This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The Sierra Club’s Miles O’Brien caused a stir recently by arguing that extending light rail from Sea-Tac to Tacoma was not the most efficient use of tax dollars. As Mike Lindblom reported:

O’Brien said South End trains would take too long to reach Seattle, because of the system’s slow surface segment currently under construction through South Seattle’s Rainier Valley. He suggests building separate lines outward from downtown Everett and Tacoma, serving local riders into those urban centers.

O’Brien’s right that it would be a long trip from Tacoma to Seattle on light rail. About 73 minutes, based on Sound Transit’s figures. That’s longer than the bus, and longer than Sounder. Fortunately, for people who need to commute from Tacoma to Seattle, we have the bus and Sounder.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if ST does something to address this, like having an “express line” to the airport that shoots down I-5 or Airport Way from SODO to Boeing Field and connects with the main trunk line. But that’s way down the line, so to speak. As to his point about building lines out from Everett and Tacoma, I agree! But in any logical model, the first line out from either of those cities has to be toward Seattle, because that’s where the ridership is, which is exactly what the ST2 plan does, no?

But, more importatntly, we have to compare the transit times against traffic in 2030., which, given the projected rate of growth in the Puget Sound, will be far worse than today (picture bumper-to-bumper on I-5 12 hours a day, 7 days a week). People may well be thrilled to be able to get from Tacoma to Seattle in just 73 minutes, virtually any time of day or night.

(Via Will @ HA, who gives us the much-needed populist POV)

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