Forward Thrust 1990 Travel Volumes - from Oran
East Link hasn't changed much since Forward Thrust... (from Oran)

To recap: Approved and funded by last year’s Proposition 1, part of the East Link expansion to Bellevue and Overlake will replace the current I-90 express lanes. Those express lanes were built after a 1976 Memorandum of Agreement signed by several parties, including the state of Washington, to reserve them for transit. They would be used for car traffic until a transit agency needed them.

In an amendment to the agreement in 2004, two things were added: one, the R8A project to build HOV lanes on the I-90 bridge outer roadways (from Seattle to Bellevue) was identified as a prerequisite for handing off the express lanes. Two, use of the lanes would be for light rail, assuming Sound Transit could get voter approval to fund the project (and as we know, they did). The state also signed this agreement (same link as previous). At that time, the state DOT was considered responsible for building these HOV lanes, as the prerequisite was never something required in the 1976 agreement — the capacity added by the express lanes was intended to be temporary.

During the last legislative session, the state essentially reneged on the HOV project, opting to fund huge highway expansions and strip most funding for R8A, failing to fund the paltry $24 million they committed to during Sound Transit 2 negotiations, in which Sound Transit agreed to fund an additional $90 million (PDF). In addition, Speaker Frank Chopp started making comments about Sound Transit paying $1 billion or more for use of the lanes. Given the growing number of concessions Sound Transit made (see that PDF above) to get use of a facility built for transit in the first place, this was outlandish and, in this blogger’s view, highly irresponsible.

After considerable wrangling, the House replaced $10 million of the $24 million, allowing design work to continue, and an agreement was reached to use a third party to determine the valuation of the lanes and how much, if anything, Sound Transit would have to pay the state for their use.

Here’s the new stuff: Last week, the independent consultant agreed to earlier in the year released their draft report, “An Analysis of Methodologies to Value the Reversible (Center) Lanes on Interstate 90…” (PDF). It has some interesting things to say, especially as the legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee will be meeting tomorrow in Seattle to discuss this. Several fantastic points from the report after the jump:

  • Pg. 1: The USDOT, in 1978,when issuing their Record of Decision about the I-90 project, specifically required: “public transportation shall permanently have priority in the use of the center lanes.”
  • Pg. 3: “Sound Transit believes that federal funds should not be required to be reimbursed. We concur.”
  • Pg. 3: The state of Washington contributed less than 10% of the total value of the relevant portion of the  I-90 corridor. Of that <10%, only 25%, or two lanes, are impacted by Sound Transit, for <2.5% of the total. There are no ‘damages’ to the remainder of the corridor.
  • Pg. 8, and this is my favorite: “For purposes of this report, we have determined that the I-90 center lanes have been permanently committed to transit use since 1978 … [and] that WSDOT is bound by the 1976 MOA and 2004 Amendment…”
  • Pg. 25: “We rely on the representations of WSDOT that Amendment 18-restricted* funds were used for the entirety of the I-90 corridor, including the center lanes. If this is in fact the case, then the expenditures for those center lanes may have violated Amendment 18.” (Editor’s note: This is extremely qualified in the following paragraphs, but it’s interesting.)

This looks very clear. An independent expert hired through an agreement required by state law has determined that the I-90 center lanes are for transit, and if the state gets to ask for any money, that money has to be less than 2.5% of the total cost of the corridor. In addition, there’s a lot in the document that points out something we haven’t discussed much before:

Whenever Sound Transit builds an improvement, such as an HOV lane, on WSDOT property, some portion of the value of that improvement is ‘land banked’ — such that if Sound Transit needs highway right-of-way, it can draw from this land bank rather than have to actually pay. Sound Transit has quite a bit in this land bank, and that as well as the Sound Transit contribution to R8A could both be considered credits if WSDOT were able to charge for use of I-90.

The Land Bank Agreement considers full payment as the value of 20 years of use. While the land bank agreement may not apply to this particular transaction, it’s still interesting here: as the center lanes have been used by “highway vehicle , including single occupancy vehicle, travel” (pg. 26) for over 20 years, it’s also arguable that the state investment for the center lanes may have already been fully returned.

What’s next: We’ll be watching closely to see how the state reacts to this – they’re probably not going to react well, and delays to East Link rest on how far the key state players want to take this fight. The valuation comes after this report, and it’s certainly not going to be a billion dollars. Sound Transit’s position seems to be clear: taxpayers should not pay twice for the same structure, especially not when it was dedicated to transit use in the first place.

Thursday, the Joint Transportation Committee (PDF) will be hearing testimony from the consultant. This will be local, at Sound Transit headquarters at Union Station (4th and Jackson), 11 am, in the Ruth Fisher Boardroom. I’ll update once I find out if that meeting is open to the public for comments.

*Amendment 18 to the Washington State Constitution requires that gas tax money goes to roads.

115 Replies to “The I-90 Fight Continues, And The State Is Losing”

  1. This is good news. While the State may be losing, the state of Washington (i.e., all of us citizens as opposed to WSDOT) wins with East Link.

  2. [off topic, deleted]
    [admin note: please read better, we’re not talking about the viaduct…]

  3. Very informative post. Will TVW be running that meeting live tomorrow? The don’t have a lot to cover this time of year.

    1. I don’t see it on TVW’s list, but the JTC agenda does say TVW on it. Presumably it will at least be recorded. I’ll be very curious to see how Clibborn responds to this report.

  4. You can see how the Sound Transit Board reacted to this “independent” report last Thursday by watching the video recording posted on the web.

    Something about the report seemed to be disturbing the members.

    A key point of discussion is that by making “transit” = “rail transit,” two lanes of the I-90 highway bridge would be removed from highway use — actually, three lanes, since ST needs a vehicle access lane parallel to its twin tracks. The current reversible twin highway HOV lanes on the I-90 Center Roadway have enough shoulder space to create three lanes of the narrower (slower, less safe) type of lane now set for the outer roadways where three lanes will become four.

    There is, however, a form of transit that does not remove lanes from highway use … Sound Transit Regional Express Bus.

    Because buses can run more closely spaced following each other on a highway than trains can on RR tracks, an enhanced REx alternative to the Eastside — combined with Active Traffic Management and road use fees with off peak discounts where the buses share road space with non-transit — could move even more people than East Link contemplates. I-90 would continue as a highway, be a strong transit thruway, and avoid legal complications.

    Until the East Link Final EIS and Record of Decision come out in 2010, buses continuing as the transit mode on I-90 is a live alternative to building a floating passenger railroad that rocks and rolls even worse than the one to Tukwila.

    BTW, riding backwards yesterday (first time, no longer am I a Link virgin!) on that bumpy Initial Segment beast at 55 mph along the elevated section is enough to make a person blow chunks. Fortunately, so few people were riding when I was aboard during evening peak, we could all face forward.

    Last paragraph, just kidding. Except for the part about plenty of seating. And I had a GPS along so I know it went 55 mph for a few seconds.

    1. I guess you haven’t read the report, where it says that conversion to light rail would result in the same number of lanes in the ‘after’ scenario than the ‘before’ scenario?

      Not to mention the fact that adding a third lane to the center lanes would do nothing, as total throughput is limited to around 1.2 lanes of capacity by the onramp/offramp capability already. Of course, you know that, you just don’t want to say it because reality doesn’t really fit with your arguments.

      The problem is, you simply can’t be taken seriously when you keep using the same arguments that the rest of the world moved on from years ago.

      Comments like the above are really interesting. This is what the anti-transit people have been reduced to. While we inform, they try very hard to ignore the information that long ago made their arguments moot, because some people don’t yet have that information. That’s why a blog like this is so great – it takes people out of the pool who might accept these arguments.

      1. These are tired old arguments that really haven’t had any traction for several years now. It’s time to move on.

        And please give up on the old “buses have more capacity” argument. Think back, how did that argument play when you and Fimia tried to use it to keep Link out of the DSTT? Do you really think that an anti-Link strategy that failed back in the dark days of ST turmoil is going to win now that ST has re-invented itself and Link is operating?

        But in any case, the voters have spoken – they voted for Link across I-90 and not Buses Stuck in Traffic. Convincing the voters to reverse course just isn’t going to happen.

        Get over it.

      2. Niles and his compatriots at Kemper Development Co are obsessed with this notion of empty space between LRT vehicles and empty space between the sacred automobile/bus. These road warriors don’t count people. They count tires.

        Sheesh, even the pavement enthusiasts at wsdot and usdot shifted to counting people vs cars years ago. Niles is a dinosaur’s dinosaur.

      3. The number of I-90 lanes may be the same before and after the completion of R8A, but the width of the lanes and the shoulders will be made narrower; on an expressway, the width matters. The R8A (I-90 lane conversion) EIS from 2004 forecasts more vehicle accidents after the squeezing of four lanes onto the outer roadway.

        Of interest in the Joint Transportation Committee meeting this morning was the announcement that WSDOT and Sound Transit are now seriously considering making the westbound I-90 right of way two feet narrower for motor vehicles under R8A, which would come out of the shoulders. This is because the median barrier built into the northern floating bridge is not so easily movable in the direction of the proposed light rail track way as thought originally. That barrier is part of the structure of the bridge.

        While light rail fans like Ben keep saying tirelessly that the squeezing of extra lanes into the I-90 outer roadways is being done in order to get that bridge ready for light rail tracks in the center roadway, there is no environmental Record of Decision that states this. The official purpose from the R8A ROD is “to improve regional mobility by providing reliable and safe two-way transit and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) operations on Interstate 90 (I-90) between Bellevue and Seattle, while minimizing impacts to the environment and to other users and transportation modes.”

        The people have voted in Prop 1 for doubled ST taxes to pay for light rail on I-90, but until the environmental process is complete and a Record of Decision to put RR tracks on the Center Roadway is issued — in 2010 according to the present schedule for East Link — there won’t be authority to do East Link the way Sound Transit wants to do it.

        As long as the environmental record is open, those of us who think East Link is a very bad idea will continue to advocate not going forward. CETA objects to the missing alternative in the East Link EIS of serving the Eastside with a bus network providing light rail capacity and other advantages, including more geographic coverage than putting so much money into one gold-plated train line. The East Link EIS No Build alternative transit configuration is simply bus transit the way it is now, not the way it could be. CETA documented this objection in formal comments last February on the draft East Link EIS, and we will raise this objection again if the omission of a capacity-equivalent bus alternative continues in the final EIS. CETA’s comment letter is posted at .

        And by the way, another announcement at the JTC meeting this morning is that the SR 520 bridge replacement — creating new cross-Lake HOV lanes for express buses — is scheduled to be completed BEFORE the closure of the I-90 Center Roadway for conversion to rail. In other words, there may be HOV & arterial BRT service across the Lake before East Link light rail begins operating. When R8A is done, bus service could be improved on the I-90 corridor as well, quickly. If past history is any guide (DSTT, MLK Jr Way, CBD to UW et al) politicians will hold out on bus improvements because light rail is right around the corner, coming soon.

        There is some jargon in the above, but my audience is serious people like Ben who know the jargon. I’m helping some of you learn more about the environmental process by the age of 35 than I understood when I was 50. Thanks to those who are following the argument and commenting back at me substantively.

      4. I find it humerus that WSDOT continually refers to the 520 replacement as the “safer bridge” project because it will widen lanes and add shoulders. To be consistent they should be calling R8A the “dangerous bridge” project. I think all the highway engineers know the reason projects are built with 12′ lanes and wide shoulders is so they can come back and restripe them for an additional lane in the future.

      5. So where exactly will all of the buses on that wonderful BRT service go when they hit downtown during peak periods. What exactly happens to service levels when the buses reach the end of the HOV lanes or have to weave through SOV traffic to go from one highway to another? What about surface street congestion?

      6. “The R8A (I-90 lane conversion) EIS from 2004 forecasts more vehicle accidents after the squeezing of four lanes onto the outer roadway.”

        The estimated increase in the number of vehicle accidents is due to the increased number of lanes on the outer roadway, not due to the width of the lanes. If you increase the number of lanes from 3 to 4, one would expect the number of accidents to increase by 33%, which is close to the figure cited in the EIS. The predicted increase in potential crash rate per million vehicle miles is from -4% to 29%. This number really only represents a shifting of crashes from the inner roadway to the outer. There is no net increase in predicted crashes on the bridge as a whole.

        “While light rail fans like Ben keep saying tirelessly that the squeezing of extra lanes into the I-90 outer roadways is being done in order to get that bridge ready for light rail tracks in the center roadway, there is no environmental Record of Decision that states this. ”

        That’s because the final EIS was completed before East Link was approved by the voters. They couldn’t reference something that didn’t yet exist.

        People want light rail to the Eastside, it is supported by every city council on the Eastside, the City of Mercer Island, the City of Seattle, King County and is part of the plan that was passed by the voters. People prefer rail transit to buses.

      7. Actually, the (binding) 2004 MOA Amendment does say the R8A project is for rail – or at least it says HCT, I’m not sure if the Board had decided on BRT or light rail at that point, but the decision was deferred to them.

      8. Er, that ‘missing alternative’ isn’t an alternative. You know voters didn’t vote for BRT, right?

    2. There are two other problems I see with bus transit over rail:

      1) Buses are subject to congestion. Not just on I-90, but on any other street they operate on.
      2) Buses add to that congestion. Since rail operates in its own right of way there is no congestion to get stuck in or add to. Rail is also better for our enviornment–maybe this time next year we’ll only hit 101 instead of 102.

      1. There is also the question of where we will put the additional buses downtown. I believe the CBD and several nearby areas already see more buses during AM and PM peak than they can really handle. Take a gander at Stewart or Third during both peak periods or 4th during PM peak and tell me any of those streets can really handle any more trips.

        This afternoon between the usual PM peak congestion and the Mariners game letting out during the evening rush hour I saw complete transit gridlock on Third. No buses were moving Southbound on Third for well over half an hour. Several people at the stop said they had already been waiting a half hour or more. Both Southbound lanes of Third were backed up with mostly buses for at least 4 or 5 blocks North of Columbia Street.

      2. The transitway model that these guys are advocating has been successful in other cities like Brisbane and Ottawa. In fact too successful, Ottawa is planning to convert their busway system to light rail in a downtown tunnel because of congestion and capacity constraints from running buses every 20 seconds during peak hours in bus lanes on downtown streets. Because of that, they had to remove many one-seat ride suburban-downtown routes and make people transfer like LRT but on a bus.

        Here’s a masters degree project on BRT to LRT conversion of Ottawa’s busways

      3. Hasn’t the “Orange line” BRT service in LA exceeded the capacity of it’s transitway as well? I think they are looking at 90′ triple articulated coaches to try to keep up with the demand.

        There is also the potential problem of the road hogs trying to reclaim the transitways for cars. The two other transitways in LA (Harbor and I forget the name of the one East of downtown) are no longer transit only and are now congested with cars. Sure you have to be a carpool to use them but the demand is higher than the road space for carpools and buses. As a result the buses run about the same speed as the SOV drivers in the general purpose lanes.

        In any case I still ask where are the additional buses going to fit in downtown Seattle. 3rd is already buses only during peak and it is nearly gridlocked at times too. I simply don’t think there is room for the buses needed for the sort of rapid bus system John advocates for.

      4. He would advocate for keeping the transit tunnel a bus tunnel but he failed to stop Link so that’s not an option.

        Exclusive bus lanes with island platforms could be constructed on 2nd & 4th Avenues but those streets’ bus lanes are already jammed during rush hour. 5th Ave is too narrow. 1st is too congested and slated for a streetcar.

        Then build a new bus tunnel which would cost more than building a rail only tunnel.

        The Eastside Transportation Association advocates building a Downtown Bellevue bus tunnel as the centerpiece of their eastside BRT system instead of Link.

    3. Completely out of curiosity… so buses can run a lot closer together than trains. But since a 4-car link train can carry up to 800 people, wouldn’t they have to be awfully big buses? My brain is too hot to attempt any actual math.

      1. Yeah there are actually really long double and triple articulated buses in other countries overseas. I don’t know why we can’t have them in the US.

      2. State law limits how long, tall, and heavy a bus can be. In California, LACMTA had to get an exemption from CalTrans to test a 65-ft articulated bus on its Orange Line BRT. You need to change state law if you want longer and heavier buses. Trains don’t have that limitation.

      3. Oh and prepare to spend more money on roadway maintenance. Those buses would wear out the pavement, especially asphalt ones, really fast, leading to slower speeds, poor ride quality, and delays caused by road work.

      4. Per ride quality: I urge everyone to ride a DSTT bus from the ID Station to the Westlake Station, and then to take a Link LRV back. The difference in ride quality is stunning (not to mention less noise).

      5. There is still some concern about wearing out the floating bridge with the heavier trains. We probably won’t know for sure until they try it but those proposed trains are not light. No free lunch for either option.

      6. I have not heard any concerns about this — at least not from knowledgeable sources…sounds like FUD to me.

      7. A couple years ago they ran multi-trailer, heavily laden semi rigs back and forth for a weekend while the bridge was closed, so they have certainly done some testing about this – at the time, I believe it was reported that the bridge did great; i.e., that the data they gathered could be extrapolated to conclude that the bridge would do great in the future.

      8. Those only approach *one* Link car in capacity, in addition to Oran’s points.

      9. I think you can only say 3 TM buses if you use a higher crush load rating than 3/sq meter – I think they use 5 or 6. And if you’re using a higher crush load rating, your four Link cars get more people. :)

        I believe the actual amount of *space* in a TM bus approaches 1 Link LRV.

      10. And then you’ve just doubled or tripled your labor costs by needing more buses and drivers to carry the same amount of one train and one operator.

      11. Well, of course. I’m just saying I think it’s closer to 4 TMs than 3. :)

      12. And if you spend a bit more on grade separation, you can have an automated train as has run about 125 miles north of Westlake since 1986.

        I’ve yet to see an automated bus.

      13. or 800 bicycles…. truly a sight I would like to see.

        The one advantage of the 13 buses is that they all don’t have to stop first on Mercer Island, then in Bellevue, then along Bell-Red, then at Overlake just to get to Redmond.

        Re: Buses stuck in traffic
        Any dedicated right-of-way system will out perform a mixed system.. So the next question is how to make the least cost right-of-way. Lighter smaller vehicles closely spaced and only stopping at the necessary stops in theory work the best. But we are still awaiting the results from Heathrow (PRT) to see how well it works in practice.

        Re: vs bicycles
        Just looking at all the bus and Link riders, I estimate that 80% were overweight. Bicycling would really help these folks, and mixed use transit so that they don’t have to go too far right away is my favorite.

      14. The current 550 takes longer than East Link will, even with the stops. Just like the 194.

        The problem is, in the long run, dedicated right of way *brings more users*. Buses in dedicated right of way are eventually overwhelmed. And PRT, don’t get me started, you realize how much the right of way for passing ‘tracks’ would cost?

      15. Passing tracks for PRT are only necessary at stations. That’s not a huge cost.

        And again, I’m only watching PRT, not advocating it everywhere. It looks great in theory. And soon we’ll get to see how it works in practice.

      16. Per-mile construction cost for PRT doesn’t look any cheaper than it does for light rail, monorail, or BRT with exclusive ROW. Since PRT generally locks you into a single vendor and isn’t exactly widespread I think it is best to go with something tried and true with a large number of vendors like light rail.

    4. “…a floating passenger railroad that rocks and rolls even worse than the one to Tukwila.”

      There’s a floating passenger railroad to Tukwila?! Rad! Platform 9¾ at King Street Station…

    5. I’d rather have transit be in its exclusive right of way than for it to share it with any other vehicles, including HOVs. The last thing you want is to share the road with drunk drivers, aggressive road ragers, broken down vehicles, vehicles slipping on ice, slowing down in the rain/fog/snow, work zones and car accidents that account for a 50% of congestion on the road (FHWA). We’ve seen today the perfect case with the many disabled vehicles in HOV lanes adjacent to congested GP lanes.

      1. That depends on whether switch heaters were installed at Airport and at the O&M.

      2. I think I heard ST put in switch heaters, but someone should check and confirm.

    6. I rode the link today for a total of 3 roundtrips between Westlake and Tukwila and I can say that this supposed light ridership during peak hours peak direction is BS. I got on at Westlake around 5 going southbound and it was standing room only with people standing before it left the station. When we rode the first time around 2, it was also standing room only with people standing going southbound from IDS. The Tukwila station P&R was also packed for most of the day, including the overflow lot.

      If you would nearly be blowing chunks on the elevated segment then your stomach is probably too sensitive to ride a bus as well. And I suppose we will get thrown around on the light rail on the floating bridge, just like we do on the buses…. right….

      As a side note, I would like to say that out of those three roundtrips to Tukwila, we only got stuck at a light once, and it was for about 5 seconds, we never even slowed down for a signal the 5 other trips through MLK.

      1. Agreed! I personally haven’t noticed anything amiss in the elevated section of the track. Nothing compared to the lurching of buses dependant as they are on the driving skills or style of individual drivers!

      2. Yeah, when Link directly serves the Airport expect trains to be more loaded.

        This evening, I rode Link and then I rode the 194. Ugh.. Folks were being left behind because the 194 filled up after leaving Westlake Station, 22 minutes late! Add more buses, sure, that get stuck in traffic. It took us 34 minutes to get to the Airport from Westlake (c.f. Link 36 min) with 20 minutes spent off the freeway in mostly exclusive busways. The bus didn’t even stop anywhere in between. The AC was useless and it didn’t begin to feel cool until we got to the airport. People had to squeeze through the narrow aisles with their luggage.

        Poor folks with huge suitcases getting left behind by the 194 at International District station. If only they knew better.

        Link on the other hand dealt very well with large crowds. The AC was consistent and comfortable. At least 50 people got off the train at Tukwila, a few of them in Mariners gear. If that same amount, plus the people who got off at previous stations, got on a bus it would already feel like a sardine can.

        My return trip was the best ride on Link that I ever had. No delays and immediate acceleration out of stations on MLK. The only delay was before entering Westlake and even then the operator kept stopping to a minimum. If you’re reading this blog, excellent job, operator of train #5 that departed Westlake around 17:14.

      3. I agree that light ridership observations seem to be BS. Sitting along MLK and watching Links go by, I’ve seen an almost empty one immediately followed by one filled to the point of many standees. It’s hard to get a picture of ridership from one or two rides, but it’s clear there are some trains with a heck of a lot of people on them.

    7. John

      I haven’t noticed any disturbances on the elevated section of the track to Tukwila – but aside from that, the vote last November approved Light Rail across the I-90. It is rather late in the day to be arguing for more buses. More buses are just not the answer to every transportation corridor in the Puget Sound. They work well in communities neighborhoods where rail just wouldn’t be practical but in major corridors such as the I-90 or I-5 or I-405, I believe that rail is preferable.

      Instead of discussing more buses, we should be discussing instead construction timetables and EIS reports for Light Rail expansion across the I-90. Some of us are eager to see some ST2 jobs coming up!

      1. I wear a disguise. Also, security must be very light, despite the vid cams everywhere. I was wondering if Link Central Control was watching me prowling all by myself around the BH station platforms the other evening, shooting pictures for science magazines of the alien life forms killed locally and just hanging from the ceiling like government art. The only visible guard was topside helping people figure out the fare machines.

      2. Niles is used to being alone in the intellectual wilderness.

        Most of his compatriots in the anti-mass transit movement also oppose tolling – the cornerstone of Niles’ Libertarian transportation ideology.

        Which is such perfect irony. Since John Niles started down this path when HIS personal bus commute was interrupted by a train in DC, several decades ago.

        “It’s all about me” doesn’t make for strong coalition building. Hence, John Niles finds himself in obscurity.

        The guy really doesn’t need a disguise.

    8. John, your deliberate spreading of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) is getting tiresome. Try adding something constructive to the process.

      1. I guess John has not spent much time on a bus, try 520 at rush hour with people constantly cutting us off, I almost hit my head a few times.

      2. Oh yeah, tell me about it, I commute across 520 everyday on a bus. I saw a photo somewhere on CETA’s or PITF website that showed one lane out of two in each direction on the 520 bridge given to HOV/Transit. That would be a great idea for transit but they would never actually do anything to make it happen.
        Of course not, CETA’s pals at the Eastside TA, who support an 8-lane(!) 520 bridge would go nuts.

      3. I ride buses frequently. For the two years prior to Central Link opening, I didn’t have a car except for an occasional rental. Now I’m kind of used to leaving it parked when I go downtown anyway.

        I was kidding about getting seasick on the Link train. However, compared to the rides I’ve had on fast trains in Europe, the Kinkisharyo train really rocks and rolls when it gets up to 55 mph.

      4. It’s smoothing out. Most trains hunt, and it doesn’t scale linearly with velocity.

    9. Blowing chunks? And Niles thinks buses stuck in traffic (his unique version of BRT) and bouncing down broken up pavement is an enjoyable ride? My favorite part of bus travel is when one of Niles’ yahoo road warrior pals cuts in front of a 70,000 lb hybrid “beast”, causing the bus driver to slam on the brakes, and causing everybody on board to unintentionally change seats. This happens to me at least once a week.

      Niles is so obsessed with his personal train vendetta, he couldn’t enjoy anything without a large internal combustion engine – even if the ride was like floating on a cloud.

      1. Yeah, I see close calls with foolish motorists while on the bus all the time. However, the stats show that the accidental fatality rate per passenger mile for light rail is worse than for buses and for urban driving generally.

      2. As usual, misleading! Which light rail systems were studied? Perhaps mostly at-grade systems? Things look pretty different if you don’t, say, look at systems where cars and trains actually share lanes, or systems that are mostly separated, like ours.

      3. Gabe,

        Give the guy a break. BRT in exclusive ROW does not “bounce down broken up pavement”. And, if BRT had been the selected technology for the cross-lake system there would be no passenger cars in the center roadway, because it would be bi-directional and the Mercer Island kludge would no longer be feasible. Hence, nobody cutting off the buses.

        Now I admit that he does kind of blur the difference between BRT in exclusive ROW and “Blue Streak” type express buses (collectors with a freeway trip) which DO sometimes “bounce down broken up pavement” if the local streets aren’t up to snuff and are exposed to nutcase drivers on some parts of the freeway.

        But the truth is that we don’t need to destroy BRT because the limitations of the DSTT have already done so. There is simply not enough capacity for a significant expansion of cross-lake transit service through Downtown Seattle UNLESS it’s Link, as has been pointed out by several posters.

      4. He’s quite intentionally blurring that difference.

        He’s only talking about exclusive ROW on the highways. Most of the issues with bus unreliability happen on the surface streets, where it’s VERY hard to get exclusive ROW.

        These guys like to talk about things like a tunnel in Bellevue, but the cost of doing all that just ends up being the same as the cost of rail – with lower capacity.

  5. Its too bad there wasn’t a similar independent analysis of issues surrounding the UW that could have been used as leverage (political only of course) against the UW. Otherwise, we might not have the odd situation of having an expensive tunnel passing under the very heart of the campus while patrons are forced to access the system from far flung peripheral locations. Soundtransit’s original location (post the early 2000’s melt down) for what is now the UW Station was under Rainier Vista just north of the triangle garage – in other words, in one of Seattle’s greatest sweet spots – equidistant from the hospital, the stadium, and central campus. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really sad that some of the region’s largest players (the UW and WSDOT) are seemingly devoted to absurd notions of protectionism rather than embracing regionalism and warmly embracing public transit.

      1. Ha! I didn’t mention it in my comment, but I had just read that piece before this one about WSDOT and it had dredged up annoying memories. Way to go UW – set precedent for campuses everywhere to de-optimize transit.

      2. You’d think that the UW could have utilized their civil engineering department to come up with a better solution. It would have been a good test case and something they could have touted to their benefactors.

      3. So – rapid transit to the UW has been under study from at least the 1960’s. I challenge anyone to debate that. Every single building that the UW feels is “sensitive” to light rail has either been built or rebuilt in the last 2 decades. I am not suggesting that the UW is engaged in an anti-light rail campaign. I AM however suggesting that through piss-poor planning the UW has over time erected a cordon around all the places people would actually like to travel to. If we had given them enough time, I have no doubt that the UW would have recklessly erected a super-sensitive facility at the husky stadium site requiring soundtransit to veer widely into the bay to avoid it. What galls me to infinity is that in 2016, whoever is president @ the UW will take lots and lots of credit for a line that is a minute slower, at least $50 million more expensive, and far from where actual human beings would like to access the system. I personally finished with a degree in geography (urban) with studies in urban planning and I am stunned by the disconnect between what the UW preaches in its courses and what it practices. Frankly, it wreaks of hypocrisy.

      4. Har har har… your comment assumes that “the UW”–a huge impersonal organization–has an ability to make any decisions at all! If you’ve been around a while you realize that everything that happens is the result of byzantine compromises with both internal and external parties. (By the way… the two stations will be located very close to the two largest UW buildings, the UWMC/Magnuson complex and UW Tower.)

      5. In the June issue of Columns (UW alumni magazine) on page 16 there is a drawing of the propose (gigantic) expansion of the stands at the west end of the stadium. Right below it is that ugly station structure proposed for Link. I still think the stadium expansion could be done and incorporate the station into the construction. Incidentally there’s also a great piece on the Alaska Yukon Exposition. If someone in the school of architecture can tie all three together it would be a win, win, win situation. UW gets their expansion (and a way to get handle the larger crowds). ST gets a major boost from stadium funding being used to build the station (and pull in some of the 520 money to cover the bus portion). The people in this region get a true multimodal station instead of a bus stop and an underground train platform.

      6. Speaking of the AYP, in 1909 most people took transit. There’s a huge mural painting in Suzzallo showing trolleys and a train on the Burke. The [MP3] SPL podcast about the AYP mentioned trolleys arriving every 30 seconds to bring 40,000 visitors in on opening day. We won’t see those numbers again until 2016!

        Also, sounds like there are enough UW’ers around here that we should do a brownbag lunch sometime. Maybe check out the station area or something. Email me my username at u if interested.

      7. Yeah, but if you look at the Columns article fare evasion was a problem way back when. With ORCA we have the technology but not the solution.

      8. I went to Georgia Tech. While I was there I heard that GT had turned down having a MARTA station on campus. I couldn’t find documentation of that but if so, what a mistake! Instead the line was 6-8 blocks east of the campus, across I-75/85 (that made it quite a long way from the center of campus and a couple miles from large amounts of housing on the west campus). It was a big pain to have to cross the freeway and walk over to the stations, and GT had to run shuttles too. So UW is not necessarily alone in their protectionism.

      9. Looking more closely at the two UW area stations, I don’t think it’ll be too much of a problem. Students are used to walking. My friends live in apts up on 50th, walk everyday all over campus, walk to the ave for dinner, etc etc. That’s why I actually think the Brooklyn station will be just as popular for students as the ‘real’ UW station.

      10. The UW is far from the only university that has forced transit stations into sites on the edge of campus or off campus. I’ve heard the U of MD didn’t want a Metro station on campus and BART is a bit of a ways from the U of Cal campus.

      11. I think either by dumb luck or cuning that Huskey Station has ended up at the perfect spot. Keep in mind that this will be a major transfer point for buses using 520. I believe the plans also include underground access to the hospital via the triangle parking garage. I can see little electric vehicles like at the airport being used as people movers.

        From the stadium up to Brooklyn I think there’s too much of a grade for a station to be put on campus and there’s really no need for it. You’d best be ready to hike up and down that hill a lot if you plan on spending four years there. It would really be silly to eliminate the Brooklyn station and move it to the middle of campus and while the UW is big it doesn’t warrant three stops.

      12. A good example of a transit station on campus would be the San Diego State Univ station on the San Diego Trolley system. It’s looks well located and its underground.

      13. One wonders what the smart and successful folks at MIT atop the Red Line know that the smarties at the UW don’t know.

      14. The MBTA Red Line stops at Kendall Square which is close to the far eastern end of the MIT campus. It is however, quite a hike from the main domed building at Memorial Drive and Mass Ave.

        To follow up on University idiocy vis-a-vis transit, should you find yourself aboard the MBTA Red Line to Harvard Square, then just before you arrive at the “Harvard” station, you will have to endure a slow, tight and squealing curve.

        This is thanks to former President of Harvard Derek Bok who would steadfastly not allow the Red Line extension to be tunneled under any portion of the Harvard Yard.

    1. I was a student at the U at the time they were discussing placement of the light rail line underneath the campus. The main issue with the station location under Rainier Vista was that the tunnel would pass underneath the UW physics department. The vibrations caused by train passage through the tunnel would have been severe enough that the lab space in the physics department basement would have been rendered unusable. The UW physics building is a relatively new and a pretty large structure, so I imagine having to relocate it would be a very expensive undertaking.

      1. Again – why exactly is the UW placing it’s most sensitive instruments in the most probable path of a train? Why? A half-way wise university would have (in the 1980’s) mapped out the most likely paths for a tunnel and have planned its facilities to be far from it. Better yet, a truly intelligent university would have had on hand its own suggested alignment. The entire history of the UW’s relationship with Soundtransit has boiled down to: make it less convenient, make people walk long distances for no good reason, make your line slower and less efficient. This is the work of the regents – I am at least thankful that Soundtransit only has to encounter these non-elected idiots just once – I suppose that the damage they have inflicted upon all 3m of us in the region is one time only.

      2. Actually there were two separate alignments at issue. The 15th Ave alignment which was the original preferred alternative for Sound Move. I don’t remember the exact timeline but I believe 15th was being looked at as a rail corridor before the Physics building was built (and if the trains are such a problem what about buses and large trucks, the building sits at a very busy intersection). On the other hand the UW was somewhat limited in what they could do to stop this alignment as it ran under a city owned street and the Pacific station would have been on non-UW property. The only place the UW had much say was over siting the entrance to the 45th st station (ST wanted to put it in the Burke Museum parking lot)
        The Montlake/Rainier Vista alignment was only really looked at later when it became clear the Portage Bay alignment wasn’t terribly practical and was way too risky. I don’t remember what buildings were at issue with this alignment but I believe the Chemistry building was among them. Since this alignment passes under campus and the station was on campus agreement with the UW was required.
        I agree a station at Rainier Vista would have been better, and I believe mitigation could have addressed most of the UW’s concerns regarding vibration and electromagnetic fields.

      3. Maybe I’m biased cause I’m a grad student in chemisty, but it seems the UW is sort of in a bind here. The majority of the science buildings are located in a cluster surrounding the fountain. Some of these are new like the electrical engineering building or the new chemistry Building, and others, like Bagley Hall are old. Being at the center of campus away from roads is good for the equipment.

        Now you can make the argument that the UW should have decided 20 years ago to move those buildings somewhere else to enable light rail through the center of campus, but looking at the vibration reports (the most recent ones I found are here from June 05: ) I’m not sure if anywhere on campus would be far enough away from a line going under Rainer Vista.

        Would it have been awesome to completely remodel a building like Bagley Hall with some new fancy vibration mitigation technology in the basement so the instruments are unaffected? Sure! While they’re at it, maybe they could install air-conditioning. It’s hot in here! But the UW barely has the money to fund all our TA positions next fall, so it’s not too realistic.

        There’s also a lot of other issues in that document that I’m much less sympathetic to. Like the fights of the staging area. Concern that construction noise will affect patients at UW medical center is one thing, but the hysterics over losing a few parking spaces to construction seems overblown.

      4. Whoa there. Capital projects and operating (like for TAs) come from totally different budgets. The UW has had wheelbarrows full of capital funds for the last couple of decades. Their operating budget is always tight, but the two things are separate.

      5. I suspect if Sound Transit would have been allowed to run Link up a tunnel under Rainier Vista, Sound Transit would have had to pay for most of the vibration mitigation costs to UW buildings.

    2. The stadium station is only ‘far-flung’ if you don’t have any engineering, math, or health science classes. And considering how much all my friends in the liberal arts programs bitched about south campus being ‘remote,’ I am happy for a little turning of the tables.

      1. Yeah, between the two stations, all of campus will be quite accessible.

        Also, students are willing to walk farther than most commuters. They’re much less likely to be able to afford a car.

      2. Very true, many walk from a 49 or 71/72/73/74 stop today. Not all students are so lucky as to have their bus take the Stevens Way loop.

      3. Exactly. When I was looking for a new apartment I wanted it within 2-3 blocks of the bus stop. Then I realized that my usual walk from the bus stop to my building was probably twice that. Distance on campus just seems smaller. And if you’ve got to walk a ways, Rainer Vista is a lovely place to do it.

    3. I thought that they moved the tunnel to keep the physics lab from vibrating? There was some very expensive equipment installed there a few years back. Or was that just a FUD argument by the UW?

      1. In the University Link tunnel, there will be a test section meant to dampen vibration. If it works properly, it’ll be used for the segment under the U.

      2. As I recall vibrations and electromagnetic field interference in some of the various lab buildings (the chemistry labs being the ones of most note) were the reason for choosing the current alignment over the one through Rainier Vista. However the original alignment through the U-District went up 15th Ave NE and right by the Physics building. The alignment was changed due to high construction risk. Since the unexpectedly high tunneling bid is what led to the SEIS for U-Link/North Link (and a major agency crisis) I believe the full EIS process on the entire line from Lander to NE 45th was complete at that time.

    4. One thing the UW wanted to “protect”: the cash cow that parking garages provide.

      Here’s the scam: the state builds them huge parking facilities, and they get the money those garages generate. No such money machine for light rail.

      Same deal in San Diego: their university fought an on-campus station for years, opting for a freeway location something like a half mile away. In the end they lost that fight, and the station/train was full of students and faculty on the first day of service.

      University Administration “leaders” are almost always dinosaurs – dinosaurs with the best free parking spots on campus.

      1. Well what did you really expect from an institution which was designed by monks in the middle ages? Ever ask yourself where those nutty caps & gowns came from?

        You would think that the UW would be a forward thinking place, and I bet the students are, but clearly not the regents.

      2. The cash cow of the parking garages funds the U-pass. The reason I pay only a 100 bucks for a three month pass is because SOV’s pay $15 bucks apiece to park in the garages. (And before this year it was only $50 for three months!) I think that’s a pretty good set-up, really. Imagine if the City of Seattle increased parking meter rates by 50% and used all that money for transit. We’d all be leaping with joy here over something like that.

  6. I especially like this comment on page 27 regarding the writing of the 1976 MOA:

    “Trains were the principal consideration on the
    minds of the participants, including those from Bellevue and Mercer Island. This
    was in recognition that, but for the future rail use of the center lanes, the City of
    Seattle would not agree to the I-90 project.”

    1. There are a lot of gems, aren’t there? I barely got into the local stuff.

    2. If I-90 bridge(s), specifically the Homer Hadley, does not follow the terms of its MOA and the EIS. doesn’t it have to be completely shut down and removed?

      1. Erik – no, no. The state might just not be allowed into a future similar agreement, so they’d lose future federal funding.

  7. I have not been able to confirm this, but I heard that Jim Horn (anti-rail former State Senator from MI that got voted out of office) sued in the week before Link opened to prevent transfer of the center lanes to ST. His suit would have preceded this report, but apparently he sued under Amendment 18 concerns.

    I don’t think his suit has much chance to success, but this report certainly will make things interesting for him.

    1. Shhh. :)
      You’ll hear more about that tomorrow. I’m pretty sure if Rep. Clibborn saw it in the media before the meeting today, she’d talk about that instead of talking about the report. Either Martin or I will write about the lawsuit very soon.

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