1) Stop saying LINK is “on time and on budget.” Sure, the new management has righted the ship and met its new, internal benchmarks. As someone who’s been in a lot of large organizations, I know that that’s not nothing. But it doesn’t win over any skeptics when you promise one cost and timeline when you’re going into the vote, do a faceplant soon afterward, come up with a new timeline where you have every incentive to be conservative, and then trumpet your success as if the initial promises never existed. It just adds to people’s cynicism about the process, and has probably been counterproductive politically.
2) They really, really should have grade-separated the Rainier Valley segment. Ben S. has repeatedly told me that this only costs riders two or three minutes, and I have no doubt that it’s true. Nevertheless, the whole point of rail is reliability: by running at-grade you’ve introduced the possibility of idiot drivers and pedestrians gumming up the whole system. Inattentive drivers have already seriously disrupted the SLUT on some days, and I hate to think that they could do the same for a regional backbone.
Furthermore, speed is as much about perception as the stopwatch time. Even without a disruptive emergency, a train sitting at a stoplight tells the people riding it that the train is slow. A train whizzing by cars stuck at a stoplight tells them it’s faster than driving.
Looking forward, now that we’ve built the system there are ways to minimize these problems: pedestrian overpasses, arterial underpasses, crossing gates, fencing, etc. ST and the City of Seattle should energetically look into these solutions. As a bonus, this kind of stuff is substantially cheaper than elevating or burying the line in the first place.
3) Use signal acceleration in both directions. A corollary to the other point is something else Ben S. told me: that the signal acceleration will be only used in the peak direction through the Rainier Valley. I repeat my argument from the bullet above.
4) Start Digging, Dammit. Nothing ensures completion like facts on the ground. Transit projects have their near-death experiences when they mess around for years without turning a spade of Earth. For that reason, it would have been a great idea if they’d found the money to start in on U-link before the critics have a chance to kill it, even at the cost of a few months of extra delay in Central Link, which is now a fait accompli.
So that’s my wish list for what they would do/have done differently. However, like any political process, the actual ST program is a mix of various interests, so that the result is not perfect from any one person’s viewpoint.
Opposing a system because it uses the wrong kind of rail car, or because its initial segment doesn’t run from your house to your workplace, or because it’s bundled with some other stuff you don’t like, doesn’t get us any closer to having a decent rail system; those decisions were made for a reason, and you ignore those reasons at your peril.
It’s with hesitation that I open this post to comments, because it invites a scattershot of random gripes. I ask that you focus on what I’ve suggested, or look forward to tactical changes that could still be made, as I’ve done.
And if your gripe is “go to Ballard and West Seattle before anywhere else,” we’ve already had that thread, several times. I wield my “delete comments” button as necessary.