I went to the Sound Transit workshop today, and it was interesting to see the various proposals. Here’s a pdf of the presentation.

  • I was disappointed that more Sounder service to Tacoma wasn’t included (the biggest increase was to just 15 daily round-trips), though that route is at or near capacity already. I guess this is because BNSF won’t give much more potential service on that route?
  • It was interesting to see that none of the plans proposed light rail south of Des Moines, which is really only one station south of Sea-Tac, or north of Northgate which is only three stations north of UW station. This is probably okay, I don’t know the ridership numbers exactly, but I doubt you’d get a lot of riders. The largest plan still had light-rail to Overlake (though not Redmond).
  • Nearly everybody there I spoke with seemed to think 2010 was the time to go back to ballot, which was what I have been leaning toward as well, with the recession and all. The one thing that could change my mind, is would be if Obama gets the nomination, he would drive young voters to the polls and vastly increase the likelihood of it passing in 2008.
  • I was suprised to see things I had never heard of before, like a Everett Streetcar (Everett Link?), Tacoma Link extensions to TCC, and a Northgate Freeway BRT station (where that would get built, I have no idea).
  • There was one Eastside Rail proposal, though I still think this is a bad idea, since most of the path is single-way and tops speeds are about 15 mph.

This map shows what the districts could look like if Mary Margaret Haugen’s bill passes.

Here’s a TNT article about it from the Pierce County perspective. Is it just me, or is TNT much better than at least the Times and probably the PI as well?
Did anyone else go?

39 Replies to “Sound Transit Workshop”

  1. Northgate would have the largest ridership increase. Bellevue would be up there too, but nothing compared to Northgate.

    Northgate should definitely be the biggest priority.

  2. I agree with John, we need to get to Northgate. Once we get up there, Seattle can start building light rail on the western side of the city.

  3. One problem: in my view, Sound Transit won’t exist by 2010, because they won’t have any more projects to build, and because Olympia obviously has bigger plans.

    Another problem: we won’t be in (real) recession out here in the NW until late 2009…or, 2010!

    This part of the country is always a year and a half behind the rest of the nation.

    The current consensus among the forecasts I’ve seen is for a short and shallow economic dip – but it took 2 years for WA to regain the jobs it lost in the 2001 recession.

    So, if we get a doozy, and join the rest of the country by 2009…2010 isn’t going to look very good. And we won’t have a Presidential campaign to bring out the progressive voters.

  4. Yeah There’s definitely pros-and-cons to both 2008 and 2010.

    BTW, I’ve added images from the event.

  5. I went. I agree with the member from Tacoma: a broken backbone of light rail isn’t going to be enough–we need to approve light rail all the way to Tacoma (though obviously it won’t be complete by 2020).

    I also agree with the member who pointed out that cutting out the roads from ST2 alone will cut several billion dollars. It’s possible that the voters would approve the light rail half of ST2 as-is.

    BTW what’s this talk about the ballot in 2010? I don’t remember hearing that.

  6. I noticed the YOE expenditure graph start at 2009. Does that mean we’re coming back for 2008.

    Signs point to yes!

  7. The TNT makes the Times and PI look like the Idaho Gazette when it comes to transport issues. The part-time progressives at that Capitol Hill Weekly (The Stranger) could also learn a thing or two from Tacoma. You know, the people who “don’t deserve” Ron Sims’, Erica Barnett’s and Josh Feit’s exclusive Sierra Club (with an emphasis on ‘club’) Rainier Valley – Capitol Hill light rail line.

    The press in this city is deplorable. Mike Lindbloom at the Times fawned over monorail for years (it would have served his West Seattle ‘hood) and drinks out of the Discovery Institute trough along with the dinosaurs on his editorial board. Larry Lang at the PI has been asleep at the proverbial wheel throughout Seattle’s transportation crisis. But, of course, the PI’s readers don’t think transportation is a big deal in the first place.

  8. The TNT link is dead; ere’s a new one.

    I gather that “BRT” in this case means buses running in HOV lanes, and I see tons of Direct Access Ramps. That’s all for the good.

    The big question is whether they’re going to increase service frequency to reflect a true BRT model. This half-hour stuff isn’t cutting it.

  9. What’s a DMU?

    I’m more and more convinced that 2008 is the time to act. Max has some great points.

    In general, I love this plan. Let’s start now.

  10. DMU = Diesel Multiple Unit

    In other words, they’re including the Discovery Institute’s plan for putting a train on the former Eastside BNSF tracks.

    This is interesting — it’s the first time I’ve seen the eastside rail plan show up on official ST2 info sheets.

    Thanks for posting maps, btw!

  11. I disagree that Northgate should be the biggest priority. Current and future growth patterns have to be taken into account. There’s no population growth in the entire city of Seattle. People are moving east. The first light rail line is a zig-zagging joke. It’s a political line. It’s a glorified bus route (traveling through neighborhoods which already have the best bus service in the county) designed less to get people out of their cars, and more to prevent charges of classism or racism if the first line had been built elsewhere. It’s a line that will take LONGER to get from downtown to the airport than the current route 174 or 194. The next line has to make sense. It has to get people out of their cars. The route 41 already gets from Northgate to downtown in 17 minutes. Why build a multi-billion dollar light rail line that will actually take a few minutes longer?

    If I were king, here’s how I would do it. Seattle to Mercer Island, to Eastgate, to Issaquah. OR, Seattle, to Montlake, to Bellevue/Kirkland, to Microsoft, to Redmond. Create only a few stops, and build enormous park and ride lots next to them.

  12. Just FYI,

    The Eastside line in it’s current condition and the last time I was in the cab of the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train was 35mph. The only time it was 15mph is crossing at Woodinville, the Wilburton Trestle which is NOT going to be torn down but rather the I-405 Wilburton Tunnel WILL be, and from The Landing into Downtown Renton was 20mph except for one curve that was 15mph.

    Other than that, it was 30-35mph the entire way.

  13. I had time to review and go over some stuff. I didn’t get a chance to go but talking with one of the Sounder conductors that went gave me a good insight of what was and wasn’t there.

    First off: Sounder

    15 trains between Seattle and Tacoma would be excellent but it comes down to capacity. Sounder can realistically run 30 trains during the rush hour but there is no available storage in Tacoma or Lakewood to support it. If trains were staggered in such a way and the route went to Dupont, the trains could in affect have 10 trains per “departure” location. BNSF has already came out and stated that without a third mainline that Sounder will not see over 15 trains between Seattle and Tacoma as well. What they do from TR Jct to Freighthouse Square is Tacoma Rail’s business and Freighthouse Square to Lakewood to Nisqually is Sound Transit’s business since they own that corridor.

    The other issue is that Sound Transit does not have room in the Seattle Coach yard without a dramatic improvement for storage. They also do not have the equipment unless they ran 6 to 12 of those trains as reverse commutes.

    Sounder North:

    It’s more or less the same but BNSF has stepped up it’s construction on double tracking the corridor. The single track through Interbay is underway and double tracking and new crossover at Golden Gardens is just about completed. The cut over and mainline relocation at Mukilteo which is in support of the new Sounder Station there is just about finished as well. Construction on the double track in Edmonds starts later this year unless it gets pushed back again. As it stands now that it should start after the King Street Station crew is finished in June/July. The bigger problem is that it is single track to Everett Station..This would need to be double tracked up the hill and a new tunnel bored for the corridor to be double tracked or just be considered a long siding from Everett Jct to PA Jct/Lowell.

    Again though, Storage issues are at Everett as well which is the other big hindering of expanding the North route.


    I really think ST should focus on the Kent-Des Moines to Northgate routing. The Eastside is important but it is something that can wait. BRT will be fine in the interim (I can’t believe I just said that)

    The Tacoma Streetcar (Sorry, I just can’t call it Light-Rail) to Tacoma Community College is great…! But… To Fife? That would be good as a casino shuttle but really that is all it would serve. Most Port of Tacoma workers wouldn’t walk from Port of Tacoma Road/SR99 to any of the longshoreman stuff…IMO at least.

    Everett Streetcar has been tossed around a few times and believe that would be an excellent development tool for the new Waterfront, Riverfront and Downtown districts.

    And finalllyyyyy…..

    The Eastside DMU would be excellent. Even if it was just to hit 60mph it would be better than the 30-35 and some 15mph slow orders across some ungated crossings and the Wilburton Trestle. There is a lot of potential to be harassed on this route. It’s just a matter of political will to get it going.

  14. I’m not against Eastside Rail per se, I just dont think the ridership supports the cost until East Link gets built and a proper transfer is created.

  15. Yeah, the ridership will be questionable but so was Sounder =)

    I see that Ballard got tossed back on… Wonder how long for the outcry from area residences.

  16. “I disagree that Northgate should be the biggest priority. Current and future growth patterns have to be taken into account. There’s no population growth in the entire city of Seattle. People are moving east.”

    It sounds like you live on the eastside, which is great, but keep in mind what’s best for the region isn’t always funding things in your neighborhood. Traffic from Northgate to Downtown is terrible for most of the day and the city needs to provide alternatives or we will continue to sprawl, as you noted, east-ward. We need to keep downtown Seattle and Bellevue as employment centers or we will sprawl out and future transit will become impossible.

    We need to have intracity transit first, from Northgate to UW to downtown, the largest working centers in the entire state. The next largest working center? Bellevue.

    I think people who move to Issaquah expect to be depend on driving to get to work. Northgate, UW, the Hill, Downtown Bellevue, Downtown Seattle, and even Overlake have the job or person density to support transit without massive parking structures. I would ask we would fund a multi-billion dollar system if all it’s going to do is help people who traditionally use transit the least. And bus service is very good on the Eastside, but it’s impossible to provide coverage for a lot of East King because it’s pretty sprawly and suburban — which is why you’d need parking structures for light rail there.

    We don’t need parking in Rainer Valley all the way up to Northgate because we can walk to light rail. Those areas will have the highest ridership numbers of any area — meaning less cars on the road which is best for traffic, the environment, and an individual’s quality of life.

    About the 194 or any other bus vs. light rail comparison: Light rail will beat any bus route during peak hours because of its frequency and separated right of way. It will beat most buses off-peak because it will always come every 15 minutes, whatever the occasion.

    Of course we should look to expanding light rail to the suburbs in the future — however, the next logical steps are Northgate to the north and Downtown Bellevue to the east simply because their ridership numbers help recoup the costs (in terms of dollars, pollution, political capitol) the best.

  17. Northgate should absolutely have the highest priority. It has the highest ridership estimates. Seattle proper is gaining around 130,000 residents by 2030, and a higher percentage will use transit than in other places.

    The north end suburbs will grow faster into both percentage and absolute terms than the Eastside, and will be well served by Northgate. (link)

    By the way, in the afternoon the 194 is a whole three minutes faster than Central Link, in spite of the fact that Link serves way more people and doesn’t seize up when there’s an accident on I-5. The 174 isn’t even close, look it up.

  18. Martin and Rizz, no offense, but if I understand you correctly, and you are saying that Link light rail lines should be used as intracity, local public transit, instead of using them as intercity, direct, express public transit, then I think you are part of the problem. Creating a multi-billion dollar light rail line from downtown to Northgate solves nothing. That kind of thinking is safe, lacks vision, lacks creativity, and wastes money. Substituting Link light rail lines for local bus routes doesn’t our region’s real transportation problems, it’s just window dressing.

  19. Anonymous,

    I was a strong supporter of Prop. 1, and support Light Rail to all of those places.

    But if in terms of priorities, if I have to pick one extension, I’m picking the one that has the highest ridership, moves the northern terminus of our existing line to a logical endpoint, and bypasses what I believe is the worst stretch of I-5.

    You can’t build to the suburbs unless the connections exist to the Seattle city limits!

  20. I know this is the Seattle Transit Blog, but the people who are arguing for Northgate first are not in touch with reality. The cross-lake corridor is the most important regional corridor, with people going both directions in large numbers. Ridership numbers to Northgage might be marginally higher, but a lot of people on the Eastside who won’t ride regularly will vote Yes for an Eastside rail line and No if they’re not included.

    Northgate is a close second, though, so I think any plan that leaves out either one is a bad idea. I wouldn’t count out Overlake, either, because that adds institutional support from Microsoft that is needed to pass the plan.

    The hard part is delivering enough to areas outside of Seattle to make the price worth it. My biggest concern is that without light rail to Tacoma and into Snohomish County, replaced only with glorified bus service instead of real BRT, this proposal isn’t viable.

    On the plus side, scheduling is accelerated compared to ST2, as far as I can tell. That’s a big plus.

  21. Again, Martin, tell me what that does to solve traffic congestion? A line from Northgate to downtown is basically just creating a glorified bus route. A multi-billion dollar bus route. And instead of taking a bus the 7 short miles to Northgate, people will simply be taking a train. A train that has less stops, won’t get people out of their cars, and that won’t save them any time over the route 41.

    I’m not against light rail. I’m not against buses. I’m not against street cars or monorails. But they all have their purpose. Buses, trolleys, and monorails should be for intracity transportation. Light rail and express buses should be for intercity commuting.

    To me, it’s sickening to see how they wasted an opportunity with the first Link light rail line. It makes no practical sense. They chose that line for two reasons. 1), by running it through a low income, transit dependent neighborhood (which already has some of the best bus service in the county), they wanted to guarantee “success” (high ridership), from day one. When the line comes up, they’ll simultaneously cut bus service. In other words, they wanted to say “See, it’s a success!” But all that will happen is people will switch from taking buses to trains. There will be less stops, and it will take more time. But, since they have a captive audience, and the people will have no other choice, they will declare it a success.

    2), they also wanted to avoid any charges of racism or classism. By building a something that makes more sense, like Seattle/Bellevue/Issaquah, where you could get tens of thousands of commuters a day out of their cars, they would also have to weather the charges that they are favoring the rich and ignoring the poor.

    Is that any way to make transportation decisions? I don’t think it is. I want things that make sense, and get people out of their cars. Anything that doesn’t do that is a waste.

  22. Although I agree completely that we need to propose a light rail line across I-90 to at least Bellevue, it is not a higher priority than Northgate. I know that many who live on the eastside see developments sprouting up all around them, including those near the new interchange in Issaquah. What some may fail to notice is that the same thing is happening in Snohomish County, and particularly Lynnwood. I understand that Issaquah has lots of new development, but it still lacks density. In fact, it can be argued that Lynnwood has a higher population density than Bellevue at the moment. (Inside the incorporated areas.)

    I am just using Lynnwood as an example, but there are lots of people from all over Snohomish County that come down I-5 every day to work in and around downtown Seattle. Many of these cities have densities that are higher than any on the Eastside (or all but Belleuve) and, in my opinion, better utilize transit. In the end, this is why the numbers for Northgate are the highest, and I am not suprised. Where do you obtain higher numbers for the Eastside? Have you compared the population density (or even total population) of Issaquah, Redmond, Sammamish to Shoreline, Edmonds, Lynnwood? As for future growth, check the urban growth boundry of lower Snohomish County, then look at the Eastside. The GIS links are below:



    Anyway, I am all for linking Seattle to Bellevue with light rail. I think that the two commercial centers will be more economically powerful this way, and that many people would commute between them. If we get to Bellevue, going tword Redmond is probably a best bet, as this is where the employment is.

  23. Anonymous,

    This is kind of a stupid argument, because we’re (hopefully) all in favor of both Northgate and Eastside rail.

    I don’t understand why you seem to believe that Northgate is unimportant because bus service is almost as fast, disregarding those destined for the University, Capitol Hill, etc, but pretend that there are no express buses to the Eastside! Arguably, the situation is worse to the north because of the 520 merge, and there are no reverse-commute HOV lanes.

    The lack of a reverse-commute ROW complicates commutes to the University and makes it hard for express buses to return to their point of origin to pick up new loads. If they can stop at Northgate to pick up their passengers, that makes life a heck of a lot easier for Community Transit, etc.

    And by the way, the relatively undeveloped MLK corridor is what made it legally simpler to introduce large-scale TOD, which is one key objective of rail. Otherwise, you have nothing but an express line to the airport. Good luck building tons of condos in South Bellevue.

    When ST did a faceplant, they decided to go south first because it was cheaper and less uncertain, not for any other reason.

  24. Martin, we both agree that light rail is necessary, we just don’t agree what’s its best purpose is. I believe its primary purpose should be getting people, especially commuters, out of their cars. And no one will every be able to convince me that the downtown to seatac line is nothing more than a glorified bus route.

  25. Anonymous, I respect what you’re saying but you’re pretty being stubborn with the facts here. Of course everyone in this debate is of the mindset that we should get people out of their vehicles, but you sound like you want to get people out of their cars on the bridges and I want to foster communities where people are out of their car all the time in addition to their morning commute.

    Firstly, here are bus routes that head from nearly every area on the Eastside to Downtown Seattle or Bellevue, just as there are bus routes that go from Northgate to Seattle.

    There are plenty of bus routes that go from Issaquah to Downtown Seattle. Or even to the U District and Northgate. Their frequency indicates to me that there simply isn’t the same transit demand as from Northgate to Seattle.

    Since we have buses going everywhere, any rail system we have will be “a bus on rails” but there are established patterns such as rail bias and transit oriented development, and concrete things such as capacity, separate right of way, and frequency that make rail more than a bus in any area.

    If you build to Issaquah first, you won’t get the same farebox recovery, and it will not ultimately advance the goals of transit unless (perhaps) rail lines are built to nearly all the suburbs. And that should happen one day, but in terms of the next ten to twenty years, we need to fix transit intracity and between major business district. Northgate, the U District, Capitol Hill, Downtown Seattle, Downtown Bellevue, and Overlake are the areas that advance the goals of transit the most because they are dense enough to support mass transit without relying on cars (park & rides) and dense enough to make the stops meaningful desinations. They will get cars of the road because those locations are where people need to go.

    The majority of the benefits for rail are only sustainable if you have the density to match. You will not get frequency of every 15 minutes to Issaquah mid-day because there is no way a suburban area with such little density can support it (in terms of cost per passenger). And the day it does, we have to build new parking.

    Like Martin said, Issaquah has as little density as any other suburb in the Puget Sound region — so the only reason to build specifically to Issaqauh is because you’d prefer it. What if you live in the city five miles southwest of Issaquah? Or fifteen miles northwest? Why did Issaquah get chosen over Kirkland? Or Shoreline, or Kenmore? Why did one suburb get preferred over another? There’s no good reason. If we get a network of light rail to connect to our densest areas, great. But no one from the suburbs is going to travel on light rail if it doesn’t connect to dense areas (because density often means employment centers).

    I can imagine a light rail system connecting all the suburbs, and going where? Ok, a feeder line to Downtown Bellevue and then Seattle? Great. What about the tens of thousands that work in the U District or Capitol Hill? What about the fact that in 20 years Northgate will be a major employment center simply because so many folks live there at the moment?

    And don’t say buses from downtown to Cap Hill, U District, and Northgate because I’ll just say take a bus from Issaquah to Bellevue — bus service that’ll be more frequent to feed into Light Rail.

    Look, light rail can definitely help places like Federal Way or Issaquah that aren’t super dense. But in terms of first priorities, we need to address the most traveled corridors. Then extend, extend, extend. Hit the densest areas, like Ballard, next. Connect suburbs like Issaquah and Federal Way and Lynnwood and Renton as the region begins to accept light rail.

    But, certainly, the first expansion of light rail should not be to Issaquah. So many less cars would be removed from the road because ridership numbers wouldn’t touch Northgate. If I were to throw your talking point right back at you, only current bus riders in Issaquah will start taking light rail.

    I’m sorry if I sound angry or anything — I respect your opinion but just because you live on the Eastside doesn’t mean you have to block meaningful mass transit to the area’s largest employment centers, because those are the destinations that people in Issaquah need to travel to.

    So I have no problem building to Issaquah or the dozens of other suburbs, but I want to build the destinations that those suburb riders are going to first.

    RE Bellevue vs. Northgate:
    I would say Northgate is more important than Bellevue because it is simply the next logical step and has the best ridership figures. The stops on 45th in the heart of the U District and the only on Roosevelt serve very dense areas and employment centers. The current U District stop is unfortunately only useful for those who want to transfer to bus or who attend the UW. Kinda akin to having light rail in Bellevue terminate a mile and a half uphill walk to downtown.

  26. BTW, just to frame the convo: The costs are about $1.2b from U District to Northgate, $1.6 from Downtown Seattle to Bellevue, and $650m from Bellevue to Overlake

  27. Oh, one question. The downtown to seatac Link light rail line cost what? Around 3 billion dollars? Does anyone know how many people that line will be getting out of their cars? I’m not being sarcastic. I honestly don’t know.

  28. Getting people out of their cars is a bad measurement.

    How many people has the IRT got out of their cars between Brooklyn and Manhattan in its 103 years?

    Is the Brooklyn bridge uncongested with its 145,000 crossings per day?

    You need to think of transit not as a way to improve traffic, but as the alternative to driving. Getting people out of the cars cannot be the goal, its to get people to take transit.

  29. Then it’s a waste to turn the Renton to Woodinville line into a light rail line because it’s going through non-dense areas. We agree it should be a bike path.

    Also, looked it up myself. The Seatac to downtown line, as admitted by the ST chair, will not be getting people out of their cars, and will not be reducing congestion. It will just be getting people out of buses an onto trains. Sad.

  30. i would think that if light rail does ever connect tacoma to seattle it would be worth considering building a non-stop track along boeing field to allow long distance tacoma-seattle link trains to bypass the rainier valley. essentially a double track line with no stations between sodo station and boeing access road station.

    then have local seattle – seatac trains continue to use rainier valley alignment but terminate around sea-tac.

  31. [anon] Nobody I know takes the bus to the airport. They drive or take a taxi. This is not generally true in any city with a light rail line to downtown.

    This may not compare with the number of people that will commute by light rail if we extend it into dense residential areas, but it’s far from true that the sea–>seatac line won’t get people out of cars.

    Regarding the general point of the reason for light rail (long-distance v. short distance), I’m not sure what the best use is. Short-distance makes life easier for people that live and work in cities, and makes cities much more efficient (try to imagine getting anything done in NYC without the subway). Long-distance makes it possible to commute further to the cities. This is good short-term because it reduces traffic, and perhaps good long term because it removes the need to build more traffic lanes. But it also encourages sprawl.

  32. Fantastic — once again, NW Seattle gets nothing. Just like ST2, I’m not much interested in subsidizing commutes for Microsofties who prefer to live on Capitol Hill.

  33. Nice point Matt! I was thinking the same thing. Long haul trains encourage sprawl like crazy, so long as people can get enough parking (Ex. Chicago area.) However, I am not against these trains because it does keep the driving distances to a minimum, and there is a growing sentiment against sprawl. This sentiment gives me hope that the train stations will just give people an excuse to live “driving distance” (50 miles) from the station itself.

    As for light rail with local stops, to me this is the heart of what anti-sprawl is all about. It encourages density, and gives people a better incentive to live in the city.

    In fact all of this makes me wonder: at what density point (assuming that TOD would be very limited or not developed at all) is one better than the other?

  34. Correction from above: The anti-sprawl sentiment gives me hope that people will NOT use the train as an excuse to live 50mi from the train station….

    However, my uncle does commute every day from Newburg, NY to lower Manhattan (approx 65 miles) every day from his brand new suburb. Why? Because it is a simple 2-hour train ride each way. Yikes.

  35. Anonymous uses the same old tired, bogus and lazy arguments againt light rail. It’s amazing how bad information leads to bad conclusions. And how ideology drives so much of the discussion these day. ST is doing it the right way: darting with the highest potential corridors. Anonymous’ “I’m guessing based on my feelings” approach isn’t gonna cut it. Maybe Anonymous is still dreaming monorail dreams. Who knows.

    Whatever the case, one has to wonder why a supposed transit supporter would use the lies and distortions of anti-transit right wingers, and think the non-Kemper’s Kool Aid Drinkers Club at Seatrans would bite on any of that bs. Go back to calling in to Dori Monson, guy ….where the Angry White Guy Whiner can share all the bad information he wants. The ignorant need to stick together these days!

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