Want to know why rail is better than anything else we can put on the table? This is why.

90-95% of the light rail we’re building (by cost) is King County. The only exception are the stations in Snohomish, which will account for a very small portion of overall ridership anyway.

Sound Transit will collect 0.9% sales tax in King County if Prop 1 passes. Metro already collects 0.9% sales tax.

With the same amount of money, in 2030, Sound Transit’s light rail will carry more passengers and more passenger miles than Metro will – and then when the Prop 1 sales tax is rolled back, Sound Transit’s light rail will carry more people for half the money. ST would only collect 0.4% sales tax, but still carry more people than Metro with their 0.9% – and carry more every year.

There’s no contest here. Running buses in our main corridors is like using payday loans. This Seattle Times article is bogus – ignoring the simple, main point. We made this mistake 40 years ago. It would be dumb to make it again.

24 Replies to “The Seattle Times Can’t Handle Simple Math”

  1. By pure station numbers, 2 out of 34 stations would be in Shohomish County, so a little more than 95% of stations. More than 95% of riders for sure, since those Snohomish County riders would presumably be going into the other 31 stations in King County.

    1. 2 of 34 is a little under 6% – that’s why I said 90-95%. As a lot of the Seattle guideway is more expensive as it’s underground, I used cost. I believe it’s under 5% of cost.

      And as the King County light rail will carry well over 5% more passengers than Metro, it evens out.

  2. Mike Lindblom has had a major grudge against light rail for years. He’s been a little more fair this year, but this article reminds me of the hit piece he did around this time last year.

    Lindblom never questions the ridiculous claims of the critics, nor does he ever point out the fact THEY HAVE NO VIABLE ALTERNATIVE PLAN. Except, cars, freeways and gridlock, of course.

    And then there is Lindblom again quoting transit opponents who like to talk about Bus Rapid Transit (but oppose buses and BRT every chance they get)

    “Notable examples include Ottawa, Canada; Bogotá, Colombia; Brisbane, Australia; and Kunming, China. Closer to home, Vancouver and Calgary supplement their light-rail systems with BRT, a plausible scenario for Seattle.”

    Come again? Citytrain in Brisbane features 13 suburban lines, all centering on the city – including a line to the airport.

    News from Ottawa last week:
    City Transitway turns 25…

    “This week’s celebrations are a perfect opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, and look forward to a bright future for our new rapid transit system,” O’Brien said. In several weeks, council will be deciding which parts of the light rail transit system will be built first and after that, apply for government funding.
    Ottawa’s busways were built to be converted into light rail. Now they are moving ahead with doing just that (BRT supporters in Seattle area are dead-set against real BRT infrastructure) And even the new conservative mayor of that city is leading the charge.

    OK, so much for Australia and Canada. How’s about Lindblom’s example in China? Heh. He blows it, again. From Wikipedia:
    Urban rail plan
    Kunming is preparing to start construction on its first urban rail line, before the end of 2008, according to the Kunming Municipal Traffic Research Institute. According to the institute, the “Kunming Municipal High-Speed Rail Transportation Network Plan” has been completed by April 2008. The plan includes a total of six high-speed rail lines covering a total of 162 kilometers.

    Pending governmental approval, phase one of the project will begin before the end of 2008. The first phase of the network, Line 1, will connect downtown Kunming with the university campuses in the south of Chenggong, a county that is in the northeast of Kunming Prefecture.

    Shortly after approval is obtained and construction begins on Line 1, work is expected to begin on Line 2, which will connect Kunming’s northern suburbs with the northern shore of Dianchi Lake in the south. The two areas boast some of the city’s highest concentrations of wealth with the north shore of Dianchi to become more economically dynamic through developer Shui On Land’s Caohai Urban North Shore project, which is expected to cover 87 hectares and feature commercial and residential space as well as museums, theaters, an amphitheater and an “artist’s community”.

    Other proposed lines include:

    Line 3: Ma Jie (west Kunming) to Liangmian Temple (east Kunming)
    Line 4: High-tech Park (northwest Kunming) through downtown Kunming and Kunming ETDZ to Chenggong New Area Bailongtan
    Line 5: World Horticultural Expo Gardens (northeastern Kunming) through downtown Kunming to Dianchi Holiday Area (southwestern Kunming)
    Line 6: Downtown Kunming to New Airport

    Construction of Line 1 is expected to cost as much as 32 billion yuan (US$4.5 billion), with each kilometer of above-ground light rail costing around 250 million yuan and each kilometer of underground subway expected to cost between 400 million and 800 million yuan. All rail lines within Erhuan Lu – Kunming’s second ring road – will be underground.

    So much for China.

    Well, Lindblom and the faux BRT bunch can always count on developing countries like Columbia and Brazil…where one or two out of ten people own cars. Buses are very “popular” when you don’t have any other way of getting around…..

  3. Ben, the article says ridership for Metro is 400k boarding per day and ST projects 286k riders per day (in 2030). Is your conclusion representing a difference of “boarding” vs. “rider” and/or an overly-conservative ridership figure from ST/the feds?

    I think the biggest different than rail and buses, even “BRT” like RapidRide, is the reliability. I liked the part about CT buses being on time 95% of the time, but that their schedules have been padded out as the years go by. Light rail just can’t suffer from that problem.

    1. I don’t know much about the 286K number, but metro’s ridership right now is 330K per day, not 400K, though I bet it’ll get their by 2030.

      1. One thing I do know, however, is that the passenger miles is out of the water for light rail.

      2. Yes, the passenger miles traveled would be much higher. And of course, that 0.5% can just build us more, too.

      3. The prop 1 taxes get rolled back after we pay off the construction bonds. The operating costs are even lower than the .4% left over, but I don’t know how much lower, so the .5% is the safe bet.

    2. Metro’s ridership will fall as their core routes (71, 72, 73, 49, 43, 48, 7, 36, 194, many more) lose people to rail. Those service hours will move to other routes that don’t garner the same ridership.

      It’ll also fall as their money can’t operate as much service as it does today. Right now, on a budget of something like $350m, they have, what, a $60m shortfall? Not even Metro projects increasing ridership on their current taxes – it’ll drop.

      I don’t even have to say the FTA numbers are conservative. Link will still carry more than Metro in 2030 if we pass this, based on the fact that Metro can’t afford it.

      And yeah, when we get real ridership that isn’t based on bus math and $2/gallon projections, we’ll blow it out of the water even if Metro did get more money.

      1. I don’t think the 48 will lose many people. I’m pretty sure that not that many riders get on and off inside Rainier Valley. I was thinking about a 48-ish light rail route in the future…

        Link to map here.

        What do people think?

      2. The 48 is a core route to the UW – it has significantly different UW and non-UW schedules. They even have an express run that goes from 65th to the hospital a few times in the morning to handle the overload.

        With Prop 1, we won’t need those trips anymore, and we won’t need morning overloads up from the Valley.

  4. Just a couple things need clarification on this post.

    It isn’t correct to say Snohomish county will account for only a small portion of ridership in the system. Lynnwood is a very robust transit market. Ridership between Lynnwood and UW is expected to be 69,000 by 2030, roughly 50% higher than is forecast for the airport segment.

    The 286,000 figure is light rail-only ridership forecasted for the ST system in 2030. This figure represents about one-fourth of the system’s capacity and will exceed system performance for all western states’ LRT systems outside San Francisco and Los Angeles. Adding express bus, Sounder, and streetcar ridership to that gets the total system forecast up to 358,000.

    These figures do not assume anything about future development around stations. They do not include special events ridership of any kind (think Seahawks, Mariners, etc.), and they don’t assume any kind of “premium” for rail that has been experienced in other cities.

    Finally, when the ST2 system is built, the proposed .5% tax will be rolled back, leaving .4% in place. This will sufficient to cover ongoing O&M for the whole system. The current .3% mvet tax sunsets in 2028.

    1. A lot of this I’ve covered in the past – I wanted to strip away anything that was possibly arguable. Even though you and I know damn well there will be TOD regardless of what our economy looks like, a lot of people don’t agree with that.

      In terms of the two Snohomish stations – I know it’s not strictly kosher to simply subtract the boardings (and multiply by two for the returns), but I don’t think those two stops alone account for anything like 69k daily. More like 15k, if I recall correctly.

      The comparison I’m making here is to point out that with the same funding, Link can be built and move more people than Metro can, and then yes, roll back. I know there are other uses of the King County funds, I just wanted to make the very simple comparison that the same money gets us a lot more use on rail.

      1. Too bad Bonneville is stonewalling liberals (refused a top-dollar ad buy from Gregoire’s campaign!), otherwise a quick radio ad could be cut saying “1911, subway system planned for Seattle. Cancelled. 1929, subway system planned for Seattle. Cancelled” and so on and so on.

  5. Hey smart people – why don’t you all take these excellent points and write a letter to the editor on the subject. Lots of people read them!

  6. Oh Bonneville. Don’t get me started. “We can’t get enough money because no one is advertising, except liberals, so we’d rather starve (or fire dozens of employees) than take their money.

    Sorry, I needed to get that out of my system. It’s been another frustrating week.

    1. If you’re going to have money in politics, you should not be allowed to have politics in money. If it costs money to buy those ads, that money represents the speech of the people who donated it, and the station should not be able to refuse it on political grounds, especially during an election season.

      The same people who want our politics to be governed by who has the most cash also want control over how people use that cash.

Comments are closed.