Sound Transit/PSRC
Sound Transit/PSRC

To comply with a legislative directive, Sound Transit and the Puget Sound Regional Council conducted a preliminary feasibility study of Eastside Commuter Rail, the results of which were published last month.  There’s a summary here (pdf), and you can wade into the gory detail here.

For those of you not paying attention, through a bit of financial kabuki the Port of Seattle worked a deal to purchase the BNSF rail line highlighted at left for use as a trail and (possibly) a commuter rail corridor.

The Sound Transit 2 package budgeted a $50 million contribution to the capital costs of a line if a private operator agreed to assume the other costs.  If no such partnership materialized, the $50 million would be redirected towards buses in the I-405 corridor.

The report predicts (and these numbers are very preliminary) that ridership could be as high as 6,000 per day, with capital costs of $1-1.3 billion, and annual operating costs of $24-32 million.  Those numbers are based on running 33 trains per day in each direction on weekdays. This volume is possible because, unlike our current Sounder trips, passenger trains here wouldn’t play second fiddle to BNSF freight.  By comparison, the currently planned  Sounder trips, when complete, will have cost less than $1 billion in capital and about $30 million a year to run.

If a partner can be found to take ST’s $50 million and cover the other billion, this project could be an absolute steal for the region.  If you look at ST’s most recent ridership report, South Sounder averaged 9,296 boardings per weekday and North Sounder a mere 1,132.  It’s true that they have far fewer than 33 round trips per day, but they cover the highest-ridership periods, and the scheduling issues with BNSF can’t merely be wished away.  $50 million to increase Sounder ridership by 50-60% would absolutely be worth it.

However, the requirement for a private investor is a hugely difficult one.  Even with a ticket in the $10-20 range, it will take decades for an operator to merely recover the capital expenditure, to say nothing of debt service and operating costs.

Furthermore, although the cost estimate does include replacement of the entire track, the study did not evaluate all bridges along the route, some of which raise serious concerns.  Inevitably, as mitigation costs to litigious neighbors start spiraling, we’ll see those costs rise.

Note also that the area under study does not extend through downtown Renton to connect with the existing Sounder line.  Even if money were found to pay a larger public share, a significant segment of the line is outside the Sound Transit district and therefore would require funding from a non-Sound Transit source.

Since Eastside commuter rail has often been used as a stick to hit East Link, it’s also worthwhile to point out that East Link, while costing between $2.8 and $4.5 billion, is conservatively estimated to result in about 45,000 riders per day.

I haven’t yet reviewed anything but the summary, but feel free to post nuggets from the main report in the comments.

Brian Bundridge previously reported the $1 billion cost estimate here.  The blog had a collective roundtable on the subject (without the benefit of a professional study) in two long posts.

52 Replies to “Eastside Commuter Rail Study Released”

  1. There is one simple problem here.

    A billion dollars adds more than 6,000 more riders to East Link. Half that gets us to downtown Redmond for some 5,000, and the other half could improve travel times, go to public-private TOD partnerships, any number of other projects that would add even more.

    1. Ben,

      No one’s arguing that ST, if it were to find $1 billion lying around, should spend it on this. In fact, that wouldn’t even be legal because so much of the track lies outside the ST district.

      A better question, and one that I don’t really try to answer in the post, is what level of public investment would be appropriate for something like this? We (hopefully) all agree that $50m would be a good investment. $1 billion is too much. What about $100m? $200m?

      1. At a minimum, it would be $450 million because of the need to replace the bridge over I-405. I don’t think most people understand that those in the south end needs transportation just as much as those in Seattle and the north end.

        The main question would be, even spending $100, $200, $450 million or even the full $1 billion, would the FRA allow the service on the line? Would they require grade separations on the route to make it safer and less delay to drivers, would they require wayside horns at all or most crossings.

        There is a lot of items that are unanswered because of the limited scope of this study which is disappointing. It is my hope that more will be revealed as I continue to pile through the documentation.

      2. Brian, I’m not talking about what the appropriate ST level of investment is, not what the total capital cost would be.

        I think our previous roundtable went over the issues with connecting to the South End, specifically the refusal of the City of Renton to allow trains running through their downtown at grade.

      3. “A better question, and one that I don’t really try to answer in the post, is what level of public investment would be appropriate for something like this? ”

        That question isn’t salient whatsoever. No one is going to donate $1 billion or even $250 million so we can build BNSF rail. A thought exercise over what is a good investment, while it may be interesting, is entirely based on an unrealistic premise.

      4. It’s certainly true that the GNP people were about an order of magnitude below these cost estimates, assuming they could have even coughed up that.

  2. I would love to see this become a Burke-Gilman-type bike path. I don’t think this line as a passenger rail line is smart. It’s not smart routing. Perhaps if around Woodinville it went northwest toward Lynnwood instead of straight up to Snohomish it would make more sense.

    1. For once, I agree with you wholeheartedly. :)

      Granted, I’m also a cyclist, and it’s hell to get through Bellevue.

    2. Parts of the ROW might be useful for light rail. In fact the B7, C1T, C2T, D5, and all segment E alignments make use of the ROW.

      The most important thing is to ensure adjoining property owners don’t attempt to encroach on the ROW. Not sure what can be done once a trail is in place to keep people from pitching a fit if ST decides to use some of the ROW for light rail in the future. Even though I’m sure a trail could be put in along side the tracks once construction was complete.

  3. This is true Ben however relief of the I-405 corridor is the goal here. East Link only benefits those who are traveling between Seattle, Bellevue and Overlake. We need to be mindful that people do commute between Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, and Tukwila via Sounder then transfer to the huge fleet of vanpools at Tukwila Station.

    I’ve combed over a good amount of the document and perplexed at some of the figures. The City of Renton even seemed at odd at the location for the South terminal at a park which is no where near Downtown Renton. The closest transfer point would be Park Ave & Sunset BLVD, then almost a half mile walk to the station.

    There is a lot of lost vision for this project but that could be at the price to keep the cost down. This report assumes a “full meal” deal which also assumes that Colorado Railcar is still in existence and the equipment used would be 16 Bi-Level DMUs.

    If a private operator wanted to maximize the benefit of this corridor, the price would for sure reach a 2 billion mark but that would allow a closer run into Downtown Bellevue (viaduct type structure) and a much more easier connection (fly over to the Woodinville line) than an 800 foot walk to the station.

    As I have said many, many times. This could easily surpass the Sounder South corridor ridership if it is done right, which this plan does handle A LOT of the current safety issues. In order for it to be done correctly, the system absolutely needs to run from Tukwila Station to Everett Station via the Eastside Rail Corridor. The operator needs to be aggressive but proactive with BNSF to allow the connection at Tukwila. In the document, there is an item stating that BNSF and Boeing would not allow commuter rail between the park and Tukwila Station. That should have no bounds and is merely a cope out in this report. They only run 1 train a day if even that and the times of those deliveries vary since the fuselages come from Wichita, KS.

    If I was in the position to do this run, I would most definitely seek trackage rights between Everett and Monroe. Running out to Monroe would address the heavy traffic on Hwy 9, Hwy 2, and Hwy 522. Having direct service between Monroe and Everett to connect to Sounder would also benefit all carriers.

    There is really far too many possibilities with this line that aren’t even mentioned yet. I can go on but the rest will be saved for a post (though this could be a post on its own!)

    1. I think we should NOT be building infrastructure to benefit edge-to-edge commutes. That’s why we’re in this horrible traffic situation in the first place. We’ll just induce further demand.

      1. That’s a lame argument Ben. Those people aren’t just going to pack up and move because some urban planner decided that they aren’t going to build rail inbetween smaller cities because they think everyone should live in Capitol Hill in Seattle. We’re in the horrible traffic situation not because of where the towns are or where people live. We’re in it because there’s no other good transportation besides driving at the moment to these towns and also lack of enough alternate routes between cities to spread traffic out over the grid.

        Would you rather have them take the train or drive? The cities are already there. In fact they were all connected by rail in the pre auto age anyway by logging railroads. One just has to look at all the bike paths that exist on old rail lines that go directly inbetween all of the towns.

        The past generation made the error of ripping up the rails and going full bore auto dependency. This is a chance to correct that mistake.

        Is it the best use of dollars at THIS moment in time? Who knows. But to punish your own fellow citizens for making their own free choice to live where they want to live and state, “well we just aren’t going to serve you” is idiotic. By that logic, we shouldn’t repair any utility lines or electrical infrastructure either to rural areas because its enabling their lifestyle.

      2. I don’t think supporting the least useful but most expensive transit connections really counts as punishment. Why not build where the demand already exists? And if we reach a point where everything else is covered, then I’m sure you’ll be able to get the extremes with enough transfers.

        i.e., if we’re talking 405, then connect Kirkland to Bellevue to Renton to Seatac. Don’t head off to Woodinville or Auburn where the ridership just isn’t there.

      3. I agree at THIS moment in time ESR is probably not the best use of dollars given the limited availability of those dollars. I don’t disagree with that. But eventually I would like to see all of the towns no matter how large or small in the region linked by some sort of passenger rail/transit system much like in europe or japan today.

        The tone from Ben’s post and others on this blog suggests that some would never support building the system fully out to serve all communities because of the types of commutes/building patterns that exist now. Which will never really change unless you build out some sort of transit in between everywhere at some point in the future. Sorry, the wording of his post just strikes me as “We’re better than you who live out there”.

        I more look at this like a chicken and egg scenario. The reason people don’t ride transit is because in most of these places it doesn’t exist yet in a convienient enough manner for people to use it. Besides, what qualifies as an edge to edge commute? Duvall to Redmond, which is almost equal distance mileage wise as Seattle to the Microsoft campus(which many people do on this blog)? Kirkland to Bellevue? Woodinville to downtown Bellevue? Snohomish/Lake Stevens to Bellevue?? The only difference at this moment in time being that there’s frequent bus service inbetween MS and Seattle and not so much inbetween Duvall and Redmond.

        Anyways, this is digressing from the main subject of this post which is East Side Rail and getting into a whole other subect.;)

      4. Brian, people only live out there because we gave them free infrastructure. I’d like to not make it worse by building more.

  4. its all about connections, connections to east link, and particularly connections to employers from the stations, etc

    wes in oregon will also be a good model for this especially with regard to suburb-to-suburb commuting patterns in a suburban land use area. clearly most of these stations will be park & rides and no potential for TODs and a transit oriented lifestyle. i could almost see many riders being those from seattle (living a transit oriented lifestyle) transfering at bellevue to this line to reach suburban jobs.

      1. WES connects to MAX in Beaverton, around 20 bus lines in between, and only cost $160 million. Also, every city it runs through has a large commuting population and there are tons of jobs at both ends of the line.

  5. I see several things (or dont see as the case may be) with this report

    The body of this report predates the Passage of ST2, and the ridership estimates do not include any transfer numbers between ESR and EastLink in Bellevue.

    The November Draft Report stated (and I am paraphrasing from memory) that the model that was used to perdict Boardings was unable to generate acurate numbers in the Rural areas, and that the numbers generated for the rural areas were below what could be reasonably expected durring opperation.

    The November Draft version included prices on both DMU and Standard Locomotive pulled coaches, the difference in cost of the two equipment sets was minimal (on the order of a couple of million)

    The majority of this corridor, despite comments earlier, is within the ST taxing district, so it could rasonably be assumed that ST could run Segments 1,2, and 4 without breaking the law. For Section 3 (North Woodinville to Snohomish) ST could legally run service provided thay had a contract with the local transit service in the area (this is implied on ST’s website) (CT only covers the portion of the ESR that is within the City of Snohomish propper), theoretically, WSDOT, or Snohomish County could also enter into the propper agreements with ST to provide this level of service.

    Initial Cost, may be on the high side in this report, the only bridge that has to be immediatly replaced for the Renton to Bellevue portion to run now is the span over 405 where the wilberton tunnel used to be. ESR could run on the Wilberton Tressel, and the ESR could stop at Harve Field in Snohomish, and not cross into the Snohomish CBD, negating the need to replace thoese two bridges immediatly.

    Provided the FRA does not mandate it as manditory at startup, none of he other Signal replacement/upgrades need to be immediatly implimented (All Signal upgrades should be defined, and listed by priority, and worked in order of priority)

    The Woodinvillle maintenance yard could be placed on hold as we would need to go with standard diesel trainsets at least in initial opperations, Maintenance of these trainsets could be done in conjunction with and at the same facility as the Sounder trainsets. Further if this facility were moved to somewhere near the Black River junction or the Tukwilla station, the facility once complete could handle both ESR and Sounder equipment, freeing the current facility to handle aditional Amtrak equipment.

    This plan only mentions expansions from north Renton to Tukwilla, and Snohomish to Everett, there are a couple of additional expansions that should be considered.

    Woodinville to Bothell (Cascadia CC Campus) under 405 and over 522 on existing ROW and state owned land. From Cascadia CC, the line could be expanded up the center of 405 to Alderwood mall (for a future ST3 second Link tie in), and then along Mukilteo Speedway to the Mukilteo Sounder Station for an aditional sounder tie.
    Redmond to Issiquah, via East Lake Sammamish (the Rail’s (from what I have been told) still exist uder the gravel of the bike path.

    Lor Scara

  6. The operations cost for this is also far, far too high. At $24 million, the low end of their operations cost, and 6,000 passengers, the high end of their operations, it’s $16 per trip. That’s 3x cost of east link.

    1. Well of course, if you’re running trains every half hour in the middle of the day. The cost per rider is going to be huge if you do that.

      1. And the capital cost is the same whether you run trains all day or just peak-hour trains.

        You have two curves. Capital cost per rider goes down as you operate more trains, but operating cost per rider goes up. There’s no service level that comes close to being reasonable – which is why Sound Transit chose buses for the 405 corridor. It’s not worth the capital expenditure.

      2. You’re attacking a straw man Ben. No one is advocating that Sound Transit spend $1 billion plus to build out this corridor. Likewise, no one (in this thread at least) has said this ought to be a higher priority than East Link.

        The comment about “cost per rider” was specifically about operations and made in the context of comparison to Sounder, in response to your previous point.

        If you take the study results at face value and factor in inflation, this isn’t far off the capital cost effectiveness of our existing Sounder line. You’re drawing a very fine line to say that Sounder is great and this is clearly outside the bounds of cost-effectiveness.

        When you bring in the possibility of a significant private contribution, the advantage of Sounder disappears. Now it’s entirely legitimate to say that contribution probably isn’t going to happen — as I do in the post — or to make specific criticisms of the study methodology that ST and PSRC used, which you haven’t to date.

        Are you and Andrew opposed to mid-day Sounder runs because the operating subsidy per rider will be high?

      3. No, this is a lot worse than Sounder North. With North, we paid $400m for track rights (which include perpetual maintenance), plus something like $100m for other platforms? This is double that, even with inflation.

        Inflation is zero right now anyway. Possibly negative.

        I’m not opposed to midday Sounder runs. I’m opposed to creating more development on the Eastside when we have empty lots all over Seattle. Actually, more than anything, I’m opposed to beating a dead horse over and over and over and lending these trolls the opportunity to spew bullshit in the comments.

        There has NEVER been ANY possibility of private contribution. NONE. The only people suggesting that wanted to kill East Link.

        There’s nothing wrong with the study. The study shows that this is less cost effective than Sounder North, which itself was a not cost effective project that Snohomish County required before they’d get behind Sound Move.

      4. What kind of question is that? I’m pointing out that the statement “Well of course, if you’re running trains every half hour in the middle of the day. The cost per rider is going to be huge if you do that.”

        Doesn’t hold water when you compare this to link which will run every ten minutes in the middle of the day and will run until 1 in the morning. This is expensive no matter how you look at it.

        I think most people will say that Sounder North has been a waste, and it’s cheaper than this nightmare to operate.

        Also, the study does not use inflation-adjusted dollars, so leave that out of the discussion.

      5. Honestly Martin, I don’t understand what you’re arguing for at all.

        If Obama handed ST a $1 bn check for the Eastside, we wouldn’t build this. If Bill Gates went totally nuts and decided to spend $1 bn on this, ST couldn’t operate it.

        This doesn’t pan out in any way, and compares unfavorably even to Sounder North in terms of capital costs and operating costs.

      6. What kind of question is that?

        Sorry, I was bit unclear. Link is the top priority, obviously, because of lots of bidirectional traffic. But for a very directional commuter rail flow, this ROW is not so bad. If BNSF would let Sounder run in the middle of the day, the aggregate operating cost per rider would stink there too.

        If Bill Gates decided he wanted to build this and asked for the $50 million promised to it, we absolutely would do it. If he asked for $100m or $200m instead, and ST’s budget was running a bit ahead, I think it’d be worth serious consideration.

        What am I trying to argue for?

        Obviously this line is way down the priority list from East Link. Where exactly it falls beyond that depends a lot on what the non-ST funding contribution is and the timeframe. If you give me $10 billion and 20 years, we drop this and build I-405 Link instead.

        In absolute terms, this is a lower-tier commuter rail project — not a priority by any means, but not clearly beyond the pale, like some people here seem to believe.

      7. Martin, I don’t understand why you think this private contribution business is anything but a way to create doubt about East Link. It’s come from no one credible.

  7. They’d be better off saving the useful parts of the right-of-way for a future Eastside light rail. Granted, that would be way down the line of priorities, but an Eastside Commuter Rail, with its current routing bypassing Downtown Belleuve, not even going into Renton, and not hooking up with the Sounder or Central Link, makes no sense, especially considering the cost of replacing all that track. A light rail line could switch on to the East Link track north of downtown Belleuve and off at I-90, and would be able to travel through Renton without the same problems. Granted, this couldn’t happen until well after East Link was done, but an Eastside Commuter Rail wouldn’t be much use before then either.

    But that is probably too far in the future for Sound Transit to be thinking about, and I do fear if the tracks are torn up to make way for a trail, it will be politically impossible to get the relevant parts of the right-of-way back. So, I guess the best case scenario is that this decision making process drags on for years and years. Which is the Seattle way, so that’s hopeful.

  8. Again, you people don’t understand the difference between Sounder North and the Eastside Corridor and shows your lack of knowledge with railroading.

    The Sounder North line was already an upgraded, nearly fully grade separated ROW with welded rail with some areas of single track due to prior mudslides. The biggest capital expense is/was adding CTC and double tracking 6 sections that needs to be addressed that were double track at one point in time. So yes, naturally, the cost is going to be cheaper, open your eyes. There has been plenty of posts by Brian regarding this already.

    Eastside corridor is jointed rail (on straights) welded rail (on curves) that the BN (Burlington Northern, before the Santa Fe merger) upgraded before it was primarily used for the Maltby Turn, Renton Rock, and the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train.

    The capital expense is slightly higher than the Sounder North corridor. The bonehead who did this study believes that the bridge (Wilburton) is unable to withstand a DMU or passenger train. Look up the specifications of the dinner train consist and it is 3 times heavier than anything that has been ran on the line. The bicyclist can go a different path instead of laying an ungodly amount of money for a new rail bridge. Too bad it isn’t flat and level, get some exercise.

    What drives the cost up on this corridor is the need to upgrade the crossings so the idiots doesn’t turn into the train. This plan mentions using expensive wayside horns to cut down noise. Screw that. If they want the luxury, THEY can pay for it, just like the City of Ruston did.

    As for the line not going into Tukwila Sounder Station, as Brian in his comment above, that is nothing more than a pathetic excuse that the railroads play and nothing more. They run a daily train (J-WITSSE9) (Special train, Wichita, KS to South Seattle, WA 9 = HOT train) which typically arrives in the morning or late at night.

    The $1 billion dollars coming from my MOW background is ludicrous. As many times as I worked on the track and ridden with the crews on this line, there is no reason why this should be even near what the cost is. I certainly hope that somebody will step up and prove these fools wrong in this region. It is quite sickening to read the comments on here from the bloggers and commenters and talk as if they know so much.

    1. Uh, the ‘bonehead’ who did this study believes that the Wilburton trestle can’t be used for passenger service that receives federal money because it doesn’t provide walking escape – and they’re right!

      The capital expense here is MORE THAN DOUBLE the Sounder North corridor.

      I really don’t care what your background is, although it’s patently obvious you’re a heavy-rail-only foamer.

  9. I have never understood why more American cities don’t electrify their existing railways and adapt them for use using EMUs. This is the accepted method in most other parts of the world. Overtime these lines are upgraded and improved, some subway sections may be added in denser areas or to bring them into centres.

    In this case, this is a great example, with instead of light rail across the lake, extend this line across the lake so people have a fast and comfortable line right into the city. Later it can be brought into Bellevue via a tunnel deviation.

    1. Because electrification costs billions, and our railways can’t make money (or even break even) on passenger services because we compete them out of existence with 14-lane highways.

      And you do realize there’s a problem with taking freight locomotives across the I-90 bridge? :)

      1. No freight loco’s needed. EMU’s, like in Europe, and Australasia. Basically EMU’s run in existing ROWs without much conversion, mix them in with freight all you like. Overtime a lot of lines become dedicated to just the passenger services using EMU’s, and enhancements are built such as subways under busy suburbs and the like. EMU’s also have the advantage of speed and comfort over light rail, so they’re ideal when you have existing ROWs or are building long lines. Just put up overhead power. Which doesn’t cost too much, in Auckland, NZ, they are electrifying a rail network, $500m NZD is buying of 150kms of electrification (~300m USD). Only real problem I can see is the gradients on the bridges and parts of the I90 when you come to doing that part.

  10. So far I’m not seeing a lot of big picture stuff here.

    A century ago, interurbans were popular. About half the money invested in interurbans was invested after 1910, and none of that ever paid a dime in interest. Why was that? Well, duh, the automobile.

    Now the age of the automobile is ending. Investments in freeways now are going to be just as intelligent as investments in interurbans were then.

    How much do people want to spend widening 405? And widening 405 doesn’t do much for the people who live north of somewhere out there anyway.

    As was the case with LINK, but for different reasons, we need a new transportation corridor on the east side. It should serve new dense development, and by a curious coincidence the BNSF line goes past a number of commercial sites that have been held off the market. Who knew.

    And a billion ain’t that much. Get federal matching funds for the $50 million and you have the 10% down that usually will get you into a residential mortgage quite handily. Believe it, the rail barons of the past did not make their money by putting 50% down in cash when they made a purchase.

    Dealing with AGW will require new dense super-efficient buildings on super-efficient transportation. The technology is there, the Germans and French do it all the time, it’s just a question of whether we have the will.

    1. I think you’re not seeing much big picture because we can more effectively make those arguments after Link comes online. :)

      1. Ben, you’re not seeing the big picture when you criticize the BNSF alignment as an edge-to-edge commute you don’t want to encourage. The alignment isn’t edge to edge, it’s the center spine of the Pugetopolis we’ll have after adding another million residents. Be sure to check out the Seattle Times story on Bel-Red today and note the Cascade Conservancy idea of skyscrapers near transit instead of sprawl at the edge.

        Personal note- the Times aerial photo pretty much shows the mail route I delivered in ’68. Except of course most of the buildings weren’t there.

        Anyway, in some respects LINK already is online. From here on out it’s going to be pretty much “Well thank god we got this much done at least”, and the real discussion starting now is where the extensions or alternate corridors go.

        AFAIK the state DOT is still on the hook for replacing the bridge over 405, and you can bet they would love to see that obligation replaced with the commitment to build a few bike paths and hiking trails.

        In the past it made more sense to regard Seattle as the north-south axis, with steel, milling, and other manufactures located at the waters edge and on water-level routes. But the population of Seattle has been about the same for 40 years while the metro region has doubled. The center is shifting.

      2. Have you ever been on the dinner train? The BNSF alignment does not go where Eastside cities want to add density. It avoids development patterns and runs near neighborhoods with poor car access. You also mention Bel-Red–which East Link will serve with two stations affording far more density than the BNSF corridor which only runs by the west side. East Link matches Bellevue’s urban plan, BNSF doesn’t.

  11. Pro-train people continue to inflate passenger numbers, by pulling them from the air, to justify gargantuan public expenditures that will do little to reduce I-405 congestion and a huge harm to existing communities. Their numbers, tactics and results still don’t add up.

    The joint PSRC/Sound Transit Study called for by House Bill 3224 (or ST-2) confirmed how little benefit taxpayers would get by spending over $1 Billion dollars on the Eastside corridor to run passenger trains, no matter where the money comes from. And, this does not even include other important hidden costs.

    But, not surprisingly, there are already pro-train people projecting 154,000 ‘North-South trips/day on the Eastside’ by 2030, rather than the mere 6,270 trips/day projected for 2020 by the ST-2 between Tukwila and Everett. So, let’s consider the effectiveness of this new number and see how cost-effective the same 1 Billion dollar investment (railroad-only cost, no trail) would be.

    o 154,000 trips/day (yr 2030) = 77,000 people traveling round-trip during the day.
    o Using only buses that carry 75 people seated, we’d need 2,053 bus-trips per day (154,000 / 75). Everybody seated!
    o If we spread the bus service over only 12 hours/day to move those people, we’d need 171 buses, assuming that the buses can make – on average- ONLY 1 trip per hour. That means that we’d be able to transport 12,825 seated people per hour (171×75).
    o If we get the fancier buses at $1 Million each, the total cost would be $171,000,000 (assuming that we buy them all today and park most of them until 2030!). That is 17% of the estimated rail-only cost on ST-2.
    o 171 buses deployed each hour would theoretically allow individual bus-departures every 21 seconds throughout the Eastside. Thus, if they were to start from, say, 11 key points, buses could run every 4 minutes from each station, a KEY feature for a successful urban transit system. Or, if 14 key starting points were chosen, they could run every 5 minutes.

    WHAT’S OVERLOOKED

    o SERVICE

    The 171 new buses could have many starting and ending points, as well as stops along the way and serve the people who live in the denser/central areas, as well as those farther away. They would run on existing roads and use P&Rs.

    Trains envisioned in the ST studies would make stops only every 3 to 5 miles in odd locations requiring transfers to buses. However, this is the type of service provided elsewhere in the world to connect central stations of cities far apart, not in the same urban area. Buses, tramways and subways are used in urban areas, depending on the city size and density. In King County, we don’t need many major train stations, only a good one in Seattle that is well connected.

    Buses could also start immediately on the Eastside for a fraction of the $171,000,000 cost estimated for 2020 or 2030, and routes could be modified at will over time to achieve optimal results and eventually mesh up with the Light Rail line that will be built.

    o URBAN SPRAWL

    The train will service mainly people living near the outer limits of the RR route. Thus, it will actually encourage further growth away from Bellevue and Redmond, rather than motivate people to live near downtown areas. This will make the future regional traffic problem worse, rather than better.

    o URBAN PLANNING ISSUES

    Any effective, urban, train or light-rail transportation system will eventually REQUIRE a DOUBLE track, greater frequency and many more stops. So, looking into the future, what would the Eastside and Kirkland look like with a double rail bed through the middle of existing residential areas of the city, instead of on some of its existing streets or highways? Where would the trail be?

    UNTIL we have just a few attractive ‘dense-living areas’ with a wide range of apartment prices on the Eastside, we will NOT reduce car driving. We will simply waste taxpayers’ money. There are currently too many must-go-to areas, for work, exercise, and doing errands, dispersed around the Eastside, to which one must drive a car to get to them in a timely fashion.

    To achieve higher density in and near downtown areas on the Eastside, they must be people friendly, not just business friendly. Downtowns need to be places where people WANT to go to relax, not places where they HAVE to go to shop or do business. They should include many types of amenities, galleries, pedestrian-only streets, attractions for people of all ages, and summer and winter parks.

    The North-South through traffic challenge cannot be solved by using trains. But, discouraging car-use by people near city centers will help a lot. Over the very long term, new roads and/or tunnels will HAVE to be built if the population grows as expected.

    Meanwhile, the loss of a potential ‘linear park & trail’ for the Eastside along the BNSF Corridor would be a tragic loss for a large swath of the heaviest residential area on the Eastside. This linear park and non-motorized transportation corridor could service many cities and neighborhoods, as well as connect innumerable already existing smaller parks, bike trails and even some beaches on Lake Washington. All of this, without people having to get into a car or, if coming from farther away, by simply driving to the closest P&R.

    A well-developed, multi-use linear park would be an enormously attractive urban feature for young and old Eastside residents. Its cost? About $60-70 Million dollars (if the RR tracks are removed).

    Best of all, if the density of the Eastside ever justifies the use of the space for something else, the corridor will still be there. In the interim, one or more generations of people would have enjoyed this public asset.

    SHOULDN’T THE $1 BILLION SAVED after buying the 171 buses and building a multi-use Trail/Park ($1.3 Billion, minus $171M in bus cost and $70M in Trail cost) BE BETTER used on Education, low-cost Housing, downtown Transportation, urban improvements, etc., etc.?

    1. Uh, no.

      There’s plenty of room for trails and rails, and there are already numerous parks and parts of the Eastside suitable for walking and riding bicycles.

      Your fancy figuring with the cost of the buses is ignoring the labor costs, the depreciation schedules, and the cost of fuel.

      Least convincing- your statement that north-south transportation can’t be solved by trains, but in the future we will build more roads. Sorry, not buying it.

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