As Martin scooped, Sound Transit has announced their 15 year plan. I’ll let the map and dates speak for themselves:

That’s Link to Bellevue, Highline and Northgate four years after U Link, Microsoft a year later, Federal Way and Lynnwood two years after that. This package also includes more and longer Sounder South trains, bus investments for 545 service to coincide with the new 520 bridge, and the First Hill streetcar.

ST Express hours would be increased 12%, and East Link exactly duplicates the 550, so those hours can go to other routes (which adds several percent, effectively, to that 12%).

Jackpot, folks. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Now we have to get it on the ballot.

52 Replies to “The 15 Year Plan That Will Knock Your Socks Off”

    1. S. 272nd (the Redondo park and ride) is on the edge of Federal Way. I know it’s not downtown, but there simply isn’t the money.

      Remember, we can come back in 4 years and do Tacoma and Everett. But something HAS to pass – we don’t get another shot, and it’s not getting any cheaper.

      1. I don’t think so. The opponents already decided that South Link is a waste of money – it’d be a two faced argument that we could call them out on pretty quickly.

  1. This is awesome! I was hoping for a compromise like this. It makes sense to open part of the line first, then add on over the next few years. Do you have any suggestions for what we can do to help this pass the Sound Transit vote and the public vote in the fall?

    1. Write an impassioned letter to your ST boardmember. I’ll be doing that too.

  2. Why does ST keep on deceptively drawing the Downtown to Seatac line on maps as a straight line? It’s not a straight route. It has many turns, curves, zigs and zags. Why not show that on a map, like they partially did with the downtown to Overlake TC routing on the map?

    1. Sam, they do that because it’s already been built and doesn’t need to be referenced. Obviously, this map isn’t to scale–it emphasizes the udates that (hopefully) will hit the ballot!

    2. In a straight line… you mean like the London Tube map? It’s the great graphic design conspiracy!

    3. Its not deception in the least. I know people in Seattle aren’t accustomed to maps of rail lines, but that is part of the marketing of the line(s). It serves the purpose of telling a user in the most simplest way where the train goes and where it stops. Adding in lots of detail about where it zigs and zags only adds unnecessary complexity to the map. Don’t worry, there will be (already is) a map that shows where the exact alignment is as well as this one. Check out these guys that can easily be shrunk down to stick just above or next to the doors for easy and quick reference on other systems:

    1. Thanks! I dig the guy aiming a gun at his own shadow.

      If you ever have a chance to stop in Seattle, post here first and we’ll help you get around!

  3. seattle sucks…they pushed back in 1995 on a real plan and instead approved the half assed-ness that is ST…billions spent and nothing done…and politicians like dow constantine who have an almost physical aversion to rail…sorry but Seattle sucks and is going to be stuck in traffic because your voters just hate rail hate transit and hate to pay for the actual cost of transit. they would rather sit in their stupid ass cars and have traffic like LA because some politician told them that was better than rail in 1995. and then you have politicians like ron sims who are so incompentent they’ve screwed up ST good.

    1. It’s our first troll, everyone! I mean, Sam’s nice and all, but this is pure, unmitigated trolling! I’m going to leave it up for posterity.

      Mister sux, I’m sorry you feel that the well over 2 million riders Sounder will carry this year is “nothing done”. I’m also sorry (separately) that you feel next year’s light rail opening is “nothing done”. Or were you one of the “it’ll never happen” people? Perhaps you’re blissfully unaware of the light rail station taking shape at the airport, or the trains that have been testing through South Seattle and Tukwila.

      I guess you live in a city that has rail transit? Because if you live here, and it sounds like you do, you’re only wasting your breath shooting yourself in the foot.

      1. ST is a regional system and will not offer the “ZOMGAWESOME” rail service everyone wants right off the bat and people immediately think that’s so totally wrong.

        HOWEVER, it is impossible to have a regional system when King County Metro basically told both Pierce and Community Transit to “talk to the hand” at the idea of combining services. They’re the C-Tran of Seattle!

      2. I think that if we pass this, we’ll be sitting pretty. We just need to protect Sound Transit from the “governance reform” crud long enough to get Central Link open – the arguments of the detractors basically pop like balloons in the public eye when the public uses the system.

      3. Ben, re Governance Reform. It’s occurred to me, if the ST Board fails to pull the trigger, doesn’t put anything on the ballot for voters to consider this November…is G.R. still such a bad idea?

        Yes, I always contact my legislators and tell them how terrible G.R. is, but if the current Board is paralyzed into inaction, right when most of the stars are aligned in our favor…I’d be very hardpressed to continue defending the current structure — the one that failed us.

      4. I think that would make things far worse.

        Right now Sound Transit has none of the external lobbying, none of the industry contributions, that make politics dirty. We just have to deal with the boardmembers themselves, who are generally really reasonable when you talk to them about the issues.

        Paralysis into inaction doesn’t last forever.

  4. This proposal is a good start. In 2012, we’ll have a couple years of Central Link operations and the time will be ripe to expand the system to Tacoma, Everett, downtown Redmond, and within Seattle toward Seattle and/or Ballard as far as sub-area equity will take us.

    And hopefully Seattle can find a way to tax itself more to complete the in-city lines faster.

    1. For U Link, they’re limited by the speed of tunnel boring machines. We’re already going to use three simultaneously – two for UW-Cap Hill, and one for the much shorter Cap Hill-Downtown (it will be run through twice before the UW TBM arrives).

      It might be possible for the city to get Northgate moved up to 2018. That would offer a good midpoint between the 2016 U Link opening and the East Link and Highline extensions. That sounds similar to what I’ve mentioned in the past, a Seattle-ST partnership for building something in the Ballard-West Seattle corridor – maybe with the city building a 2nd Avenue tunnel, and ST hooking into it on the ends.

      1. I kind of figured the 2016 date for U Link was due to how long it is going to take to dig the tunnels.

        I’m not sure what the planned phasing of the construction for the Northgate segment is but it would be nice if they could phase the 3 stations in so they can open as soon as possible. Even better of course would be to start the Northgate construction ASAP so it can open at the same time as U Link.

      2. I doubt that’s possible – that would require a lot more tax money coming in than we have now. I wish… I spend most of my Seattle time near Roosevelt station.

  5. “East Link exactly duplicates the 550, so those hours can go to other routes (which adds several percent, effectively, to that 12%).”

    You exactly proved my point about Northgate transfers yesterday, Ben.

    LRT will lead to service cuts on nearby bus lines.

    Using your own logic from above, there is no way a ST route between Northgate and downtown will NOT see a decrease in service. They’ll cut frequency and try to get people to transfer to light rail.

    (And also, if they DIDN’T do this, I’d wonder why, because it makes sense financially, but won’t be user-friendly.)

    1. The Northgate express makes 81 trips a day from Northgate to Seattle at a travel time that is 7 minutes more than the travel time for LINK (supposing 22 via bus and 15 via LINK. Conservative figures compared against bus schedules and outside travel time estimates for LINK). 567 minutes, or 9 hours and 27 minutes of service time extra. That’s just one bus route.

      It makes 96 trips in the opposite directions taking 6 minutes more than the LINK. 576 minutes, or or 9 hours 36 minutes extra time taken for this route over a similar LINK trip. That discounts, of course, that the LINK can make fewer trips due to capacity.

      If matched trip-for-trip to these routes, LINK would save 297,180 minutes of transit time per person if they travelled each weekday in the year. At 11,000 daily boardings, versus one bus route, LINK will save 3,268,980,000 minutes of service and travel time for these users of the system that are travelling from Northgate TC to Downtown Seattle. That’s almost 54 million hours.

      But buses are better, right?

    2. Brad:

      The 550 is exactly duplicated by East Link. It’s an express. It runs from downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue. East Link will run as often or more often. There is absolutely no reason to run a 550 bus when Link already makes all the stops.

      As for the rest of your argument, I think AJ said it better than I could – don’t you get that Link, on its first day, will more frequent AND faster service between Northgate and Downtown? Even adding wait time between bus and train, you will STILL save time every day transferring to the train. As a user, I can tell you that the vast majority of users would want to transfer anyway – as you don’t actually seem to use transit, I suspect you don’t realize how much the reliability means.

      You don’t get to talk about wanting bus service for the suburbs and then scream bloody murder when we actually move our service hours to do just that!

      1. I wouldn’t be quick to say brad doesn’t use transit regularly. He has turned incredibly negative recently, but has in the past talked about taking the 545 from Redmond to downtown.

      2. Calculation 2: Northgate to Roosevelt/45th (Brooklyn Station) via the 66/67:

        Bus: 14 minutes
        LINK: 5 minutes
        Savings of 9 minutes

        If all the riders from Northgate were travelling to 45th and Roosevelt, they would have to take the 66/67 bus. This bus currently takes 14 minutes to make the trip down to the Ave area and LINK would take 5 minutes. That’s a savings of 9 minutes.

        Through the 74 southbound and 71 northbound trips, this creates a deficit of service hours totalling 1,305 minutes per person, per day in both directions. All wasted on this particular segment. Pretend that the 11,000 daily riders from Northgate were only going to Brooklyn and the 12,000 daily riders from Brooklyn were riding LINK to Northgate (service potential); this means that daily, we’d be devoting 122,100 hours a day southbound and 127,800 hours a day northbound.

        So far in North Link we have a savings of 116,475,000 hours if we compare person-to-person and segment to segment based on potential using the current service standards for the bus and LINK.

        Remember, however, that LINK is grade-separated and that Metro allows buses to be up to 5 minutes late regardless of scheduled times.

        By service potential, this adds the possibility that Metro adds the possibility of 6.16 hours northbound and 5.916 hours southbound of wasted service hours each day on these routes per person. Person-to-person, that raises the theoretical limit of deficit and additional 67,833 hours a day southbound and 71,000 hours a day northbound.

        Taking the possible overage and imagining a really bad year, Metro’s metrics declare that they would have to acknowledge the possibility that they would be wasting, person-to-person, 191,745,832.5 hours of people’s time with these 3 bus routes in an express corridor (Northgate to Downtown) and a local corridor (Northgate to the Ave).

        But clearly, buses are superior. Cleaner, smoother ride, faster…

      3. I’ll also add that East Link will definitely have more frequent service than the 550, at least on weekends—right now the 550 comes every half hour then, which is pretty horrible. I can’t see them scheduling light rail to come any less often than that.

      4. Good point, Eric – you’d probably see 15 minute weekend service on East Link.

  6. Wow. So if it ever reaches West Seattle, I have to travel south all the way to Burien, transfer very likely at SeaTac somewhere, travel east to Tukwila and only then head north to Downtown Seattle? That will NEVER work. No one would ride it because it would still be faster to drive/bike. Avoidance of any bridge syndrome. Waste of money. But that said, and judging by the light gray line it’s probably just a line thrown to us, “hey, we’re thinking about you West Seattle!” Yep, I’m bitter.

    1. Al,

      The gray line represents the existing 560 bus. It has no relation to any light rail service.

    1. maybe we can get a real passenger ferry option to downtown seattle…one that runs more often than 4 months out of the year (or whatever it is). with increasing levels of traffic, that would surely be the quickest route.

      1. It will run year-round within the next couple years, now that it’s operated by the King County ferry district. I think they said they were going to do that plus the UW-Kirkland ferry by 2010.

    2. In ST3, I’ll bet real money we’ll see Ballard-West Seattle through downtown.

  7. Tacoma, the second largest city in the Puget Sound, gets no guaranteed expansion of light rail, just some wimpy matching funds ($80m) for streetcar expansion either to the general hospital OR to the casino if Tacoma raises additional funds.

    I respect the decision to expand light rail in Seattle to Bellevue and up north, and I know that Central Link was expensive because of all of the tunneling, but geeze, THROW US A BONE down here in Tacoma.

    The people down here love Link and we’ve been hollering for extensions since it opened five years ago. If ST provided enough matching funds to get Tacoma Link out to 6th Avenue, the people of Tacoma could be satisfied with this plan. We need to build out fixed rail and trolleybuses in Pierce County to feed riders into the regional system. Additional matching funds from ST might be what it takes to convince the City of Tacoma and Pierce Transit to make those investments feasible.

    1. Chris f.T.,

      Tacoma also gets longer Sounder trains, more Sounder trips, and some as-yet-unspecified express bus improvements.

      ST can only provide for Pierce County what the Pierce County tax base supports. If you want more Tacoma Link, ask your representatives to axe the other stuff.

    2. Chris, remember that Seattle’s not taking any Pierce money. It’s just being spent on north Pierce light rail. Sounder matters too – especially when it hits Lakewood. You’ll see people in Lakewood and South Tacoma coming TO Tacoma to work.

  8. Here’s one simpler, the time savings riding LINK per person. I realized I went way over my head in math that would require me sitting down with free time, not 10 minutes here and 15 there.

    If you rode the 66/67 between Northgate and The Ave you’d save 75 hours a year on LINK and you’d save roughly 54.16 hours a year on LINK if you rode the 41 from Northgate to Downtown.

    1. Oh god, no matter how I do the math, it’s still too big a number. Buses: the clear choice. If your time isn’t THAT precious!

  9. Looks great but now all the people in Pierce County are going to whine about them not getting any light rail… Just look at the comments at the local newspaper

  10. this chain understates the transit benefits of extending Link LRT to Northgate. the greatest increases in transit benefit will be to riders going to and from the University District and Capitol Hill, where bus transit is slow and unreliable. another market benefiting will be those traveling between downtown Seattle and Northgate in the reverse peak direction, opposite the direction of the I-5 reversible lanes. and, most of the hours in routes 41, 71, 72, 73, 74, 76, 77, 79, 316, and 303 could be redeployed to improve service levels in the subarea.

    the questionable Link LRT investments are East and South.

    1. eddie, East Link would serve most 550 and 545 trips, as well as the stub trips on the 564 and 565, much of the demand on routes 230 and 253, and some of the 256, 202, 205, 222, 229, 233, and many others.

      North Link does little for the 74 (now the 30), 77, 79, or 316. The 30 is well off the Link path, and the other three are commute time only and take full advantage of the express lanes – they would lose time with a Link transfer.

      I think that we all tend to know a lot about the areas we personally use transit in, and assume that simply because we know of so many routes in our area, it must compare favorably.

      Here’s the crux: East and South Link will do a lot more in the long run. The core North Link routes are already serving areas that are dense enough to grow on their own. East and South Link will be channels to guide future growth – the main Seattle corridor has more users, but a much higher percentage of them are already using transit. East and South Link will be bringing completely new riders to the system, and making it easier to pass future components. Northgate riders will already support transit.

  11. Ben,

    The list of routes in my post was about those whose coaches and hours might be redeployed when north Link LRT is implemented. You are correct, East Link LRT would capture all the Route 550 trips and some of the Route 545 and 564-565 trips. However, the buses and hours on routes 222, 230, 253, 233, and many others will still be required for local service. Also, East Link LRT would take many years to plan and build. In the meantime, alternative transit investments could be implemented in a few years. The long run is a ways off.

    I was referring to Route 74 EX, not Route 30. Route 303 connects Aurora Village and First Hill via Northgate. I hope that Metro cashs in the 5th and Cherry bus routes with north Link (e.g., routes 74, 76, 77, 79, 304, 316, and 355) to improve the two-way all network even though those riders would have a slightly slower trip to the south end of downtown Seattle.

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