

    • Bernie says

      ST has already maxed out the East Link budget to pay back debt so it can’t be a subarea loan as was arranged for Central Link and Bellevue would never pass a tax to cover it. The Bellevue “contribution” is really more of a give back of what would otherwise be a bit of a windfall for the City; like Metro gifted the DSTT and WSDOT may lease the airspace rights on I-90 for a fraction of their true value. The tunnel is not $300 million more expensive. It’s $150 million above what ST would end up spending on a surface alignment if they don’t want to cut a deal. Two years delay (we already have one “in the bank”) at the current $80 million per year the East subarea is banking would also do it. In fact, it’s already covered if you use the standard ST model of 50/50 cash to debt ratio.

  11. Mike Orr says

    The real question is what are voters willing to approve. Seattle-only lines may indeed be more cost-effective per rider or per mile, but how are you going to convince suburban voters of that? Especially (if there were no subarea equity), how would you convince suburban voters to pay taxes for Seattle-only lines? Subarea equity allows Seattle projects (not little streetcars but high-capacity light rail) to be seen as Seattle’s portion of a regional deal.

    • Mike says

      I agree, the pro ‘Seattle should not get too greedy crowd wins by a slim margin’.
      Sorry, voting is now closed.

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