Jump Starting Sound Transit 3

I couldn’t resist.

Tomorrow, we get a big win. Sound Transit doesn’t want to see Issaquah, Redmond, or Everett left behind by Seattle going it alone, so they’re responding to the threat of our ballot measure by doing a lot of our work for us! Their board is expected to unanimously pass a budget amendment (PDF) to spend $9.76 million in 2013 to get them on track for more. I met with staff, and they explained what this will fund:

First, it will combine a bunch of study work into likely three major contracts for corridor studies. This likely means one from downtown to West Seattle, Burien and Renton; one from Ballard to UW, Kirkland and Redmond combined with options for connecting Issaquah; and finally, one from the currently funded Lynnwood terminus of light rail all the way to Everett.

From each study, different alternatives will be evaluated for cost, ridership, and other factors. Then Sound Transit will use this data, along with extensive public outreach, to identify the best projects to be added by the board to their Long Range Plan. Law requires that the Board choose projects from their long range plan for any ballot measure – so a mixture of these will become the light rail backbone of Sound Transit 3.

With this budget amendment, the board puts the pedal to the metal, keeping their pipeline full for about the next two years, and helps open up the option of a regional vote as early as 2016, rather than 2020 or even later. It’s a big win for transit advocates; grassroots organizing gets results!

To get to a vote, though, there’s much more work to do. Voters have already approved all the revenue that the legislature provided for Sound Transit, so before they can develop Sound Transit 3 and send it to voters, they need the authority to ask. This week’s vote will help us show legislators that we have the support of our local elected officials – we want more transit, and we want it yesterday.

Want to help us get there? Sign up and say you want to help out, or talk to me at tomorrow’s meetup, where we’ll discuss what the board action means and what we can do to get more.

Comments

  1. Ron P. says

    It’s up to the legislature. If you think grants from the MVF to cities should be higher talk to Chopp, Ed Murray, and Tracy Eide. They can make it happen.

    IMO, there’s a better way to skin the cat . . ..

    It’s clear Sound Transit needs more funding. The revenue mix up to this point has been on the “regressive” end of the spectrum, and for ST3 we need to rebalance that.

    What we need is now is what TriMet has been relying on: a payroll tax. The big employers around here are making record profits. A reasonable, modest charge of $20/month per employee — a fee employers can deduct — would round out the funding tools available to transit agencies.

    The state legislature should have no problem providing that tool to Sound Transit. It wouldn’t impact the employers in most of the counties, and Puget Sound legislators were overwhelmingly voted into office by pro-transit people.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      I agree with the payroll tax idea, and we will start engaging with them to talk about moving money to transit. There are a lot of ways to fund more rail, and I think it’s really exciting that now, instead of putting pressure on Sound Transit just to take the steps they already can, we get to take the fight to Olympia. :)

      • d.p. says

        +1 payroll tax

        -1 shackling a vital cross-Seattle line to Kirkland and freaking Issaquah.

        If the latter never happens (which it won’t), will that now kill the former?

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        d.p, no one is shackling anything to anything else. It’s just a corridor study – it’ll develop several alternatives, not all connected to each other.

        Redmond wasn’t “shackled” to Bellevue, and that’s all one line.

      • d.p. says

        Words are powerful, Ben.

        Endless verbal emphasis on Link as a “regional spine” is how we wound up with an agency that values travel time from distant provinces at the expense of tangible mobility benefits for real users.

        Repetition from City Hall about a “rapid streetcar” network that can solve all our problems is how we’re going to end up trudging around on streetcars that are anything but rapid (or networked).

        And calling Ballard to Kirkland and Issaquah a consolidated “corridor” for the purposes of evaluating modal “alternatives” is a great way to shaft the vital part of the corridor to make the peripheral parts look better.

        They aren’t a single corridor, and they can’t be planned as one without guaranteeing every bad result that follows from such a false premise… the most likely being no result at all.

      • says

        But surely the notion that Ballard, UW, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue, Issaquah is anything like a single corridor is absurd. It’s like four different corridors?

        If you roughly draw these “corridors” as lines on a map you get something that looks like what many low-ridership transit agencies build in lieu of good networks: routes that twist around to hit whatever politically important destinations were next on the list when the lines were drawn. We “shackled” ourselves into this way of working from the beginning of East Link planning. Our first route: Seattle to Redmond… via Bellevue? Of course, because those are the two most important transit destinations on the eastside. But how can you create a logical transit network around a spine like that? You can’t. So now we’ll see entertaining proposals for transit spaghetti, while the 545 will still beat Indirect Link downtown from Redmond. That’s what happens when you do network design by politics.

        It’s happening in the south, too. Downtown Seattle to Renton… via West Seattle, crossing over Central Link somewhere near the airport (TIBS?). Because those are the next politically important transit destinations. When the line is extended from Renton, maybe it can turn to the north, to Rainier Beach, and complete the loop.

        With apologies to Walter Sobchak, Say what you will about the merits of Lynnwood-to-Everett, at least it’s a corridor!

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Nobody is planning all this stuff as a “single corridor”! The studies are just being organized into three contracts focusing on different regions.

        It totally makes sense to look at Ballard-UW-Kirkland-Redmond, which should probably be one line in my opinion, at the same time you look at how you’d connect Issaquah to the rest of the network and Kirkland to Bellevue, because you’ll be working with a lot of the same data. A line to Issaquah might go to Bellevue and Kirkland, and might even then go to UW and Ballard – that makes a lot of sense to me. They’ll look at the ways different types of connections between each center interact with each other.

        Light rail goes via Bellevue to Redmond because it should. Building rail over I-90 from Seattle to Bellevue was the first order of business. Then where do you take that line next? Why terminate it when you have the option of helping people get to workplaces in Bellevue? Makes sense to me.

        Please ask questions before making assumptions, especially bad assumptions that build on each other like this. It’s counterproductive and wastes time and energy arguing about things that were never problems in the first place when what we need to be doing is going and getting revenue authority so that ST3 can actually get to the ballot.

      • d.p. says

        The studies are just being organized into three contracts focusing on different regions.

        Contiguous North Seattle and disparate nodes of Eastside sprawl are not a single “focusing” region, as you clearly just said they will be treated.

        Nobody is planning all this stuff as a “single corridor”… It totally makes sense to look at Ballard-UW-Kirkland-Redmond, which should probably be one line in my opinion…

        You just contradicted yourself. (I’m not trying to be a jerk, but really, I did.) You also presumed that all planning should follow from your preferences, while others should keep theirs to themselves.

        How do you propose to unify that line in a million years, anyway? 520 is not being built for rail, a third floating bridge is not going to happen, and neither is a trans-lake tube.

        Any of those three ideas throw the cost of this east-west line into the stratosphere. If you or Sound Transit insist on associating a cross-Seattle subway with such folly, you will kill that cross-Seattle subway.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        d.p., I really just don’t know how to respond to you. I updated the post to clarify. I went and interviewed staff to get this information, it’s not my interpretation of a document or something. Claiming I’m wrong *because I wasn’t clear* is just nonsensical.

        One of the things mentioned by staff during the interview is that if Issaquah was connected to South Bellevue, *because that couldn’t continue downtown*, it might make sense to continue on to Kirkland with that line (and share part of East Link in Bellevue). There’s plenty of capacity on that part of the line. That’s why it makes sense to put that study work in the same contract as study work to do Ballard-UW-Kirkland.

      • says

        @Ben: We’re talking about a series of decisions that, in isolation, are reasonable (and politically expedient). If you’re only building one line to the eastside it’s Seattle to Bellevue; if it continues from there, Redmond, the next-highest ridership destination, is a fine choice even if it makes for a circuitous trip from Redmond to downtown Seattle or Cap Hill or UW.

        The problem comes when you decide to build more lines and end up with spaghetti. Maybe if we build enough trackage over there in 100 years we’ll be able to rationalize the routes into something resembling a network.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Al, now I’m really confused. Now you seem to be saying that what we’re doing now makes sense… which I agree with. Then you’re saying that if we build “spaghetti” we’ll have trouble building a network. Yeah, that’s why we won’t build spaghetti. Did you see that I realized what I wrote was confusing and amended it to clarify? Nobody’s planning to build spaghetti.

        Honestly, something I’d like you guys to step back and notice is that you tend to take the post, which I wrote, as gospel, and if I clarify in the comments you’ll argue that I’m wrong… because of something I said in the post. It makes it look like you’re looking more to argue than to move forward.

        It’s amazing how ridiculous these blog comments get. Want to help get transit? Help get transit. Want to whine that we’re not doing the right thing? Still, the solution is to join us and talk about what you want.

      • says

        Transit spagetti for you, courtesy of Tokyo. Or Paris.

        Seriously, the world standard for large rail systems is a mess of twisty lines, designed to have lots of transfer points to maximize destinations within 2 trains. Don’t succumb to the endpoint fallacy or grid envy.

      • Kyle S says

        I really don’t understand d.p.’s obsession with grids. By digging subways, we’re liberated from the grid. The only reason so many subway lines in New York follow the street grid is because they were constructed with the street grid. Queens Blvd is a shining example. Others parallel the streets because they replaced torn-down els long after the building foundations surrounding them were poured.

        Seattle’s urban centers don’t follow a grid. There’s no sense in forcing our subway network to do so. We should certainly make our bus system far more gridded, because it’s riding on a grid already!

      • Mike Orr says

        Human Transit links:
        Why grids are good.
        Why Portland’s grid was a big improvement.
        Why Vancouver’s grid is good too

        A grid is generally the most efficient way to serve the widest variety of origin/destination pairs with the fewest service hours. It works great where major destinations are naturally at grid crossings. It still works pretty well even if a line or two is weak (few destinations except houses). But sometimes you have to distort it a little to serve the predominent trip patterns and destinations.

        For instance, north Seattle has a pretty good grid with buses on 40th, 45th/Market, 85th, and 105th, and the north-south routes that connect them. Their main problem is infrequency and slowness, but those could be improved.
        But south Seattle is a series of islands going east-west with barriers between them: central West Seattle, Delridge, Georgetown, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley. This has caused each north-south neighborhood to be self-contained and to communicate more with downtown than with each other. There should be more east-west transit to fill in the grid, but at the same time the barriers have created entrenched north-south trip patterns that need to be served too. Rainier Valley has tons of north-south trips within the valley to retail and other destinations, and that will be predominent for a long time and we shouldn’t disrupt it.

        Also, there are cases where the major destinations are not in a straight line. Not many people at 15th NE and 180th want to go to 15th NE and 70th or vice-versa; they want to go to Northgate or Lake City. That’s why an all-15th route would be grid-correct but it would be weak, because it has few destinations to offer. It may be worth doing anyway, or it may not, but it will always be a low-ridership route unless it gets some stronger destinations.

      • d.p. says

        After the mess of this thread today, your confusion is justified, Kyle.

        The grid is not about the subway network. It’s about how all transit lines — subway and surface — interact with all other transit lines, to allow reasonable anywhere-to-anywhere travel.

        Think away from the kind of megalopolis that can have dozens of subways intersecting everywhere. Think of the kinds of cities — like us — that can only have a few.

        Chicago is the obvious example: http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/clickable_system_map/200806N.htm

        You’d be insane to go all the way downtown on the Blue Line and back out again on the Red Line to get to, say, Lake View. Not when there are any number of chances to switch to high-frequency services on the east-west grid, and shave about 8 miles off your trip.

        Same for going from anywhere on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to its Upper West. You don’t just follow the subways that happen to exist; the grid lets you across the park on foot or on a bus.

        Grid-based running is particularly helpful for surface transit, because buses are awful at turns, so straightaways are infinitely more reliable and thus scale better for higher demand.

        The problem with our Link plans is that they almost go out of their way to be inaccessible to the grid. Cross/connecting/feeder transit is much less useful as a result, and a subway (that can never be extensive enough to capture all needs on its own) loses much of its connective utility.

        Look at Chicago’s map again. Does Link (or other radially-obsessed Seattle proposals) facilitate anything similar? Like, at all?

        A master-class on grids: http://www.humantransit.org/2010/02/the-power-and-pleasure-of-grids.html

      • d.p. says

        Ah, I just noticed that Mike was in there a minute before I hit “post”. Similarly, he’s looking at the comprehensive network, and not just at subways in isolation (which seems to be where Kyle got confused).

        No place on earth would have enough money to build a comprehensive grid of just grade-separated transit. Although the London Underground — with no grid whatsoever on the surface — does come close.

      • Mike Orr says

        “You’d be insane to go all the way downtown on the Blue Line and back out again on the Red Line to get to, say, Lake View. Not when there are any number of chances to switch to high-frequency services on the east-west grid, and shave about 8 miles off your trip.”

        Well, except that the buses are insanely slow and it can take 20 minutes or more to bus from one line to the other, plus the trains are more frequent than the buses. I’ve travelled both ways between Lake View and and a house near Logan Square. I asked my friend whether to take the Diversey bus or do the train detour through downtown. He said, “It’s usually better to take the el.” The travel time is about the same so it’s one-half dozen to the other: the further north you are, the longer the train trip but the further west the Blue Line is, so the two almost cancel each other out. The same if you’re unfortunate enough to come from the O’Hare area (Rosemont suburb): it takes 45 minutes to get from there to anywhere on Clark Street, because the further you take the train, the shorter the bus trip will be.

        Of course, this is an argument for improving the bus service, not eliminating the grid.

      • d.p. says

        Even for just getting to the Near North, my experience is that it has been much, much better to hop off at Chicago/Milwaukee and take the ridiculously frequent Chicago Ave bus. The downtown transfer isn’t convenient enough to be worth even the extra 2 miles journey by rail.

        South of Addison, the Blue and Red lines are never more than a couple of miles apart. You just have to know where the truly frequent cross-transit it.

    • mic says

      Contrary to Ben’s assertion that ST is currently ‘tapped’ dry, they are authorized to collect an employee head tax and increase the car rental tax, all of which bring in about 34M/yr. http://www.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/about/board/Discussion%20Items/2012/12-EstimateofCapacityforFuturePhases.pdf
      Not a lot, but it’s there. Increasing the head tax would be an easier sell over raising the regressive sales tax above a penny. Remember the effective campaign signs in Pierce that has crippled them.
      The whole issue of more taxes for roads and transit is coming to a head pretty soon. (DBT, Seawall, Tolling, and a host of bridges going to pot will all have to be dealt with before we see much in the way of higher transit taxes)

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        mic, the long term revenue ability of that tax would add up to a grand total of about $1-1.5 billion in projects – buildable in about 15 years.

        Lynnwood to Everett alone would probably be at least $3 billion. Then you have subarea equity. There is no way to connect our neighborhoods to each other with the tiny revenues Sound Transit hasn’t currently used.

      • Ron P. says

        Al — short answer: No. There’d be an exemption for companies with less than 15 employees (takes out the Mom & Pops, then the bigger the company the more it pays. That’s essentially the definition of a progressive tax! : )

      • says

        @Ron: Do companies really pay taxes, or do they pass them on? In today’s labor market they probably pass them on to their employees. So the bigger a company the more it pays, with no necessary correlation to employees’ salary, which is what the “progressiveness” of a tax is usually concerned with. The tax for Microsoft to hire a janitor is the same amount as the tax for Microsoft to hire a VP — grossly more regressive than a sales tax!

      • Ron P. says

        Al — with all due respect, Microsoft isn’t going to “pass on” a $20 per month charge to any of its employees (whatever that means). It spends $20 per month per employee on the free snacks it gives out between the subsidized meals! A payroll tax that small won’t cause less hiring, won’t lower ANYONE’s salary, etc. . . .. You’ve got zero perspective.

      • Ron P. says

        . . . Oh, and another thing: to the extent those costs are “passed on” to consumers of Microsoft’s software, Boeing’s jets, Amazon’s out-of-state customers, people in Peoria buying Starbucks lattes, etc. — that’s a GOOD outcome. More than likely though, it would just mean the shareholders get a dividend check that is .00001% lower. I think they can afford that, don’t you?

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        How does any of this have to do with building more projects? It’s not enough money to build another maintenance facility, much less to expand service – it’s split between subareas too, remember. The cost of a public vote is high whether you’re building something cheap or expensive, so it’s not even close to worth putting out there in a measure.

      • mic says

        I’m not sure how to repackage what I said, but here goes.
        The current head tax collected is zero. Collecting the statatory limit would be $24/employee. “not a lot”, as I said, but easier to sell in Olympia under what Ron P is talking about, rather than just keep ratcheting up the sales tax.
        HCT is most useful during peak hours, when employees are clogging the freeways, so it’s not a stretch to say employers should shoulder some of the burden for that. An expanded head tax does that.
        Subarea equity is not an issue. If an area has few employees, then the impact on congestion is probably small, therefore HCT is not justified.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        mic, it has to pass a public vote. Do you remember the intense heat the Council and Mayor took over the head tax we had?

      • Ron P. says

        Ben, a payroll tax of $25/employee/month would generate about $330 million per year (2012$). That is close to half of what the current tax revenue streams provide. As the money would be coming from employers, not people, with this new revenue source, the subarea equity rules would not have to come into play (the legislature just would have to make that clear). Also, as with the car rental tax, no voter approval would have to be provided. The board could just identify the best projects, and institution the tax. The new revenues at that level would be more than sufficient to secure bonding and provide plenty of excess for operations subsidies. Staff has been working on this for a while . . ..

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Ron, I’m sorry, I’m replying assuming that the original comment (the only number in this thread) of $34m/yr is correct. $330m/yr sounds great, and would be worth fighting for.

        Note that you’re saying one thing and mic is saying another, I think.

      • mic says

        Ron and I are on the same page. ST has the authority to go for a small head tax, which has never been used. Ron and I are suggesting it be expanded by Olympia, and made more creative than just a flat $$/Head – one size fits all approach.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Okay – yeah, I agree with expanding that tax. I just wouldn’t want to go to the voters for the part we have now!

    • asdf says

      I believe a payroll tax is more regressive than sales tax because the payroll tax levies the same amount on every employee, regardless of that employee’s financial situation. We can say that the employer, not the employee, is paying the tax, but it’s basic economics that it doesn’t matter. While employers might not directly pass the tax to employers as a payroll deduction, eventually employers will factor it in when deciding how much of an annual raise to give their employees or how much of a bonus to give.

      Sales tax, you can at least avoid if you don’t spend too much. Food and housing are already exempt from sales tax under current law. Transportation-wise, no sales tax is collected on bus fares or taxis. So, if you don’t own a car, the only time you really have to pay sales tax on transportation is for the occasional rental car. If you do own a car, the car itself is taxed when you buy it, although gas an insurance are not subject to sales tax. So, transportation-wise, I don’t consider the sales tax very regressive.

      And after food, housing, and transportation are taken care of, most of what’s left is entertainment and luxuries. Again, I don’t consider a 10% sales tax on entertainment and luxuries an unfair burden on the poor.

      So, that’s just my take. Feel free to disagree.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        There are a ton of tax options. Sales tax, payroll tax, fuel tax, property tax, income tax, hell, carbon tax. We probably won’t actually be arguing over what tax to use based on progressivity. We’ll be figuring out which one the legislature will actually approve.

  2. Mark in Kenmore says

    This is great news, though I am a little disheartened to see my corridor not on the list. Do we know for certain that ST are limiting themselves to these corridors?

    I realize that 522 is not likely a higher priority than Ballard, West Seattle or 45th, but I would like to see if I can at least put a bug in somebody’s ear about it.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      This all comes from about $30 million in future planning funds that we approved in 2008, tied to corridors identified in the ST2 plan. So they can’t really add corridors when they haven’t done the work the voters asked for. :)

      The ST3 measure will probably include planning for more corridors, and I suspect Lake City/Bothell/Kenmore will be on that list, just looking at where there’s demand. That’s on my list, too!

    • biliruben says

      Indeed.

      Lake City is drowning in low income and very low income, densely built housing, with more going up every day. A very high percentage of this poor, immigrant, elderly and veteran population is non-car owning. Lake City is taking on a huge, and some would say disproportionate amount of density that is almost be default TOD… but where’s the T?!? The 306 and 312 are very sporadic, the 522 is crush level, often late and infrequent after 9. We aren’t getting trains. We aren’t getting streetcars. We aren’t even getting Rapid Ride.

      With minimal crossings, Lake City Way would be ideal for a cheap spur surface line off Roosevelt, with perhaps 5-10 blocks of elevated through the Lake City core.

      We have been taking on the density and the low-income populations. Now it’s time for the services to catch up.

      • BigDonLives! says

        “A very high percentage of this poor, immigrant, elderly and veteran population ”

        “We aren’t getting trains. We aren’t getting streetcars. We aren’t even getting Rapid Ride. ”

        There you go. No M$ employed hipsters whose girlfriends work in coffeehouses. Time to get some hipsters, then you’ll get a choo-choo

        OR maybe sell the “social justice” angle

  3. Cascadian says

    Great news. I like that they’re studying corridors beyond what is likely to pencil out at this stage (to Kirkland and Redmond to continue Ballard-UW, Burien and Renton to continue downtown-West Seattle, and Kirkland-Bellevue-Issaquah). All of these are needed eventually, but the study will probably confirm that the major portion of each of these corridors is what’s feasible at this time. Study more, and what you end up with after the study and scope paring is what’s really needed right now (or yesterday.)

    I’m a bit surprised by Kirkland-Bellevue-Issaquah as I’ve never heard that discussed before. (People talk about splitting some of the East Link trains to Issaquah, or a future 405 line that includes Kirkland, but not this three-destination group.) I’m curious how that will pencil out and whether it makes sense for longer term planning. It seems like eventually Bellevue to Renton will be needed, and stopping at Issaquah seems to slow that down. Though maybe Issaquah would only be included to make getting to Kirkland possible, and in the long run it can be appended to some of the main East Link runs.

    My only real criticism is your choice not to use Oxford (serial) commas in your post.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      I apparently shouldn’t have brought up Kirkland-Bellevue-Issaquah, as that’s causing a freakout above.

      The 405 corridor currently calls for BRT in the Sound Transit long range plan. But if you’re building a line from Issaquah, as it can’t go all the way to Seattle because there won’t be capacity in the DSTT, it makes sense to send it northward at South Bellevue (connect it to East Link the other direction). If you did that, after Bellevue, it makes a lot of sense to take it to Kirkland, as that would be the last major eastside city unserved by rail.

      Hah, and comma added. :) I normally use them.

      • aw says

        Another way to get from Kirkland to Issaquah if you’re already building a Kirkland-Redmond segemnt would be via Redmond and Sammamish. There are two obvious routes, either along the Issaquah-Redmond trail (boy would that get the NIMBYs up in arms!) or up on the plataeu along 228th and Issaquah-Pine Lake Road to Issaquah Highlands,

      • asdf says

        Don’t even think about getting rid of the Issaquah-Redmond trail for rail. First of all, the corridor isn’t even wide enough for double-tracks unless you buldoze all the adjacent houses. And anything single-track would run so infrequently that it would be useless.

        Secondly, WE NEED THIS TRAIL AS A TRAIL. It’s flat, it’s the only family-friendly bike route in the area for miles around, and it provides geographical connectivity between two major transportation nodes.

      • Bernie says

        What a joke. The trail isn’t a transportation corridor. Never will be. It’s a great bike trail and it snubs the noses of all the rich land owners that ASSumed they’d just get it for free. But there’s also the shoulder of east lake Sammamish that still needs work and hopefully this trail can (not sure it even has) say gravel.

      • Jim Cusick says

        @Ben Shiendelman

        Ben,

        To bring this over from the ‘comment policy’ thread, where you said

        “Jim, the Sound Transit board commissioned a study of eastside commuter rail that showed it was clearly not cost effective compared to buses. ”

        are you saying that the Sound Transit board has a side by side comparison of the Joint PSRC/ST Commuter Rail study with their (ST’s) 2005 East King County HCT Analysis?

        Can you point me to it? From reading them both, I can’t see how BRT is a better option for the corridor. I have to give ST credit for designing a robust BRT system.

        Even compared with the WSDOT 2003 BRT White Paper (BRT Light in my opinion), commuter rail looks like a bargain even at the ‘gold plated’ version outlined in their report.

    • says

      For the record, I support a Ballard-Issaquah line via UW, 520 bridge (on re-purposed HOV lanes), downtown Bellevue via a new Bellevue Way subway and then to Issaquah. This results in an “x” across the Eastside, meeting in downtown Bellevue. A future N-S “405” line could serve downtown Kirland.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Chad, I’m reading the Nelson/Nygaard report on building light rail on 520, and there would be SO MANY issues. There’s a reason I think it might be easier to build another bridge.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      Yeah, an off topic thread spiraled out of control. I’m just not tolerant of that kind of hijacking.

      • BigDonLives! says

        BEN APPROVED THREAD:

        “We love the subway” beep “We love the subway” beep “We love…

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Come on. That thread was “this is why what Ben’s supporting is wrong and here’s a better way.” It’s the same thing as Kevin Wallace in Bellevue.

      • Mike says

        What the hell!
        Look Ben… That was MY thread! I hardly ever post and when I do, you decide to delete it!? Thats no way to build community!
        Seriously disappointed! I thought it was shaping up to be a good conversation!

      • Mike says

        I think this shows a serious problem in ethics!
        I did not see what the thread evolved into after my second post in reply to D.P. but a community can not have its moderators trashing threads cause they dont agree with the points of view.
        Seriously un-ethical, makes me wonder how many other threads get deleted on this community.
        You decent…. we squash you. Come on Ben you can do better!

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Mike, I’m sorry. :( I shouldn’t have let the discussion get that far, it really was off topic.

        The problem is, it’s not actually feasible, and we’ve talked about that ad nauseam. Whenever I or anyone else addresses it, it becomes a war between d.p. and everyone.

      • Eric says

        Yeah…not cool. That discussion started out completely on topic and stayed pretty close to being so. Its deletion creates the appearance that you wish to stifle dissent on this forum. It’s your site, so you have every right to do that, but at least be up front about it.

      • Mike says

        Why is it not feasible?

        If its cause we would loose volume on the line to Northgate, I think this would be a totally valid call. I’d suggest the ballard line could be served by 10 minute headways… 6 trains an hour… perhaps a few more during rush hour… losing 6 trains an hour to northgate seems like a great tradeoff

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        If it were just reasonable dissent, I would be all for it! The problem is, it’s personal. When I have an opinion, d.p. now looks for a way it can be wrong or bad, and formulates an argument to make it wrong. It’s happened three times here now – with the potential for a lake washington crossing, with the DSTT being effectively full, and with the original corridor study area. Whenever I get into the comments, he comes after me. It stifles the other conversation.

      • Mike says

        Ben… thanks for that feedback, I will watch to see if I see that behavior from the perspective of a third party.

      • d.p. says

        I seem to remember this one looking more like a war between Ben and everyone.

        In particular, it seemed to be every STB contributor who actually lives in Ballard and needs functional transit on the horizon versus Ben’s fantasy mapping.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        We need 8 minute headways to Bellevue and Sea-Tac, at least. That combines for 4 minute headways.

        The ridership generated north of Northgate is not small. Lots of suburban buses will feed into the line – Sound Transit staff have told me that they’ll need all of those trains to Northgate.

        I mean, past that, there are other reasons – like that you would want to serve U Village and Children’s as well, and that you would want to consider going to Kirkland eventually. But fundamentally, we need the service on the line we built to go to where we’re building it!

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        d.p., I’m the only one who’s brought this up with Sound Transit staff. Well, me and Keith Kyle, the guy who *started* Ballard Spur, and he also agrees it’s not feasible. Fighting this again and again when we’re actually on track to build from downtown to Ballard – which is where most of the Ballard commuters want to go – seems totally counterproductive.

      • d.p. says

        Ben, those are three separate topics. You just happen to be wrong on all of them.

        1) A Lake Washington crossing is expensive and complicated and in no way comparable to a bridge over the Willamette. The cost of such a cross-lake bridge would be a deadweight on any project associated with it.

        2) Even if the downtown tunnel were full at 4 minutes (it’s not), that would in no way preclude you from branching north of the highest-demand segment. Northgate and Lynnwood aren’t the cause of that full tunnel. As Mic said, you aren’t an ST engineer, ST politicos aren’t engineers, and we sure as hell haven’t seen number-backed claims from actual engineers.

        3) The “corridor study”, as explained by you, effectively merges projects that in no sane world would be merged.

        I called all three of these out. Separately. Legitimately.

        I don’t have it out for you, Ben. But the combined effect of your persecution complex and your inability to prioritize or to process precedent is not pretty.

      • Mike says

        Yea… i just do not see any line going through belltown => lower queen anne => 15th => ballard as either feasibly rapid, nor as “Interesting” in the sense thats where people want to go. People in ballard do not want to go to QA, but they sure do want to go to UW, or go to UW transfer to a northbound train and go to Northgate. Building a rapid high capacity line down 15th seems like a waste, as its not in a good walk shed.

      • d.p. says

        And Mic and others have done the math. Even with the most generous accounting for feeder usage, urban flowering of Northgate and Lynnwood, and gee-whiz rail bias, you don’t need more than 6-minute 4-car trains north of Brooklyn. Ever.

        The only way to crunch the numbers to demand 4-minute trains is to presume that 60% of ridership will occur in a single morning and a single evening hour, with the trains essentially dead at all other times.* And if that were true, you shouldn’t be building all-day rapid transit there in the first place!

        I’ll believe your new downtown tunnel and north-south Ballard subway when I see it. All I keep hearing about on that front is the awesomeness of streetcars.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        ALL of the previous study work on where to build transit next says Ballard to downtown is the highest priority. People in Ballard are trying to get to work, and that’s downtown. At the same time, people in Interbay, Uptown and the north part of Belltown would love a more reliable option than their bus.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        d.p., the only way you’re going to convince anyone that the downtown transit tunnel can take more trains is if you go meet with Sound Transit staff and tell them you want it, and then solve the problems they give you.

      • Mike Orr says

        If anybody cares enough they can summarize the deleted thread in four sentences, then nobody’s viewpoint will be censored, yet people wouldn’t have to wade through 25 tree messages that would get people lost in the forest and stop reading the rest of the comments. I think DP has effectively restated his viewpoint in his 1-2-3 list. Ben has restated his viewpoint in his 3 posts before that.

        The only other thing I remember is that the original question was to clarify the various streetcar, Link, and RapidRide proposals regarding Ballard-south and Ballard-east. ST is about to study a downtown-Ballard Link route and (for Seattle) a downtown-Fremont-Ballard streetcar. DP is afraid the Link funding will end up competing with the streetcar funding and we’ll end up only with the latter. Others like me are optimistic that enough people think the Link line is necessary in any case. The Ballard – U-District idea is still conceptual: nobody official has made a concrete proposal on whether it should be underground or otherwise, or which stations it should have. The various maps around are just railfans’ suggestions. An underground Ballard – U-District line would take around 5 minutes, judging from the University Link and North Link estimates, and assuming 5 stations. It could be a branch (downtown – U-Distict – Ballard), shuttle (downtown – Children’s), or cross-lake (Ballard – Redmond). DP thinks a branch is feasable and the best cost/benefit ratio. Ben thinks a branch is unfeasable. A cross-lake line would have an expensive bridge or tunnel, and people have diverse viewpoints on whether would be justified or well-ridden.

        One thing that may not be obvious is, the corridors in the article don’t mention downtown-Ballard. That’s because ST has already voted to study it now. If you join all the corridors into a conceptual line, you could theoretically have a Redmond – Ballard – downtown – West Seattle – Burien – Renton line. That would be a pretty long line, but the point is not to assume that the line would necessarily terminate at every corridor study boundary.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Great summary, thanks. This isn’t as simple as “dp thinks” and “Ben thinks”, though. It’s “dp and a couple of other commenters think” versus “Ben, Sound Transit staff, and SDOT staff think”.

      • Charles says

        The issue of “balancing” headways between regions that have differences in demand could be addressed by truncating runs e.g. trains could turn back at Northgate every 6 minutes except for every 3rd train or adjust as necessary. They do this on some lines in Chicago (Brown, Purple have different turn backs depending on time of day)

        With that strategy, I think the Ballard spur is low hanging fruit. The only technical challenge I see is how to connect it to the Central line. Not impossible but it’s the kind of problem that ST should be thinking about for the future. Where obvious potential connection points exists, design station for future connections. U-District station was not designed with a Ballard line in mind. I asked about this at the design scope meetings. Got the brush off.

        As for corridor ideas, perhaps it might make sense that instead of going over the lake that the Ballard line go up the east side of Seattle to Lake City then on 522 around the lake to Redmond via Bothell and Woodinville? Ooo and what if Eastlink completed a circle with with the Purple line?

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        The real issue with the “ballard spur” is that nobody’s going to rip open the U-district to build a complex switching system deep underground to attach to a bored tunnel. But nobody responds to that, because it’s actually hard to argue against, so our discussion becomes about headways and not about the massive expense of doing what would have to be a huge cut and cover project (which would interrupt service for years, as it wouldn’t get to construction until North Link was open) just to build the connection at all.

      • Kyle S. says

        Ben, switches are not complicated, and they don’t require tearing open the U-District.

        We don’t need a flying junction here. A simple level junction will do.

      • d.p. says

        Kyle,

        The U-District tunnel doesn’t exist, won’t for a decade, digging hasn’t even begun, design isn’t even finalized. There is LITERALLY nothing to “tear open”.

        This is possibly the dumbest set of statements Ben has ever tried to call “hard to argue against”.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Kyle, the train will be like 90 feet underground, in bored tunnels, next to each other. Yes, you’ll have to go over/under one line to get the other one across it.

        The contract for tunneling is about to be awarded for North Link. I get that you guys *don’t want* this to be the case, but changing that now would mean a redesign, more money, and delaying North Link. Since the contract is literally weeks away, and you haven’t done a thing to get political support for this, the contract will be issued and North Link will be built as designed.

        How on earth do you expect to get funding for this in some timeframe that wouldn’t require opening the tunnel after it’s in operation? You’d need a public vote, and before you could have a vote, you’d need the corridor study which I just helped get you, and then a good year of preliminary engineering to understand the cost before it could go to the voters. And then you’d still need revenue authority from the legislature. You’re still talking about a 2016 vote, and years of final design and EIS before construction could start.

        I swear to god, whenever we talk about this stuff, all the things we all know about projects just get thrown out the window in order to make ideas like this “work”.

    • d.p. says

      To start with, all you need are extendable holes in the walls and junctions in the tracks. That costs a pittance.

      But if you don’t do that, you really might have to “break in” later.

      So which plan is penny-wise and pound-foolish?

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Look, I get it. You have a solution to everything. Let Sound Transit know you’ve solved the Ballard problem.

      • d.p. says

        I don’t understand why you take “thinking things through fully” as such an affront?

        You have a plan that involves, if not a junction, the eventual construction of a bi-level Brooklyn station with platforms beneath and/or adjacent to the north-south platforms.

        New digging. New foundations. New holes in the station box for pedestrian and other connections.

        How does that in any way constitute a less invasive construction operation to undertake “while Link is in service” than the couple of slim being attached to a preemptively-laid junction I have described?

  4. Mike Orr says

    It’s interesting that ST is considering a Ballard-Redmond corridor and a Kirkland-Bellevue-Issaquah corridor. That doesn’t mean that all segments would necessarily be the same line, or that they would all be built at the same time. The important thing now is to get as much shovel-ready as possible to prepare for future grant opportunities. It doesn’t matter if some sections are “deferred” after they’re designed. At least the cities will know where the proposed stations and routes are so that they can plan their land use accordingly.

    A full Ballard – Redmond line with a Sand Point – Kirkland crossing would have a transformative effect on trip patterns and transit use in the region. It would open up easy communication between North Seattle and the northern Eastside, which has never existed before. That could even attract drivers who don’t want to go south to 520 and then through the I-5 or U-District traffic.) And it clearly falls into three seprate segments. Ballard – UW is needed NOW!, and we can throw in an extension to Children’s. The Eastside can worry about the Kirkland – Redmond segment and the bridge, and we can stipulate that the Ballard – UW segment must be funded before the other segments.

    The Issaquah – Bellevue – Kirkland corridor matches what I’ve been thinking for a while. It ends the debate about an Issaquah – Seattle line. It can share East Link’s track between South Bellevue and Hospital. It covers the largest Eastside city without Link (Kirkland), and the whole east Sammamish area. It puts the largest transit destination in the middle.

    It’s also interesting that the list doesn’t include Tacoma.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      Oh, Tacoma is already covered. Remember the Federal Way deal a few months ago? I think that funded the corridor study. I don’t have my notes in front of me, but I think that’s what they said in the interview.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        It was design and engineering – shovel ready – to Federal Way. It could be that there isn’t funding to Tacoma, but that would be by choice by the Pierce delegation if they don’t want it. We’re expecting this to be a unanimous vote tomorrow.

      • Mike Orr says

        Pierce has been getting more interested in streetcars. What we haven’t heard is how that interest compares to their interest in a Federal Way – Tacoma extension. Is it getting near a tipping point, or do they still want the extension before multiple streetcar lines?

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        I really don’t know. I met with Mayor Strickland recently to talk about things like getting Sounder to Olympia, but they’re taking huge bus cuts now – they need those back, or want those back, before they do much else.

    • David L says

      How are you going to build a Sand Point/Kirkland crossing without ruining the park at Sand Point, the same way big chunks of Washington Park were ruined by 520?

      • Mike Orr says

        It could go on 65th at the southern boundary of the park. If you want a station at the main entrance (74th) or inside the park, obviously it would have to go inside, but that would be to benefit the park. A station at 65th would serve the apartments southwest, southeast, and nortwest. It would serve the main park buildings in the northeast (10 block lawn in between) and the Mountaineers building 12 blocks north. If the station were at 74th, it would serve the park buildings better and the apartments worse. We might as well go for 65th for the largest walk circle and least park impacts, and then push for more neighborhood businesses to round out the area.

        An elevated segment would be a small impact to the park, not like a 4-lane highway with onramps. And underground segment would be no impact to the park except maybe during construction. A surface segment is out because 65th is a narrow 2-lane street with bike sharrows going to a park parking lot, and the line would have to be ascending or descending anyway in order to reach a bridge or a 120-foot deep tunnel.

      • Cascadian says

        An alternative to a tunnel would be a tube at the bottom of the lake, similar to the tube in San Francisco Bay. A bridge is tough because there’s not much to solidly anchor it. And it would displace the park and a huge swath of Kirkland.

        If this is done, it’s going to have to be under the water, with a subway station in downtown Kirkland, with the train surfacing along 85th toward Redmond. I don’t think it makes sense in the next wave, but it’s never too early to evaluate and plan it. And this makes Ballard-Children’s the sensible scaled-back plan. The Eastside will get some combination of extensions to Redmond, Issaquah, and Kirkland–whatever matches the scope of the other subareas. Kirkland for a cross-lake route makes even more sense once there’s already a station sighted for a line from Bellevue.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        David, the south edge of the park is a road and parking areas, and a rail line is like 1/4 the width of 520. I don’t think you’d have much impact.

      • BA says

        It isn’t the width of a bridge across the lake that’s an impact – it’s the length.

        From just about everywhere the width of the float bridges in imperceptible – the impact comes from their existence.

      • Mike Orr says

        Lake Washington is really deep, and it goes straight down like a cliff, not sloping down like a bowl. I said a 120-foot station, but come to think of it, the lake is 200 feet deep, not 100. I think 200 feet is the maximum depth for light rail stations? And such a deep station would be astronomically expensive, you could only justify it downtown or at a major park like Washington Park in Portland, or in a huge city like St Petersburg. I don’t know about a tube in the middle of the water; maybe it would work?

      • Bernie says

        Lake Washington is really deep, and it goes straight down like a cliff, not sloping down like a bowl. I said a 120-foot station, but come to think of it, the lake is 200 feet deep, not 100.

        You’ve been reading the WSDOT propaganda? The Lake off of Sand Point is quite shallow. There’s buoys to keep sail boats from getting too close to shore. Likewise Union Bay is very shallow and has a narrow navigation path marked to access the Montlake Cut. I only know of one place in the lake where it is 200′ deep and that happens to be a hole near the west end of 520.

      • Bernie says

        Thanks for the link. I always have a hard time finding it. Note that the lake is not a giant valley that drops of like a cliff all around the shoreline. WSDOT for years had up on their website for why 520 had to be floating bridge that the lake was over 400′ deep. I finally wrote to the engineer in charge and they corrected it but still hype it as “more than 200′ deep in places”. Yeah, places as in two.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        I love the history of the Transbay Tube. Emperor Norton thought it up in the 19th century, and later picked up by the guy that built the Panama Canal. Sometimes it takes a bit of crazy to think big enough to change the world.

        175′ is certainly within the realm of possible. Steep slopes can be dredged smooth, and deep holes filled.

      • Bernie says

        The idea of a “floating” tunnel has been around for some time. I had thought that one of the Nordic countries (Sweden or Denmark) had actual built or started construction but according to Wikipedia the idea has never actually been used. British Columbia has even looked into it for connecting Vancouver Island to the mainland. Unfortunately WSDOT is in love with sinking bridges. Of course the tall towers of a cable stay bridge would be totally out of character for the neighborhood.

  5. Mike Orr says

    By the way, Ballard to Redmond is an east-west grid line. The deviations between 45th and 85th are insignificant at this distance, especially because it opens up a significant new corridor, and because the deviations happen to go to the largest transit destinations in the area.

    • d.p. says

      Grids are vital for transit in contiguous, walking-scale cities.

      They’re irrelevant over huge distances.

      That’s just one way urban and regional transit are fundamentally different, and why it’s a terrible idea to “bundle” the two as a study corridor or in any other falsely-equivalent manner.

      As for this “grid line”: THERE’S A FREAKING MILE-WIDE LAKE INTERRUPTING IT!

      • David L says

        Just what we need. A giant hulk of concrete roadway ruining both Magnuson Park and downtown Kirkland, the only place on the Eastside with any character.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Why would you build a concrete roadway when all you need is rail and a bike/pedestrian path? :)

      • Mike Orr says

        If you’re going from Kirkland to Greenwood, why not take the train and transfer to the 5? If you’re going from Maple Leaf to Redmond, why not take the 73 south to the train? So it would serve just fine for grid trips, and is equivalent to taking the Chicago el from downtown to the north side (20 minutes) and transferring to an east-west bus (20 minutes). Grids are efficient at both small scales and large scales. What doesn’t make sense is to go 10 miles out of your way to Bothell or I-90 because DP thinks you don’t deserve a grid line. If would be different if downtown Kirkland and UW weren’t there to anchor the line and justify it, but they are.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Mike, +1.

        d.p. just thinks everything I support is a terrible idea, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it. :)

      • d.p. says

        It’s not about “deserving” grid lines. It’s about the density and walkability needed to support such lines and to justify their costs and service levels simply not existing in the suburbs!

        Ben, you know how the 520 bridge is often closed in windy conditions, lest the segments tip over and the pontoons fill? Now imagine a “skinny” version of the bridge, built on the cheap…

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        d.p., you’re fearmongering.

        Sometimes you have good points, but you’re making things up about 520 now. The 520 site says the drawspan is opened during high wind to relieve stress on the structure – not because it would tip, but because components would break. That’s because it’s 50 years old.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        See this? This is why I deleted that thread. Because when you realize you’re wrong, you won’t accept it, join forces, and work for a better future, you just turn to fearmongering.

      • d.p. says

        It’s not fearmongering! It’s PRECEDENT!

        And it’s certainly no more outlandish than you pulling floating bridges out of thin air every time you want to “expand our vision”.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        I didn’t pull floating bridges out of thin air. We have three of them, and WSDOT had planned one to connect Sand Point and Kirkland some 40 years ago. I’m just talking about a place where a floating bridge for cars had been planned, and suggesting maybe we could build one there for rail, connecting Sand Point to Kirkland.

        There are a lot of reasons it might be more cost effective than trying to add rail to 520, like the more direct route and connecting to U Village and Children’s, along with quite a bit of student housing and market rate apartments.

        Nobody’s saying it would be cheap, and I haven’t said it’s the best option. I just think it should be included in the study as an option, to see whether it’s a good idea. It looks like routing rail over 520 would be hugely complex and expensive, and would cause a circuitous route that would significantly impact east-west ridership.

      • Mike Orr says

        “It’s not about “deserving” grid lines. It’s about the density and walkability needed to support such lines and to justify their costs and service levels simply not existing in the suburbs!”

        I meant “deserving” in a technical density/transit sense, not in a personal judgment on the people. Yes, of course it would not be as well ridden as the Chicago el, and it would cost more per rider, and a significant cost per mile. But if we don’t do it, people’s only choice is driving or severely inconvenient transit that takes an hour or more to get anywhere. We can’t make north Seattle and the northern Eastside as dense as Chicago, and we’ve got lakes and hills pushing everybody further north-south than they’d be in an unencumbered region, and a lake that puts Kirklandites further away than they’d otherwise be. So our transit is going to be more expensive per mile and per passenger, that’s just they way it is here. But it’s worth trying to improve non-automobile mobility in the region anyway, even if it costs more and has less benfit than in a larger city.

      • Bernie says

        WSDOT had planned one to connect Sand Point and Kirkland some 40 years ago. … I just think it should be included in the study as an option,

        I think it should be included too. It will most certainly galvanize public opinion against ST’s Railroad Tycoon planning. Toss in studying the old R.H. Thomson Expressway route for some bus only lanes while you’re at it.

      • David L says

        Ben, that was a response to our friend from Algona, who most certainly didn’t have a set of light-rail tracks in mind when he wrote his comment.

        I’m still skeptical that this is worth considering. A bridge would really not be good for the area, and neighbors on both sides would fight it tooth and nail. A tube or tunnel would be quite expensive. There are better places (2nd Ave.!) to spend that money, or at least the half of that money that would have to come from the Seattle subarea.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        It’s not the next project that we’d build, for sure. Ballard-DT, West Seattle-DT, Ballard-UW. But when we build Ballard-UW, terminating it at Children’s would line up for a discussion about this next. It’s possible it would be an easy sell after that line was built – Redmond, Kirkland, UW, Ballard would probably all want it. There would certainly be opposition, but there would also be a lot of support.

        Also, as it goes outside Seattle, I suspect it would be paid for by East King.

  6. MrZ says

    I assume they would also look at existing corridors and services as well. I’m a bit disheartend that no new corridors in Pierce County are being studied. Of course with the way Pierce County has been voting on transit lately, they better do a bit of brown nosing to get the vote.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      I think Tacoma is getting studied, but because they’re under way on the Federal Way study already and it leaves bus on the table, it doesn’t make sense to study past that until the Federal Way work is done.

      • MrZ says

        Agreed. Tacoma will need more basic service (Tacoma Link Expansions, and Regional Express along Major surface corridors) in the coming years after the reduction in service by PT. Although a head-start with studying and engineering for Central LINK to Tacoma would be nice. Expanding the satalite parking program for Puyallup and Sumner for Sounder would be nice as well, installing new facilities further out on South Hill, along with further out in Bonney Lake, and the Lake Tapps Area, and even Orting (which its one highway in/out of town has major congestion problems).

      • MrZ says

        The next step is finding taxes that wont be so repulsive that everyone will vote no. If what happend in Pierce County is an indication, A general sales tax increase will not be a viable form of taxation for ST 3. Sales tax on motor fuels might be viable at the state level, but you can be sure Eyman will jump on that one (and it would fix many other problems the state has).

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Pierce voted narrowly against ST2 as well – it’s just necessary to have a lot of votes in King to overcome them.

      • Nathanael says

        Washington State has had a weird aversion to income taxes. In the long run, you need either income taxes or wealth taxes (well, or confiscatory estate taxes), or you degenerate into an aristocracy. This isn’t entirely obvious yet because you’re not in the long run yet, you’re still in the growth phase when everything is changing.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Nathanael, I agree. I think a good place to start would be a *local option* income tax, so that we could get it in Seattle.

      • Mike Orr says

        “or you degenerate into an aristocracy.”

        That’s just it. The people who don’t want taxes are the same people who think an aristocracy is a good thing, the natural result of everybody getting what they deserve, and that pro-egalitarian public policies are an illegitimate tyranny.

  7. Mike says

    Hey did a post I made earlier about Ballard – UW that D.P. responded to get deleted? Nothing bad in it… its not here now

      • Mike says

        So D.P…
        Ben says the line is not feasible.
        Could you tell me why he would say that (if you can). And then please take the time to give me your counter example on why it is feasible?

      • d.p. says

        Um… Because the whole world is full of branched trains combining for 2-minute running (or closer)? Because the vast majority of North Link capacity needs are south of Brooklyn rather than north of it? Because Ben’s fantasy map would require $100 billion to build and we’re not London?

        Sorry, I’m not mocking you, and I’m trying really hard not to mock Ben. It’s just hard to even know where to start in these discussions.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        d.p., Ballard to downtown doesn’t cost $100 billion, and it seems to be Sound Transit’s highest priority for Seattle in Sound Transit 3. For me to support that over an idea that staff at Sound Transit tell me isn’t feasible… means I need to be mocked?

      • d.p. says

        Ben, the real reason you went haywire with the deletions this afternoon was that a half-dozen commenters ha expressed iterations of “The Ballard Spur won’t happen because it makes way too much sense”.

        You also deleted my link to Oran’s eminently reasonable graphic suggesting the Spur as a stepping stone to a fuller grid later. (Logic being: even if North Link eventually has crazy demand, it won’t for the next 40 years by ST’s own numbers. Don’t let that capacity sit idle.)

        This isn’t about me. It’s about you being uncomfortable losing control of prevailing opinion.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        The Ballard spur doesn’t make sense. It just looks good at first glance, and people think it makes sense because it’s so easy to show a few benefits. But it’s easy to poke holes in. The problem is that those holes are technical, so it’s hard for the people it makes sense to to recognize which side is right on the technical discussion.

        This is why PRT takes hold so easily, why the “Vision Line” in Bellevue looked good, and why BRT can so easily be a “cheaper alternative” in the last few weeks of a light rail campaign.

      • d.p. says

        Sorry, but when your “technical holes” amount to “we have to run the tunnel at half the capacity of our own technical specs”, or “branching is laborious and takes entire minutes”, or “every man, woman, and child in Lynnwood will be on the train all at once”, it’s hard not to think that the hole-pokers need to see the world a bit and get back to us.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        d.p., what I hate about arguing with you is that in every new thread, you act as if I’ve never replied to or addressed anything you bring up. It’s like being sandbagged – I have to start anew every single time you start, because you disbelieve everything I say.

      • David L says

        Ben, please try to separate the actual argument from your distaste for d.p.’s way of arguing.

        Based on your comments in the other thread, I think you are still misunderstanding what people have in mind for the Ballard spur, and therefore making technical objections that don’t stand up.

        For the sake of argument, I’ll concede that 3-minute scheduled headways are the best we can do along a given Link segment. Given that, what would not work about the following plan:

        1) Build North and East Link as presently envisioned. This involves a non-crossing junction south of IDS; outbound East trains fly over inbound Central/South trains, rather than crossing them.
        2) Build the crosstown spur. Use a non-crossing junction immediately north of U-District Station. This is possible underground; there is such a junction south of L’Enfant Plaza in DC, separating the southern halves of the Metrorail Yellow and Green Lines.
        3) Run trains from Ballard to Redmond every 6 minutes and from Northgate to Airport every 6 minutes.

        The only one-seat ride you lose compared with the current Link plan is North End-Eastside. And a connection that involves waiting 3 minutes on the same sheltered platform is one that almost anyone will do.

        Trains will still run every 3 minutes on the critical, highest-ridership segment from IDS to U-District Station. They will run every 6 minutes everywhere else, more than enough for forecast ridership as far as we can reasonably see.

        Why would this plan not work?

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        So, you don’t just get every 6 minutes by default. You’re starting with both lines at every 8 minutes, because that’s all they really need right now, and operating more than that would be quite expensive.

        So you’re really looking at Ballard every 8 minutes and Northgate every 8 minutes. That’s not enough service for Northgate and definitely not once we get to Lynnwood. Not only does bus 41 *alone* run peak five minute headways, and even four minute a couple of times, it’s not all of the service that Link would handle – because of the cost savings and fast travel times, a lot of other routes would be terminated there.

        It’s been suggested that CT and ST routes could also terminate at Northgate, to get them out of I-5 traffic. While the express lanes are fast in one direction, when the buses turn around and go the other way, the traffic is horrific (and it costs a lot to pay a driver to sit in it).

      • Nathanael says

        David L. : as far as I can tell, that would work. You would likely need to grade separate Holgate St. and Lander St. in SODO, though.

      • Nathanael says

        Ben, what you just said seems to be a *non sequiter* and *doesn’t make sense*. You said “No, we’ll run trains every 8 minutes because that’s all we need. But that’s not enough trains, so you have to build a separate Ballard route!”

        Why is that an argument for a different Ballard route? It appears to be completely incoherent as an argument.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Each of the “spur” lines, South and East, will run trains every 8 minutes, for combined headways of 4 minutes to Northgate. If you were to build Ballard, and run service as described, you wouldn’t get trains every 6 minutes, you’d get trains every 8 minutes. That’s not enough for Northgate at all.

      • Nathanael says

        OK, so let’s try this again, Ben. How frequent do you think service to Northgate and Lynnwood needs to be? If every 6 minutes is sufficient, then there’s no problem with the Ballard Branch plan. If every 4 minutes is sufficient, there should be no problem with it given signalling.

        If you really think it needs to be every 3 minutes, but you don’t think the Ballard route or airport route needs to be every 3 minutes, then… well, I think you’ve misestimated relative demand from Northgate vs. Ballard (long suburban lines underperform, near-in lines overperform).

        If you think they both need to be every 3 minutes, that’s really optimistic.

        But I can’t tell what you think because your arguments are incoherent.

        David L’s suggestion makes perfect sense. The options are (1) an underground grade-separated junction for a Ballard Branch, or (2) a significantly extended underground line, an extra pair of platforms and a new depot for a Ballard Line. These are both quite expensive but (2) usually comes out more expensive — so it’s worth comparing them.

      • Nathanael says

        *rolls eyes* Fine, Ben, so short-turn every fifth train from the north at SODO. Ballard has 10 tph (trains per hour), Northgate has 10 tph, the core has 20 tph, Airport has 8 tph, Overlake has 8 tph.

        I don’t see the problem. Do you understand transit operations?

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Wait, you just suggested something that would lead to unpredictable headways for users, and you’re asking ME if I understand transit operations? Yeah, I do, I’ve been doing this for a while. You just switched to “trains per hour” because you can no longer offer a consistent headway. That’s horrible for passengers.

        Even going back to the beginning, I don’t understand why interlining like this is so attractive to people when Sound Transit is willing to design something that actually goes straight downtown.

      • Nathanael says

        I recognize that that creates some irregularity of schedule rather than beautiful even spacing — meaning a longer maximum wait, which could reduce ridership. Since your contention is that it would just be so expensive to have higher frequencies to the Airport and Redmond that it isn’t worth considering, this can’t possibly be a major concern for you.

      • Nathanael says

        Wait wait wait. Sound Transit is proposing a line directly from Downtown to Ballard?

        Uh, this seems *entirely* new. Reference? Where’s the second downtown tunnel supposed to go? Who’s got the money for it? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to increase the Airport and Redmond lines to 10 tph each?

      • Nathanael says

        OK, I finally thought of a possible place your argument may be coming from.

        The argument is that *capital funds are easier to get than operating funds*. So, better to spend $1 billion on an entire new downtown subway than $10 million a year on increased operating frequency, because it’s easier to get the $1 billion.

        That’s a valid argument.

      • Nathanael says

        Note that it’s a spectacularly money-wasting argument, but it may be correct as a matter of political strategy.

      • David L says

        Ben, to make sure I understand, what you are saying is the following:

        1) if headways are every 6 minutes, we are running too much service to the non-Northgate lines, but

        2) if headways are every 8 minutes, we are shortchanging Northgate.

        Perhaps this could be a problem if all CT/ST SnoCo commuter service is truncated at Northgate. But I think a train with four 90-foot cars every 6/8 minutes is more than enough to absorb even double the volume of passengers from an artic bus every 5 minutes while leaving room for other riders down the line.

        The other thing you can do when ridership on two branches doesn’t quite match is to schedule them for slightly uneven headways on the main line. More UW/Downtown capacity on the Ballard/Overlake line than the Northgate/Airport one? Run your 6-minute trains so that the Northgate/Airport train follows only 2 minutes behind the Ballard/Overlake one.

        Even going back to the beginning, I don’t understand why interlining like this is so attractive to people when Sound Transit is willing to design something that actually goes straight downtown.

        Mostly because 1) it helps two major corridors rather than just one and 2) it doesn’t involve either building a whole new tunnel under downtown or using the difficult-to-engineer, very indirect CPS routing you see with some other Downtown-Ballard ideas.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Wait a minute. Nathanael, you don’t know that Sound Transit moved up $2 million in planning money to plan a line from downtown to Ballard? That’s what we and the mayor fought for! That’s actually already started – it’s farther ahead than what we’re talking about today.

        The whole point of combining the study money from the city and ST is that ST will get four options for Interbay fast rail, and the city will get four options for Westlake/Fremont streetcar. In about a year, we’ll have clear paths forward for downtown to Ballard. That’s like ST’s highest priority in Seattle.

        Yeah, the mayor talks about the ‘rapid streetcar’ part because in the absence of ST3, that’s probably all we could afford as a city. But he’s just as happy with better investments from Sound Transit. Personally, I think we need both.

        ST3 will almost definitely have downtown to Ballard. I have met with staff and they get that a new tunnel downtown is on the radar. Yeah, it’ll be expensive, but if we’re talking about Ballard to West Seattle, or even Ballard to the stadiums as a first step, it’s the right choice. And with an ST3 that has to be sized to match Lynnwood to Everett ($3 billion or more from Snohomish), we’ll probably have the money for it in the North King subarea.

      • Mike Orr says

        So if ST thinks a Ballard branch would overcrowd the DSTT, then it would also think that a Ballard-downtown line would require a second tunnel. So they’ll study a second tunnel, and look for alternatives to a second tunnel to study. A surface segment downtown will quickly be thrown out because it would be slow like MAX, and the whole reason we’re considering this is to be substantially faster than RapidRide D. An elevated segment downtown would run into the same opposition the Monorail did. So that leaves a tunnel and… a hydrofoil or a gondola? It leaves a tunnel. And thus, a second DSTT will pretty much surely be included in the Ballard-downtown study. And it will have spare capacity for future unspecified lines. Where else is Aurora Link and Georgetown Link going to go?

      • Nathanael says

        Second downtown tunnel will create sticker shock and quite possibly ensure that nothing gets approved before 2020. For one thing, where are you going to *put* it? It has to cross over or under one of the existing tunnels at minimum. Probably two. Maybe three. This adds massively to the costs. Oh, there’s a new water crossing involved, too.

        But you seem to think it’s easy. You are basically saying that it’s easier to find $3 or $5 billion for a second downtown tunnel than it is to find a few million a year to increase service on the branches south of Seattle. Admit it. Maybe you’re right, of course, but it seems like a whacked-out set of incentives.

        “Study” money doesn’t mean a damn thing. When you have a source for construction money, let me know.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Nathanael, would you stop fearmongering just to make an argument? It’s just asinine.

        The DSTT crosses the BNSF tunnel twice. A future tunnel under 2nd would do the same thing. There probably wouldn’t be any meaningful interaction with the 99 tunnel because it’s so much deeper than anything else.

      • d.p. says

        I love how Ben can find infinite justifications for shutting down and shutting up those who don’t conform to his vision — and tosses around the word “impossible” willy-nilly — but pointing out that geographic and technological challenges make some of his visions wildly expensive (rather than impossible) gets you labeled a “fearmonger”.

  8. Mike says

    I’ve lurked on this site for years, posted maybe three times.

    Today, Ben Schiendelman deleted a valid and IMHO valuable thread I started…

    I have followed this community and seen many many fights with Ben involved, where the discussion point is basically that Ben is not open to anything other than his view. He is right and your not.

    I’d for one welcome a more open Ben Schiendelman that was open to more ideas… and if he is not willing to listen to ideas that may conflict with his own, then perhaps he should not be a moderator of this group.

    Regardless of how you feel of a discussion, deleting a valid thread about PRO TRANSIT cause you did NOT like it is super bad form! Shame.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        I’m open to ideas the first five times they get discussed, but when they’re long dead and then the same person keeps bringing them up again and again without any new information, and just accuses me of lying when I bring up clear counterarguments? It’s just ridiculous.

      • Mike says

        Fair enough…
        I have an idea, I recall you posted a great article YEARS ago called something like 10 reason the Monorail failed… do the same about the Ballard Line and post it in the sidebar…that way, all future conversations can be directed there.

      • d.p. says

        But when you inject NEW insanity into the discourse — extra cross-lake bridges! rail to Renton via Vashon Island! get your streetcars! fresh, hot streetcars! — that’s worthy of full investigation?

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        I see. So now you’re making up something crazy (rail to vashon?) in order to try to make streetcars and transit only bridges look worse. As the people around you can see, this is the kind of dishonest conversation that made me moderate you.

      • Mike Orr says

        ST is not commiting to build a bridge. It’s studying what it would cost and how much benefit it would give. And I haven’t heard that Vashon Center has gotten as big or as urban as downtown Kirkland, or that another city is burgeoning behind it. Is Burton or Dockton becoming a high-tech hub? I guess they’ll have to reopen the general store/post office that’s been converted to a house.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Mike, he made that up. He actually brought up the Lake Washington bridge himself, today, too. I didn’t start that, I just said UW-Kirkland-Redmond, which is what the planning says they’re going to study. They didn’t even say they’d study a bridge, I just think it’s a likely option.

      • Mike Orr says

        In that case, if the bridge is just your idea rather than a goal of the contract, that changes the situation. We’ll have to see what the contracts say. If it doesn’t specifically require a lake crossing, there’s no way the contractor would spend extraordinary resources studying it, so they may just skip that segment or give it a cursory view. Even if they do give it the same resources as the other segments, it probably won’t end up as far along as them, because again, like I-90 rail, it would be an unprecedented or little-precedented project.

      • Mike Orr says

        That raises something to watch out for, however. If the contractor spends 2/3 of its resources on the lake crossing because it’s so challenging, it would shortchange the Seattle segment that we really, really need a thorough job on.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        This isn’t an engineering study, it’s just a corridor study – it’ll come up with some alternatives. It may say a new crossing is crazy, but I doubt it.

  9. political_incorrectness says

    [ot]
    When it comes to the next round with ST3, I would like to see West Seattle-Downtown-Ballard rail. Those two corridors I believe have lots of potential. I would however grade-separate them and allow them to be fully automated. It is one mistake I believe was made in planning Central Link. If Central Link was fully grade-separated, a branch line to Southcenter and Renton could have easily been established, travel time probably could have been reduced a few minutes, making a Federal Way-Westlake trip in 45 minutes possible. When UW comes online, I am not sure if every 4 minutes would be enough during rush hour. UBC Skytrain will already be at 100k per day when it opens. Unless there is densification, extending LRT to Tacoma does not seem like a wise idea. I would like to see some bus corridors developed that have ridership before that is undertaken. Improving South Sounder service would seem like a better investment.

    That is the benefit I see with Translink on the other side of the 49th. All it takes is one ticket within multiple zones to get from one area to another. It would also build-up light-rail ridership.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      Oh, this isn’t a new idea at all – we all talk about it.

      But the incentives here are pretty screwed up, and the political paths that would actually get us a consolidated agency would probably lead to a lot *less* light rail. Most of the political pressure is on keeping buses running to every corner of the universe at all costs. With Sound Transit buffered from that by its federated board and clear capital-heavy mission, it doesn’t come under that pressure as heavily. But combined with Metro and others, you’d quickly see Sound Transit’s projects cannibalized to keep buses running to North Bend…

      It’s a discussion worth continuing, but more as a “how do we get closer to this without losing rail?”

    • Mike Orr says

      Look at that DP-approved AND Mike Orr-approved stop spacing in both alternatives. And Oran’s great subway-map skills.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        I think the stop spacing is fine too. Oran’s no slouch! It’s just the branch part that doesn’t work, the purple line needs to happen.

      • Nathanael says

        Except that the branch does work, provided you’re willing to increase your operating expenses by a fairly small amount (and provide better service while doing so). I think I finally figured out where you’re coming from, though, Ben. See my comment above about capital vs. operating. Is that where you’re coming from?

      • aw says

        I won’t believe the branch works until I see a proposed elevation of the crossing of I-5 and the junction with the main line.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        What aw says. You can’t just claim the branch “works,” it’s just saying “I want it to work.” But saying “I want it to work” as “it works” is something that leads you to want to handwave away every problem suggested. Who are we to say that North Link only needs 6 minute service anyway? What would boardmembers say about that?

      • d.p. says

        Mmm…hmm.

        I can see how negotiating the elevation around I-5 and the junction would be so very much harder than tunneling end-to-end under downtown, Belltown, and LQA.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        That’s ridiculous. Building an interlined junction underground into a bored tunnel – probably while trying to keep service operating? Yes, that’s harder than building a new line.

      • mic says

        The one thing that disturbs me most about ST3 jumpstart activities is the focus on raising new capital to build things like 2nd tunnels under Seattle, before we even get a taste of what U-Link will bring in the way of new riders. So far, Link has only generated about 7200 trips per weekday over the bus network it supposedly replaced. Actually, bus hours in the south corridor are up 3% and operating expenses, including Link trains, have soared for the small gains in overall transit ridership. ULink has been touted as connecting the 3 highest activity centers in the state, so let’s just see how things progress for a year or two after it opens.
        I suspect we will be gravely disappointed in the outcome, but hope (really) that I’m wrong.
        Dismissing ideas ‘out of pocket’, like d.p.’s spur, or my own CPS-LQA-Ballard options, in favor of 2nd transit tunnels is way premature, and certainly do not justify going to Olympia to justify the insane extra funding they will require.
        If ST and Ben are right, let’s have a thread on that billion dollar subject first, with ST Directors going public on why spur ideas don’t work. Make a reasonable case, backed by facts, and I’m all in.
        Just saying it can’t be done, ’cause someone else said so, doesn’t cut it.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        mic, I don’t understand how you’re getting this:

        “focus on raising new capital to build things like 2nd tunnels under Seattle”

        I just reported on corridor studies. Nearly every other discussion about this has been driven by d.p..

        While I, personally, believe that a new tunnel downtown is the logical conclusion when building a new line to Ballard, I have not reported on ST making any determinations there. That’s what these corridor studies are FOR.

      • mic says

        Sorry Ben, I know this whole thread has to be a nightmare for you, after so much of your good intentions have gone into supporting ST3, which is why I’ve mostly stayed on the sidelines.
        Your reference yesterday at 10:21 said “I have met with staff and they get that a new tunnel downtown is on the radar. Yeah, it’ll be expensive,…”, which prompts me to caution others to not start fund raising just yet on something so expensive and not very well justified by the facts.
        The gist of your post (last two paragraphs) implore the troops to lobby for more funding authority before ST3 can be developed, which is putting the cart before the horse.
        Just my own thoughts, but if you show some more tolerance for other opinions, especially since scoping ST3 projects is a long way off, you would get fewer grenades tossed from trench to trench. Transit need your energies, without some of the baggage.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Honestly, where Sound Transit is, what we’ll need next in Seattle, and what’s likely to come from these corridor studies, is too complex a discussion for these comment threads. There are a lot of moving parts, and when half the responses make accusations and attacks and generalizations, it’s functionally impossible to roll back the misunderstandings and drive a real discussion.

        But here are the basics as I understand them:

        The highest demand corridor in Seattle where we don’t yet have transit is probably Ballard to Downtown. Ballard’s where the most growth is outside of greater downtown, and downtown is the largest employment center. That’s where the city and Sound Transit are both focusing their energy.

        A big part of why the monorail was so contentious is that it built elevated through downtown. Surface can’t offer the capacity or reliability we’ll need, even in a 20-30 year timeframe. For the same reasons the downtown transit tunnel was built, we’ll need to go underground to serve downtown with more rail.

        Sure, there will be a lot of study work before that decision is formally made, but it follows pretty logically that we’re going to build more subway-style light rail, as we’re building it to Capitol Hill, UW and Roosevelt already and Uptown, Belltown and downtown are just as dense. And more than that, we *should* be building that quality, because that’s what we’ll need in the next few decades, so it’s worth fighting for.

        The next step is going to the legislature and saying “We grassroots supporters want an ST3, and we’re going to want enough authority to build out the light rail spine and connect more neighborhoods in Seattle.” With subarea equity, if we’re getting enough to go from Lynnwood to Everett, that’s something like a $3 billion project. If we’re within striking distance of that, we *are* going to have billions of dollars in North King authority too. It’s not putting the cart before the horse at all to talk about the magnitude we want right now, that helps drive the discussion.

        I’m not asking “the troops” to do anything specific. I’m saying “hey, we got a big win, stay involved so that we can work toward the next one.” Everything else is just a discussion in the comments, and instead of arguing over things that aren’t going to happen, I would LOVE it if we could actually discuss the next steps.

      • d.p. says

        Building an interlined junction underground into a bored tunnel – probably while trying to keep service operating?

        Oh, holy…

        Ben, not one ounce of soil for construction around Brooklyn Station has been moved yet: http://projects.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/projects/link/north/brooklyn/BrooklynStationGoogleMap_Schedule.pdf

        You’re not breaking into an existing line “while keeping service operating”! Service is 10 freaking years away! You’re redesigning to allow yourself an expansion.

        Anyone who tells you that the entire timeline and all FTA funding are endangered by a minor redesign (junction stubs) is lying to your face. Redesigns happen throughout any major construction project. This would be one of the inevitable many!

      • d.p. says

        I mean, there’s still an entire year left on the “station design” timeline, and the station itself doesn’t get built until 2017.

        Now is exactly the time to consider junction feasibility!

        Your “irrefutables” are shockingly refutable, Ben.

      • Mike Orr says

        “The one thing that disturbs me most about ST3 jumpstart activities is the focus on raising new capital to build things like 2nd tunnels under Seattle, before we even get a taste of what U-Link will bring in the way of new riders. So far, Link has only generated about 7200 trips per weekday over the bus network it supposedly replaced.”

        That’s fine if you’re happy with the current transit options and you don’t travel to anywhere near where Link will be, but it means that people who have been waiting 20 or even 30 years for transit will have to wait five or ten or twenty years longer. Some of us will be dead by then or invalids, so we won’t be able to use the transit, and we’ll have spent a lifetime of waiting for slow buses. Then maybe we should have just moved to New York because Seattle just won’t get its act together.

        Five more years means hundreds of hours wasted waiting for buses or crawling on them. That’s enough for an extra month of work or a month’s vacation, per person. It means people will keep having their choice of jobs limited by substandard transit. It means seeing their relatives less often because it’s a greater burden to get there. We could see car use decline and greater economic activity if we had significantly better transit, and the sooner the better.

        But I don’t want to overstate it. ST1 and 2 were the most significant part and will have the greatest benefit, because they address the largest transit markets and many though not all of the second-largest. So when ST2 is completed, we’ll be more than halfway finished with the must-serves. Not halfway to where I’d like to be (Aurora, Lake City, Kent), but halfway to a reasonable compromise between transit needs and tax-limiting interests.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        d.p., as I said in another reply, the contracts for tunneling North Link are almost done. The FTA already issued their record of decision. Yeah, service is 9 years away, but construction will be starting quite soon, and is sequenced fully for that time. And Lynnwood Link is making assumptions about the North Link timeline that will impact a potential FTA grant… so you don’t want to delay North Link.

      • d.p. says

        And as I’ve already repeated, design changes — some minor, some major — happen constantly over the course of a project of this magnitude. That’s why the construction sequence is already built with quite a bit of leeway in anticipation of such changes.

        What better time than before the concrete is laid to revise the plan to allow future flexibility?

        I struggle to think of a subway project that hasn’t been altered as it went.

      • Nathanael says

        Everett Link is a completely insane idea, operationally speaking, for the very limited demand.

        And yet a second downtown tunnel will cost a lot more than that. In order to provide (drumroll) no extra coverage, and capacity which won’t be needed yet. (Yeah, yeah, eventually it will be needed if Seattle keeps growing.)

        If you care about getting results beyond ST2 in the near term, Ben’s approach seems unlikely to be the one which is going to get it done. Unless Ben has an in with a few billionaires who will fund his proposals personally, of course. Don’t expect bupkes from the state legislature; expect the Feds to direct money elsewhere (Seattle’s gotten a lot of federal money recently); and expect people to rebel at the necessary tax increases for a redundant tunnel for 10-20 years.

        I hope that the $2 million is *actually* studying alternatives to a second downtown tunnel, because at this point a second (well, really, third) downtown tunnel is likely to render this one of these dead studies which just sits until it’s stale and has to be redone.

      • Mike Orr says

        Nathaniel, do you have any ideas on non-tunnel alternatives?

        The study is to give us a price tag and ridership estimates, and to reveal potential difficulties and unknowns. That’s what we need to decide whether to pursue a tunnel. Or not “we”, because you’ve already decided, but rather me and ST and others.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Okay, I hope it’s apparent to everyone here that the path this kind of discussion leads down is “it’s insane to build light rail to Everett.”

        When, in order to win an argument on the internet, you have to come full circle to arguing transit is bad, you’re not on the right side.

      • d.p. says

        Building transit that no one will use is bad! Because whether or not you’re willing to admit it, doing so does prevent transit investments in places where they would mean a damn.

        Almost all of MUNI’s deficiencies can be chalked up to the billions of dollars thrown away on empty BART tentacles while actual transit users were being ignored. (And we in Seattle don’t even have or forsee urban transit remotely as useful as MUNI).

        Your ludicrous belief in a bottomless pot of gold for Greater Puget Sound transit construction is the biggest reason I treat you as a dangerous actor.

      • Mike Orr says

        Do you have any evidence that MUNI Metro improvements failed that would have succeded if BART extensions hadn’t been approved? Do you have any evidence of large numbers of San Franciscans opposing BART extensions because it would stagnate MUNI Metro? What about the F line, T line, and the new Central Subway, all built in the same era as extending BART? If only we had three new such lines to consider a failure! Not to mention Van Ness BRT and Geary BRT, which are sailing along anyway in spite of that evil, evil BART extension to San Jose. And did I hear something about an infill BART station at 30th, which would be a bona fide urban station that San Franciscans have wanted for decades?

      • d.p. says

        With the exception of the Market Street tunnel (piggybacking on the infinitely more expensive birth of BART), MUNI was allowed to stagnate and degrade for 6 or 7 straight decades.

        Is the billions in suburban-oriented waste over the many decades that urban transit received zero investment not evidence enough for you?

        Every improvement you list is a recent phenomenon, and every one is slight compared to the billions poured into grade-separating BART spindles that literally no one uses outside of rush hour.

        And most of the projects you list are heavily compromised — the T-Third by very low speeds and occasional mixed-traffic street running, the Central Subway by being so short as to be nearly pointless.

        As much as MUNI is better than what KC Metro offers Seattleites, it is a profoundly kneecapped urban service provider. San Francisco is the second-densest major city in the United States and arguably the most consistently built up within its municipal limits. The fact that any urban resident still owns a car and default-drives within city limits (and in fact they do, at much higher rates than in Boston, Chicago, and D.C.) suggests that MUNI is sorely lacking.

  10. Govani says

    Payroll tax? you must be officers of soundtransit writing that.
    Only the most deceptive goverment types can conjure up the logic of more taxes on the working class.

    And for what? electric trains that have an average, slow speed of 21mph.
    From the jokers whom brought you the the 700 million dollar tunnel station to nowhere (beacon hill) , they want more… more and more… money and studies.

    And dont forget the full time experts at sound transit that buy art for the stations. Ugly, bizzare “modern art”.

    The only possible fix, may, with some luck, be to have the ST board and president to be elected. Presently its as corrupt as the mayors office of Seattle.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      1% for art is a federal requirement, not a choice by Sound Transit.

      But don’t let information stop you from smearing!

      • Bernie says

        That’s news to me. There is a State requirement for 1/2 of one percent, RCW 43.17.200 and a City of Seattle 1% program. The common theme seems to be that all the different programs apply only to money provided by that entity, or those it controls for qualifying capital projects which are mostly buildings. Not new street lamps, sewers, etc. The feds may apply their own “for the arts” requirement on grants they distribute.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Bernie, why do you only weigh in to nitpick and complain? Seriously, why not actually spend your energy working toward a better future?

        Yes, the FTA asks for 1% for art when they award grants.

      • d.p. says

        “1% for Art” has nothing — nothing — whatsoever to do with the Feds.

        And THAT’S why you get accused of having credibility problems.

      • Bernie says

        Because I keep hearing the same tall tales being repeated until they become accepted as fact. For example, it seems that whenever the George Benson streetcars come up someone points out that they ran at a profit. I for one would actually like to know the funding requirements vs discretionary expenses for STart. East Link looks to be striped down to the bare minimum. Certainly no Beacon Hill style art in the works for the Bellevue tunel.

      • Seattleite says

        Close, it’s half a percent.

        “Funds spent on the art component of projects should be appropriate to the overall costs of the transit project and adequate to have an impact. These costs should be all-inclusive and generally should be at minimum one half of 1% of construction costs, but should not exceed 5% of construction costs, depending on the scale of the project.”

        http://www.fta.dot.gov/13094_4129.html

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        I’m sorry, HALF a percent. Sound Transit spends one percent excluding tunneling projects. I’m fine with that. Of course, the real reason the commenter brings it up is because they don’t like rail transit (as they said). It’s just a convenient way to attack the agency.

        d.p., your *insistence* on being correct when it’s clear you are not just makes you look less credible in your other arguments.

      • Bernie says

        The difference between .5% and 5% (or even 1%) is huge when you’re talking about multibillion dollar projects. I had heard 1% for so long that I assumed it was true. ST being I believe a State level agency it seems would be bound by the RCW that mandates .5%. Although Seattle may be able to enforce, or at least strongly encourage through permitting their preferred level of 1%. Does anyone actually know how much money the STart program has been budgeted? Another question is what structures are actually included and what costs can be included as “for art”. Certainly a “station” would be included but a bus stop probably not. A flyer ramp? I suspect much of the concrete and steel work is offered as mitigation when seeking project approval rather than mandated. And that’s not to say it isn’t a good idea.

      • d.p. says

        That’s not a requirement!!

        This circular revises FTA Circular 9400.1, reaffirms that costs for design and art are eligible costs for FTA-funded transit projects, provides guidance for the incorporation of quality design and art into transit projects funded by FTA, and, within recommended parameters, leaves the allocation of funds for art to the discretion of the local transit entity…

        Eligibility In order to promote local determination of appropriate transit-related art undertakings, FTA has established broad, flexible guidelines for including these items in agency-funded projects. In general, such artistic undertakings should conform to the following criteria:…

        This document provides guidelines for undertakings such as ST’s “1% for Art”, and reaffirms that the FTA will help chip in for such undertakings.

        It is not a mandate!

      • d.p. says

        Seriously, you’re a hair’s breath from illiterate, and you accuse me of “*insistence* on being correct when it’s clear you are not”!

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Dude. You’re flipping out at me over a half percentage difference, and then you’re making up the 5% thing to make it look bigger.

        I don’t know of any transit agencies that don’t do 1% for art. I don’t know whether or not it’s a *mandate*, but it’s one of those things that’s a “really good idea” if you want to keep getting billions from the feds.

        Please get a grip.

      • d.p. says

        You are constantly claiming knowledge of mandates, regulatory requirements, and technical impossibilities that you have simply pulled out of your ass. This is yet another example.

        The point here is that you are not credible and never have been.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        I’m right, actually. Now that I took the time to *check*, things like 5307 formula funds from the FTA do require 1% for art, and they encourage it across the board. It is effectively a requirement. The fact that you are trying to pick out everything you possibly can to argue with me about says a lot more about you than it does about me.

  11. says

    So… I actually don’t think the idea of a northern train route across Lake Washington (whether a new bridge or along 520) is absurd on its face. Lots of people would ride the train from Kirkland (and Redmond, if it continued there) to UW.

    Then many (maybe even most) of those would transfer to go downtown on U-Link, even if it’s a lousy transfer — even a lousy transfer is better than sitting on the 255 or 545 while it takes 20 minutes to get from 520/I-5 to Stewart/Yale with no ROW or TSP. It might even beat East Link downtown from Redmond. Lots of riders from the NE quadrant of Seattle may do the same even if their buses continue downtown.

    So here’s a question. If we have a train across Lake Washington to UW, will we have capacity problems on Link between UW and Westlake Station? Will we have people turned away from crush-loaded trains routinely on the platforms the way they’re currently turned away from 7x buses? It seems like, because of UW’s strategic location as a transfer node, that demand south of it can hardly help being way more than demand north of it. Northgate-downtown riders are on the train both sides of UW — the difference is the difference in UW-downtown riders and UW-Northgate riders.

    The idea of branching the train immediately north of 45th, I think, comes from the perception that the magnitude of the difference between UW-downtown and UW-Northgate ridership will be large compared to Northgate-downtown ridership, and that it will be hard to set a frequency that will be adequate south of UW without being excessive north of it. I mean, it seems to me that if we do a halfway competent job of building our network, UW-downtown rail demand will be off the hook.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      Because by that time, Bellevue to downtown will be built on I-90, I don’t think you’d see the volume to downtown that Sound Transit was worried about when they talked about why they prefer 90 over 520. So I don’t think the crush load problem is really an issue then. The situation in which I think it would be an issue is if you sent everyone from Ballard over there before Ballard has a connection downtown.

      So yeah, there would definitely be more demand, but because people on the eastside would also be able to choose 90, it probably wouldn’t be so bad.

      I actually think a lot of ridership will start at Northgate. More than seems to be assumed in these threads. I-5 isn’t getting any bigger, and the downtown tunnel will shift more traffic onto I-5 too. Since the ridership estimates for North Link, the game has changed a bit with the viaduct project.

      • d.p. says

        In a discussion of Toronto’s grid, Nathanael suggested that because the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line is so terribly over capacity between its Bloor junctions and downtown Toronto, one couldn’t cite it as a functional example until a “downtown reliever line” got built.

        The problem with his argument: the Yonge-University-Spadina line carries 735,000 passengers a day.

        Somehow, I’m n

      • d.p. says

        Somehow, I’m not too worried about hitting capacity in that way on the dinky little lone Seattle subway line.

      • Nathanael says

        I’m not either, d.p.

        Toronto is, however, an example of why not to keep shoving Link out to Tacoma and Everett (Olympia and Bellingham, perhaps?); you end up with ridiculous unbalance between the overbuilt outside end (York University!) and the underbuilt center section.

        Eventually Seattle may need a second downtown urban rail tunnel. But it seems an odd *priority*. Toronto didn’t need to even consider it until the original subway line was 30 years old.

        Now, if you’ve got a design for a new transit tunnel downtown which provides better coverage downtown, that may stand as a useful project on its own. For instance, if it’s clear that you need better Queen Anne service, then perhaps a Ballard-Queen Anne-Belltown-Downtown subway makes sense — *because of Queen Anne and Belltown*. And it’s perfectly likely that it makes sense to terminate that north of the existing tunnels, in the vicinity of Westlake, just to avoid trouble.

        But that’s very different from needing a Downtown Relief Line. Even when you do need one, you’ll want it to be interconnected with the existing lines. Look at the way London Underground developed; first, the trunk lines added branches; then as trunk lines reached capacity, branches were split off and attached to new trunk lines.

      • Mike Orr says

        “Eventually Seattle may need a second downtown urban rail tunnel. But it seems an odd *priority*.”

        Seattle has direct contradictory experience. The DSTT was built in the 1980s with an eye toward future rail. Because it was already in place for Link, we didn’t have to expand the budget hugely to build it. That may have been what enabled ST1 to pass in the first place. Also, costs were lower in the 80s. And the multi-year disruption of tearing up Third Avenue was associated in people’s minds with the DSTT, not with Link.

        Now that we have one Link tunnel and we can see flaws in its design (and some people — not me — wish the stations were smaller), we can design a better tunnel this time, and one specifically for light rail rather than joint rail-bus operations. (Although I could see putting RapidRide C and E into it until West Seattle and Aurora get Link lines.)

      • Bernie says

        The DSTT was built in the 1980s with an eye toward future rail.

        Not so much. It was a last minute decision at the urging of George “Streeter” Benson to add rail. Which in the end was not only a waste of money at the time but an even bigger cost to jackhammer out since they weren’t compatible with Link. The Bus Tunnel, as it was known for years was built to bypass the surface gridlock. That gridlock can be eliminated at a profit by adopting a tolled congestion zone like London has.

      • d.p. says

        I agree with pretty much all of that, Nathanael.

        Except that — lest you be misconstrued — the Toronto subway is hardly an example of “building it to the boonies”. In fact, the entire subway system exists well within the limits of the city (as defined by its 1998 amalgamation).

        It just happens that Toronto — much like Chicago — is city that covers an extremely large physical area (though in a consistently built-up way).

        Moreover, this urban focus is precisely why it carries over a million passengers a day, while many-tentacled BART struggles to attract 1/3 of that, and while Link demand stands to max out at 1/5 of that on its “most important and highest demand” (read: sole actual urban-use) segment.

        The central-city portion of the Toronto subway is underbuilt only because that part of the city has Manhattan-like qualities and Manhattan-like needs, and not because the rest of the system is anti-urban in the slightest.

        Mike, I think you’re actually agreeing with me and Nathanael here, whether or not you meant to.

      • Mike Orr says

        It wasn’t built solely to convert to rail, but that was a long-term vision in the minds of many of the supporters since the beginning, and is the reason the tracks were added. In the 80s, with everybody believing voters wouldn’t approve a subway then, it was an important symbolic move to ensure that later, when it was possible, somebody like Kemper Freeman wouldn’t come around and argue that’s not a legitimate use of the tunnel and people never expected it, as he’s doing on I-90.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Seattle Transit Blog reports that Sound Transit is set to spend $9.76 million in 2013 to study new light rail lines for their long range plans. While not yet confirmed, Sound Transit staff say three corridors will be studied as part of “ST3″, including a line from Ballard to UW to Kirkland with options for continuing to Redmond, Bellevue or Issaquah. Presumably, crossing Lake Washington via the new 520 Bridge would be part of the study, an idea that would have significant impacts for Montlake. [...]

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