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I don’t think the pro-Nickels bona fides of me or any other authors of this blog can seriously be in doubt.  We endorsed him in the Primary, gave him a platform to write about light rail, and reminded voters of his contributions just before election day.  By my count at least 5 of the 8 bloggers on staff donated some money to his campaign, and I volunteered a small amount of hours for him.  We remain enormously grateful for all he has done for this city and this region, and will mourn his departure from the scene in January.  All that said, there’s a distressing theme in the comments of Nickels supporters continuing to rip McGinn, accusing him of being inexperienced and his rail plan as being a “pipe dream” at best or disingenuous at worst.   More below the jump.

The flip answer is to say “consider the opposition,” who is equally inexperienced in government.  Either Joe Mallahan or Mike McGinn is going to be the next Mayor of Seattle, and it matters for the future of transit in the City.  You can participate in that decision by voting, volunteering,  and/or contributing, or you can file a useless protest vote.  The choice is yours.

photo by the author
photo by the author

More positively, I’m really puzzled about the lukewarm reaction here to McGinn’s light rail proposal.  Ben, as an activist, is probably the one most engaged on how to get the ball rolling for the next stage of light rail.    I asked him what the first priority was about six months ago, and he said, to paraphrase, “accelerate the Ballard/West Seattle light rail study with City funds, so that we can get a ballot measure sooner.”

I really don’t see how the detractors think this is going to play out.  We can’t do anything until a serious study is done.  We’re almost certainly going to have a City Council with a solid pro-rail majority.  So it seems pretty trivial for the new Mayor to find a few million to get the study done.  That is a significant step forward, more than I would have expected from a third Nickels term. It’s possible that the study could have some poorly designed inputs, and it’s important that the Mayor’s office work with Sound Transit to commission the study the right way.  We can apply pressure as citizens on the Mayor and the Council to make sure that happens.

The next battle would be the ballot measure.  As I said a while back, there’s almost inevitably going to be a tradeoff between serving a lot of neighborhoods with a MAX-like system or a few with a Link-style system.  Although the initial read is that McGinn would prefer the former, if grade separation advocates are confident the numbers support their position, it’s going to come out in the study.  Furthermore, the higher ridership of a high-quality system is going to bring in more federal dollars, creating a virtuous circle.

It’s entirely possible that the process to whittle down a menu of study options into a coherent plan could falter without a strong hand.  There’s also management risks once a ballot measure passes.  However, if those efforts collapse, we’ll still have the basic design in hand, which allows us to chase Federal dollars and go to the State with a coherent plan with what Sound Transit would do with additional funding authority.

Going down this road is better than not going down it, and serious rail advocates should recognize the choice here.

81 Replies to “The Race We Have”

  1. Martin, could not agree more. Especially when you have Mallahan opposing the voter-approved already-funded First Hill Street Car(!) because he thinks buses are more efficient(!!). And since Mallahan criticizes transit lanes for increasing traffic, I think we understand his transit vision for Seattle.

    Building out light rail to the west side makes so much sense. I’m also excited to see something done on the Ballard-Fremont-Wallingford-University east-west link.

    1. Martin – thanks for a thoughtful piece. We need to be wary of the promises from any and all politicians and we need to follow the” green” that funds their campaigns, and therefore influences their actions and rhetoric. McGinn is clearly our best choice this time around.

      1. By “best” I would mean “lesser of two clear evils.”

        Neither McGinn nor Mallahan should be in a position to run a major US city, and their campaigns have laid that fact bare. McGinn’s main problem is that his promises are clear pandering, and we know his no-viaduct promise is unworkable – yet it (and it’s the sole issue he campaigned on) got him through the primary.

        Using that as a yardstick, McGinn’s other promises, with their flimsy detail, look more like campaign promises and less like actual plans.

        I join STB in wistfully praying that McGinn’s campaign promises come true. Unfortunately, I’m a realist and understand that they’re at best a longshot.

        I can’t in good conscience vote for either candidate.

      2. Michael, you’re welcome to vote or not for whoever you want, but “no tunnel” has never bee McGinn’s sole issue. Here’s a link to an interview before the primary which hits on transit issues: http://publicola.net/?p=10845 (publicola seems down right now… try a cache“).

        If McGinn is pandering I guess I’ve fallen for it. But I don’t see any reason Seattle can’t fund a study of the type of light rail that’s been built by converting publicly owned street right of way to transit in downtown Portland, Dallas, Denver, etc. These systems are not dreams or promises, they’re up and running now.

      3. Michael,

        McGinn is more ready to be mayor of Seattle than Obama was to be president. I recall the same arguments you are making being made by the Clinton campaign and the McCain campaign back in 2008. Experience is irrelevant, what matters are judgement, values, and skill. McGinn beats Mallahan on each of these.

        As to the “lesser of two evils” argument, I recall the same thing being said about Al Gore in 2000. If the disastrous course this country has taken over the last 8 years proves anything, it is that the lesser of two evils is still less evil. You may lament that you believe McGinn won’t advance a pro-rail agenda as effectively or quickly as Nickels, but Mallahan will take us backwards. Treading water is better than drowning.

      4. I agree–I can’t in good conscience vote for either candidate, and unless something changes between now and when I mail in my ballot, for the first time in my adult life I will not being able to bring myself to vote for a viable candidate.

      5. I agree Michael – if I were a Seattle voter, I wouldn’t vote for either of these two either….

        I know Ben is exasperated with me and probably Martin too, but I can’t support either McGinn or Mallahan in any form, disagreeing with either or both on too much to make me seem confident that Seattle will be in good hands over the next four years.

        As for Light Rail from West Seattle to Ballard, who has been even talking about this idea until McGinn mentioned it. We tried this with the monorail, so why does anyone think floating a light rail plan will be any easier. Besides which, it has to be added to the cost of McGinn’s idea of replacing the viaduct with surface streets and now light rail and he opposed the tunnel option – why? Expense! Let’s toss an idea of a bridge between West Seattle and Vashon Island for good measure!

      6. This was my attitude in 2000 and I voted for Nader–look where that got us. Of course my vote wasn’t in Florida, but I’m sure there were plenty of people there with the same thought process. Martin is right on with this post: don’t try to come up with some sort of ideal candidate, vote in the race you have. It’s clear who’s familiar with transit and who think the parking tax is “onerous”.

      7. Look, either Mike McGinn or Joe Mallahan is going to be the next mayor as Martin said. If you want to leave your ballot blank or write in a protest vote go right ahead, but realize you are opting out of having any say in the decision.

        People have been talking about Light Rail to Ballard and West Seattle ever since the monorail died. Sound Transit put money for a study of a Downtown/Uptown/Ballard/Fremont/Wallingford/U District corridor in ST2. The city studied streetcar lines to West Seattle (which was screened out) and Fremont/Ballard (which made the final cut). Metro is planning RapidRide service to West Seattle and Ballard (lines C and D) as well as Aurora/99 (which is also another obvious corridor for rail). That sure looks like a lot of planning looking at these corridors.

        At some point Sound Transit is going to expand beyond what is in ST2. For the Pierce, Snohomish, South King, and East King sub areas most of the expansions are fairly obvious and continue to build on the long range plan. However sub-area equity means the North King sub-area is going to need to get something too.

        Yes the monorail failed, but that had less to do with the corridor being valid and more to do with some poor management on the ETC’s part and the lack of any real political support. A City of Seattle funded light rail expansion would be inherently different. For one the City would be working with Sound Transit from day one rather than fighting them. Two presumably the Mayor and City Council would be in the loop from funding the study, approving a ballot measure, providing oversight on the build-out, and participating in future planning rather than creating an entirely separate agency. This means there is political support should the plan hit a rough patch. Three McGinn’s proposal has Sound Transit also handling the build-out and operation of the future line should it be approved by voters. Sound Transit has proven itself as an agency and has experience in building and running an actual light rail line in Seattle. They aren’t nearly as likely to repeat the mistakes of the ETC or even the ones they made themselves early in their history.

        In fact McGinn’s light rail proposal and his broadband proposal are both such good ideas I intend to push for them even if Mallahan is elected. The first step for both is rather easy and cheap which is simply funding a study.

        As for McGinn’s opposition to the tunnel it is rather a more complex thing than you make it out to be. The fundamental thing is we really shouldn’t be building new highways in Seattle. It is not what is needed to make Seattle a great livable city. New highways just foster more auto-oriented development, auto dependency, and vehicle miles traveled. Instead of wasting the money on a highway lets spend it on things that will improve the city like transit.

      8. The tunnel is not a new highway, it is a replacement. It’s taking trips that already exist, and not even all of those. The state money for the tunnel is dedicated to highways and will be spent on highways elsewhere in the state, if not here. It will not be spent on transit. The walkable downtown neighborhoods that bring Seattle closer to being a “great livable city” will be damaged for years to come by putting all of the viaduct traffic on downtown streets. We do need to spend money on transit but the money isn’t there, not yet, not for some time. The highway money is. Lets use it here in Seattle rather than sending it elsewhere.

  2. “That is a significant step forward, more than I would have expected from a third Nickels term. ”

    But that’s what I was hoping for from Nickels! In his speech at the Link opening on July 18, Nickels said something to the effect of how this Link line would grease the skids for a Ballard-West Seattle line much sooner than anyone expected. I think an advantage with regard specifically to that line with McGinn is that he seems (to me, I might be way off base here) more focused on things inside the borders of Seattle.

    Maybe Nickels was just getting excited on July 18, but it would have been a good move for hom to have made more noise before the primary. But that’s hindsight.

    1. Call me selfish, but I think that now that ST2 has passed, it’s up to Bellevue and Redmond to get East Link built, up to Shoreline, Lynnwood and points north to get North Link built, and Fed Way and points south to get South Link built.

      Regardless of his position within ST, the Mayor of Seattle should now let those play out a little more freely and focus on what’s within our borders that we’re willing to pay for.

      1. Totally agree! The whole region needs to work cohesively, but we should not be trying to make decisions for other cities. We had a hard enough time doing it within our own city.

      2. North Link doesn’t extend out of the city yet. Other than that I agree, and once North Link goes beyond Northgate, it’ll be up to the cities to the north to keep motivating that movement (though we’ll all happily keep helping to pay for it).

        Once Link to Northgate is done, there will no longer be any light rail being constructed by ST inside the city. When that happens, it’s time to start seriously working on the next phase, and I think that’s obviously a Ballard / West Seattle line.

      3. There are a few Seattleites who live north of Northgate! (Not me, and they don’t really get a Link station anyway.)

      4. I’d rather not wait until 2020 to start working on more light rail in Seattle, I think the time to act is now. Sound Transit can certainly handle having several large projects underway at once.

      5. Not sure I agree with you, AJ — Eight years ago, when Sound Transit’s stock was precariously low, they let Tukwila decide where light rail should go in their city — where their citizens would be least able to utilize it, and where it would have the least impact on community development (i.e. no TOD). Today, when citizens ask “why aren’t there more stations in Tukwila?”, they have only to look at City Hall.

        I’m sure there are other cities on ST2 alignments that are still in that Tukwila mode, so, NO, let’s not just “leave it up to” all those ‘burbs to do light rail. We can’t count on them doing it right.

      6. Isn’t it Sound Transit that decided to drop the Boeing Access Road station? I work in Tukwila, and the lack of this station is the reason why the train is unhelpful for me to get to work. As it is, I ride my bicycle to the Rainier Beach station sometimes, but at that point, its really no better than taking the 174 (or, now the 124).

      7. wasn’t Sound Transit that skipped the loop over to South Center? The city of Tukwila had very little to say about the route other than to try and mitigate the effects of the route forced on them.

      8. A station at Boeing Access Road was supposed to be a Sounder/Link/Bus multi-modal station, but BNSF said there wasn’t enough room for a Sounder station. Without a Sounder connection, the cost of the station wasn’t worth the ridership. However, it’ll be very possible to add a station in that spot later on.

        As for Southcenter, neither Tukwilla nor the mall wanted to help pay for the station. They wanted ST to pay for the entire cost, which was expensive and a bit out of the way of the planned alignment. Too bad for them, because once Link connects with Northgate and Alderwood, Southcenter and Tukwilla will be regretting that decision.

      9. Also Tukwilla forced the Link alignment off of 99 in hopes that Sound Transit would be “forced” to route link via Southcenter. Tukwilla played chicken with Sound Transit and lost. So far Bellevue has been much better about going back and forth with Sound Transit in order to get what they want.

      10. Well I thinking about this, and I realized, why would anyone have any reason at all to transfer between Sounder and Link at Boeing Access Road?

      11. It depends on the service level of Sounder, but the main reason would be to get to the airport.

        Theoretically, switching from Link to Sounder could be faster than staying on Link to get downtown. It would depend on a lot of factors, and probably wouldn’t.

      12. “Tukwilla played chicken with Sound Transit and lost.”

        And if McGinn is elected and plays chicken with the state he’ll lose as well. 99 is a state highway.

        Some other examples. Locals could not stop a third runway at SeaTac. Mukilteo is not stopping commuter flights from Paine Field.

      13. AJ, Tukwila City Council strongly favored the Southcenter route with 1 or 2 stations. Seattle commercial interests and hoteliers especially around the convention center downtown, pulled strings at Sound Transit to “jigger studies” to suggest a 3-minute reduction of travel time between the airport and downtown would produce more ridership than the many thousands who would have rode Link to Southcenter. Sound Transit wrecked its credibility at that point, even during Joni Earl’s administration. Sound Transit still considers the least discussion of a Link ‘spur line’ to Southcenter taboo.
        Regional players who pulled Sound Transit strings were Southcenter Mall and Renton interests.

        Sound Transit deserves kudos for rebuilding MLK Blvd and promoting station area development, but the agency is still beholden to special interests more than the public. The tunnel to UW should be lower than other extensions in priority. The money could go a long way to helping Seattle survive imminent road construction hassles (SR-520, AWV, Mercer) if it were directed to extensions to Federal Way and Bellevue and a spur to Southcenter. You’ll all have to think for yourself to understand the why and wherefore.

        I’m holding out for monorail to West Seattle and Ballard. The Greenline route was chosen to fail, more by SMP than ETC. There were and still are far better monorail route options to these districts. I don’t want to argue the point. Just don’t believe those who glibly say otherwise.

      14. Are you kidding about the tunnel to the UW?! That project is one of the most productive routes in the nation! Those three miles and two stations will get according to estimates up to 70,000 riders per day when it opens. An extension to Southcenter, East Link, and South Link put together wouldn’t come close to that much ridership.
        And we have now rejected the monorail and chosen light rail as our urban transit mode. Roll with it.

      15. Wait a minute,

        I was at those scoping meetings in the beginning, and I remember it was going to cost 4 times as much for a Southcenter alignment as the Hwy 99 alignment. However, the Southcenter route would only generate twice the ridership of the Hwy 99 alignment.

        It would have taken an awful lot of ‘jiggering’ to tilt the decision to Southcenter.

        I think the other suburban cities will do just fine planning with ST.

        Jim

      16. As I remember it, the Link route option through Southcenter added about $40 million, Jim, and would have generated significant ridership especially in the southbound direction. And, Tukwila City Council strongly favored including Southcenter in the route.

        The Link tunnel to UW, Alex, converts bus riders to Link riders through districts already well-served with transit and fully developed. Putting the money into suburban Link LRT expansion would improve transit options for suburbanites who need it more, and direct more development also where it is needed more. Yews yer hed, dood. Link to UW caters to callige ejucatud upper class gettin ther spensiv smart papur.

        Also, Alex, remember to make the distinction between the terms “riders” and “rides”. The number 70,000 refers to “rides”, not “riders”. How many “riders” to UW now on buses will become Link riders? How many who otherwise drive there will take Link? What’s the net benefit of suburban expansion vs Link to UW in terms of new “riders”? Which expansion will do the most to help Seattle during major road construction projects? These are the questions to answer.

      17. Art,
        What you remember and what I remember right now is basically heresay without documentation.
        But beware, I might be having access to my original documentation in the future, and that would really screw up our exchange! (I’ve made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts).

        Jim

      18. I have access to all the documents, but it’ll have to wait until monday.

        I also recall pretty distinctly from a lot of them that Tukwila and Southcenter were not as invested in the idea as you would believe. I’ll have to reread the commentary on the project, which is fine since I’m out of books to read.

        “The Link tunnel to UW, Alex, converts bus riders to Link riders through districts already well-served with transit and fully developed. Putting the money into suburban Link LRT expansion would improve transit options for suburbanites who need it more, and direct more development also where it is needed more. Yews yer hed, dood. Link to UW caters to callige ejucatud upper class gettin ther spensiv smart papur.”

        That’s silly. The suburbanites don’t “need it more”, otherwise there’d be a critical mass of cars and completely full buses at all hours. Like they have in the U District. More than that, buses to the U District are full from start of service to end of service. Demand is higher therefore need is higher.

      19. Not to mention without U Link you don’t get to Northgate, Lynnwood, and someday Everett. The ridership numbers for the entire line are off the charts, even well into Snohomish County. This line is going to have more ridership than most US regions entire rail systems.

      20. “Seattle commercial interests and hoteliers especially around the convention center downtown, pulled strings at Sound Transit to “jigger studies” to suggest a 3-minute reduction of travel time between the airport and downtown would produce more ridership than the many thousands who would have rode Link to Southcenter.”

        Do you have any proof of your allegations Art? Or are you just up to your usual baseless, slanderous comments?

        “Regional players who pulled Sound Transit strings were Southcenter Mall and Renton interests.”

        Why would Southcenter Mall pull strings to keep the alignment from serving Southcenter Mall? That would only make sense if Southcenter was owned by Kemper Freeman.

        I believe your allegation that the studies were “jiggered” almost as much as I believe your claim that you’ve been blacklisted by the local media and transit agencies because of your monorail circulator plan.

      21. Although it may not generate all that many new transit trips because of the huge transit ridership in those areas, that’s not the only thing that matters. This will make the journey between the U District and Downtown about half as long as it currently takes at the very best of times, and about a third to a quarter as long as it usually takes. Between Capitol Hill and Downtown and the U District the time savings will be incredible.

  3. Well, I’m just an observer of this election, so I’ll confine my comments to things I observe about it. To start with, if you have the City Council, you don’t need McGinn, and if you don’t have the City Council, they won’t be funding any million-dollar studies on his say-so.

    Before the primary, McGinn had only only one position on transit- spend more money on buses. After the primary, his campaign put up a sort of opinion-poll website, and it turned out rail transit was more popular than McGinn’s campaign. Understandably, he got religion.

    What this tells me is that he has almost zero knowledge of current issues of the cities. Look at any page of Planetizen and you find transit everywhere, because it’s important. It also indicates his core supporters are just as ignorant- if they weren’t, they would have talked to McGinn or supported Nickels.

    Now, McGinn might get lucky, because, historically, proposals to extend rail transit have done very well about a year after the first segment started running. In any case, McGinn has been very careful not to take any responsibility for what gets done, so he can just let people do what they will do, and then take credit or regretfully observe that it didn’t work.

    And it’s easy to see why he might be a little hands-off on this one. From West Seattle you need: a high-level bridge over the Duwamish, a flyover of the BNSF and UP trackage, some way of getting past the very narrowest part of Seattle, and another high-level crossing (or tunnel) past the Ship Canal.

    Of course, this project would become almost absurdly simple if you just ran trains over the existing bridge and Spokane St viaduct, up 2nd Ave, and out on Elliot W, accepting occasional delays at the Ballard Bridge. The high-speed running from West Seattle to SODO would easily overcome problems in Ballard, if the way was cleared for trains from SODO to the Ballard Bridge. And even this doesn’t need to be as hard as many will assume- just get some traffic and parking enforcement out there! This whole bit about “Someone will double-park and stop the train” is for the birds. They don’t let that happen on the floating bridges.

    Again, McGinn might get lucky. A war in the mid-east could send gas over $5/gallon and cause some serious re-thinking. AGW should have already caused some serious re-thinking, although I can’t say I’ve seen McGinn pounding that drum very hard in his campaign.

    And it’s better to be lucky than to be good. So, the question is, do you feel lucky?

    1. I think that you are compeltely off base. McGinn has always been a rail supporter. His talk about putting money on buses is simply talk about being financially responsible. He is a HUGE transit advocate and he knows that we need it right now. He is also BIG on FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, hence his opposition to the tunnel. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. He knows that we need to get the options out there and that’s why he suggested getting more buses on the road, he knew that is something the city can do now.

      Further more, McGinn is anything but lucky. He is a true leader that knows how to get his message across. The fact that he won the primary was nothing that you would call luck, it is a great showing that voters in Seattle are in line with his views and they want him to move the city forward. That will be clear come November 4th.

      I question what you are actually observing.

      1. I think McGinn was lucky to win instead of place second after Nickels, simply because of how toxic Nickels’ brand had become to some Seattleites through no fault of McGinn. MicGinn’s ability to make it from the primary to the general was not luck, however – he beat a lot of other candidates who, for the most part, were given the same anti-Nickels luck.

    2. Catowner,

      There all kinds of problems with your comment:

      1) Clearly we need the Council AND the Mayor to get traction on this.
      2) McGinn has a very public and prominent promise to pursue this; are you seriously criticizing him because it wasn’t the first thing out of his mouth? He was never anti-rail; in fact, for him the big thing has always been dedicated ROW, which is why he is lukewarm on streetcars.

      More broadly, you seem to pointing out the reasons why McGinn may not get us all the way to a fully built system. That tells me that you entirely missed the point of the post.

      1. Look, I’m just looking at what I’ve seen published and reported. I saw him promise to support citizens and transit agencies trying to come up with a plan, and to support having a vote on that plan.

        I didn’t say he was anti-rail, I said that initially he didn’t support it, and it seems very odd to me that a person campaigning for walkable neighborhoods in a major city would not be knowledgeable and supportive of rail. How, exactly, is someone who doesn’t know much about a subject going to be a “strong hand” in shaping the best solution from a menu of choices?

        I don’t think I missed the point of the post, which apparently was that “serious rail advocates should recognize the choice here”. I just don’t buy it.

        Naturally, I assume that posted items with comments threads are to be discussed. If that’s not the case here, just let me know and I’ll stop spoiling the party.

      2. Catowner,

        I don’t mean to imply that you’re not supposed to comment, I just disagree with almost everything you said.

        McGinn really hasn’t said anything negative about light rail in the City of Seattle, to my knowledge, ever. Nickels is about as pro-rail as they come and he certainly didn’t have a concrete plan to accelerate ST3.

        You’re criticizing him for being insufficiently early in coming out strongly for accelerated light rail, which is odd in the context of what the other candidates did, and pretty demanding given that you have to give a volunteer staff some time to do some basic due diligence on what’s possible.

      3. I want to be particularly clear I am not “criticizing him for being insufficiently early in coming out strongly for accelerated light rail”. Personally, I think this whole idea of jump-start for a West Seattle-Ballard line, which in fairness to McGinn I do not believe he has ever endorsed, is ill-advised.

        What I am criticizing is not seeing in any campaign documents or statements support for rail as one essential leg in a tripod of walk-bike-rail for city life. If I trusted campaign promises, it would be grand to see his sudden and recent emphasis.

        It would be heartening to see so many people now remembering that McGinn was always for rail, except for the fact that so many rose colored glasses have been passed out that the vision in hindsight is now way beyond 20-20.

        I’ve bought a few old boats in my time, and there’s nothing wrong with that if you understand the problems, and can fix them. If not, you can become a very sad boatowner.

      4. Personally, I think this whole idea of jump-start for a West Seattle-Ballard line, which in fairness to McGinn I do not believe he has ever endorsed, is ill-advised.

        Ill-advised? Whatever for? I don’t see the harm in doing the studies and planning necessary to go past ST2 and to put together a ballot measure should the Mayor and Council decide to move forward.

        The money is there assuming the political will is and the voters approve. We don’t even need Olympia to play along. A property tax pulling in say $400 million a year is entirely feasible. This is roughly as much as the entire Sound Transit district gets in a year. With $400 million a year you can build a heck of a lot of rail even before applying for Federal grants. It also gives a nice pile of cash for speeding up North Link.

      5. Yikes! I think that would work out to about $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed value (don’t have the value breakdown for Seattle, made the SWAG that property values in Seattle are about half of the total property value of all of King County). Even with the recent 15% drop in home prices that would leave the owner of a median priced home in Seattle paying more than $1,200 in new property taxes.

        Really though I don’t think you’d need anywhere near that much. If you figure four years to plan, permit, etc. and six years to build you could build a $2 billion dollar rail line with about $100 million per year in revenue using the ST model of 50% pay as you go and 50% from bonds. That would still be $300 a year on a median priced home so I think you’d have to come up with around half in Federal funds before it would fly with voters. If you got costs under control and did it for say $50 million a mile that’s 40 miles of rail! Of course if you go “full bore” it’s only about 3 miles :-(

      6. I wasn’t working out a budget and finance plan for a Seattle funded light rail system, just pointing out that the City could easily pull in the same amount per year as the entire Sound Transit district.

        The value breakdowns are in the County Auditors reports, but I think Seattle is around $138 billion in assessed value.

        For what it is worth there are other levies in Seattle in the same range such as Bridging The Gap. A big property tax increase really isn’t much of a turn off in Seattle, especially when it is for something relatively popular like transit.

        One thing I’d like to do is drop a huge chunk of change on accelerating North Link as much as possible. I realize digging tunnels and stations takes time, but I believe the 2020 completion date has more to do with waiting for tax revenue to dribble in and the FTA grant process than it does the complexity of the project. The assumption is Sound Transit would pay the money back to the city as they got it. By far North Link is a true game changer when it comes to transit based mobility in the region. Speeding it up is one of the best investments the City can make in rail transit.

        As for the rest I don’t think you need a 10 year time line between approving the ballot measure and opening day, especially if the line is largely at-grade in existing street ROW. I think at least one city was able to open a rather substantial line with just 5 years from initial study to opening day. Even Federal funding doesn’t have to drag things out, Seattle and ST could cut a deal similar to the one SLC cut with the FTA so they could build now and get paid back later.

      7. Well, 1st I need to qualify that my estimates are worse than back of a napkin and only slightly better (if at all) than a Ouija board. But your figure of $400 million is almost double the entire City property tax revenue for 2009 of $209 million! Even in tax crazy Seattle tripling property taxes to accelerate light rail seems like a pipe dream. And planning to completion, if it’s done right, really does take ten years. It’s a year to solicit and decide on bids after you have a plan. EIS is at least two years. It takes a year to start construction even at the most preliminary level once the contract is awarded.

        In a previous thread someone had mentioned unincorporated King County residents expect the level of service that cities receive while paying far less tax. Well, that’s not really accurate. Bellevue has a property tax rate below unincorporated King County. I have property in both. Although the home in unincorporated King County (Woodinville) is worth a 1/3rd of the property in Bellevue the taxes are only about 20% less. Schools in both areas are good (Northshore vs Bellevue), crime is low, transit is slightly better in Bellevue, bike lanes about the same (non-existent), access to parks slightly better in Bellevue. While Bellevue is far from perfect it does provide a lot of value for taxes taken. That, I believe, is why it’s become the boom town it has in the last 10-15 years.

      8. Oops, just because Seattle’s take of property taxes was $200 million that doesn’t equate to tripling the total tax to generate $600 million in revenue. A large chunk of property tax that residents in incorporated areas of King County still go to county government to support things like the Port District, Ferry District, Flood Control, etc. But still, increasing the Cities take by 3X would be pretty huge!

      9. Yea, and the School District takes a chunk too. Though as School District levies go the one for the Seattle School district isn’t very high, such is the advantage of a large property tax base. A few districts have a total property tax levy of well over $4 per $1000, yikes!

        It appears I did misread one of the tables, you are quite correct that currently all of the levies for the City of Seattle are only about $209 million. I’m not sure what the statutory limits would be to a light rail property tax, there is also the practical limit to what the voters will accept. Tripling the City’s cut is perhaps a bit more than even tax happy Seattle will swallow.

        Still matching the ST take for the North sub-area, especially once other taxes like TBD funds are added in should be fairly easy without having to get any special taxing authority from the legislature. I’d prefer to use only auto and commute related taxes but the property tax is there should there be no co-operation from the legislature.

      10. Taxes vary a lot in any location. My sister-in-law lives in a exurb north of Dallas and was shocked to see how low Seattle property taxes are. Not much crime where she lives (I guess it helps to drive 20 miles out of town), but the schools are terrible and most of the money goes to county roads/water/trash.

      11. School district levies are a special case because the State limits what can be collected to a percentage of what the State and Federal aid total is (~21%). How broken is that? It they dole out more money you can raise more. If they cut back and you want to maintain your current level of service you’re taxing authority drops! The State allowance also makes zero allowance for cost of living districts across the state might have. Anyway, for Bellevue we’re paying $1.14 per $1,000 assessed value which maxes out the amount allowable by the State. PTA and private funding can kick in money for things like sports, music and other “extras”.

        While funding and levy rates are supposed to be level across the State the legislature granted Seattle a special exemption to provide up to 25% of the total of Federal and State aid. I think that’s largely because they recognize Seattle has huge infrastructure costs looming to replace and upgrade buildings far older than most districts. Seattle is collecting a little over $2 per $1,000 of assessed value.

      12. Mmm, also looks like I drastically over valued property in Seattle. $2.19 per $1k of assessed value raised $108M in 2006 for schools. Property assessed value is about the same now as they were then because of the real estate bust. So raising $400M with just property tax would be ~$8 per $1k of assessed value.

        Realistically I think you’d have to have a city source of revenue close to what the school levies collect (~$100M) to fund something like a West Seattle to Ballard light rail project even using bonding for half of the costs. Then you have to pay off the bonds and fund operations so those taxes are going to stay in place a long time after the project is complete.

        Of course it doesn’t have to all be property tax but where else can you go? Sales tax is tapped out. Even if the State allowed an exception for Seattle going over 10% would really put a pinch on merchants in the city. Car tabs could get you some. How much was the Monorail project able to generate using car tabs? The head tax is already putting Seattle at a disadvantage. The City Council had to grant Russel Investments special status (new B&O classification) to get them to move to Seattle by guaranteeing they would pay only Tacoma level taxes but receive Seattle level benefits. You know other major employers are going to use that as leverage in threatening a move if they don’t get similar special treatment. Fed funds may flow freely for the next four years but at some point the printing presses have to slow down (a good reason to get it started ASAP).

      13. As I recall the Seattle property tax base is about $138 billion.

        Supposedly a $100 per car TBD fee would pull in about $30 million a year.

        I’m guessing as long as the lines make sense we should be able to get around 50% Federal funding.

      14. I would love to get North Link to 45th by 2015. That would close the gap between Campus Parkway and Husky Stadium, eliminating the need to transfer twice to get to Link.

      15. Well, if you take the $100M per year as adequate and are able to cut that in half with Federal Funds and pull in $30M from cars tabs/excise/??? you’re left with only $20M to make up. Property taxes, especially if most of it is in the form of some sort of LID then it could fly (or roll as the case may be ;-). I think Oran’s idea of keeping any Ballard line north of the ship canal and connecting with Link at Brooklyn is a good one; both for riders and for containing cost. West Seattle is harder. Maybe connecting south at Tukwilla Station would make more sense than trying to build a high level bridge to connect to downtown directly?

      16. Mike, I think the best we’re looking at for speeding up either North or U link is to get to Northgate by 2018. Still shaving 2 years off the schedule isn’t anything to sneeze at. I’d love to get to Northgate by 2015, but I don’t think that is realistic.

        Bernie, I was thinking more along the lines of the city raising about $160 million a year total from whatever sources (other than Federal funds) they identify. I’m guessing Federal funds will need to be part of the deal, though hopefully a deal like SLC has where the FTA grant process doesn’t slow down construction would be ideal. Per your metrics above this would mean about $6.4 Billion for building rail assuming a roughly 50% Federal match.

        Looking at it the other direction I estimate a 10 mile Ballard/West Seattle Line could be done for maybe as little as $1.2 Billion on the low end. An entirely grade separated line would run about $3.5 Billion.

      17. Chris,
        $138B sounds “reasonable” for the Seattle property tax base but I don’t think everyone pays the same. If they did the School District would be pulling in ~$300M when in fact it’s only seeing $120-140M. Large swaths are owned by the Port and King County (Boeing Field), then there’s big chunks of downtown and the campus it’s self owned by UW. I don’t know but suspect their property tax statement looks quite different than mine. Non profits, churches (SU, SPU) and the huge “houses of worship” just south of downtown and the Seattle Center all have special exceptions.

        It looks like the majority of the money for W. Seattle to Ballard is, crossing the Duamish, Crossing the Ship Canal and grade separation downtown. Just looking at downtown I think a tunnel would eat up most of your $3.5B; if there’s even a place left to dig once they push through the Alaska Way deep bore project. Why not let Link serve the purpose of getting people downtown and let Ballard and W. Seattle be feeder routes. UW to downtown is 10-15 minutes. I suspect a large percentage, probably a majority of people to and from Ballard are coming/going from someplace other than downtown. W. Seattle is harder since Link from the Airport is over 1/2 and hour. Maybe connect at Boeing Field? Build out a station there and continue the line north along the proposed Marginal Way “airport express” routing. At the point this line gets built there should be plenty of traffic in the Rainer Valley subdivision and a strong demand for “express service” from Tukwila and points south.

      18. The $138 Billion is off the King County assessors office data. I believe that is the actual taxable property, but I’ll have to look at it again. Do remember that the City Limits and the School District boundaries don’t exactly match either.

        A downtown tunnel is roughly 2 miles. If I recall correctly the tunneled portions of U-Link and North Link are coming in at about $500-$600 million per mile.

        I think it makes more sense to go for the MAX like version of a Ballard to W. Seattle line than it does to make either a feeder for Central Link.

        The W. Seattle Line would be fairly easy to do as a feeder if there was a junction with Central Link just South of SODO stations. Run the W. Seattle trains as far as Stadium and allow people to transfer there and at SODO.

        The way you suggest doesn’t make much sense as Boeing Access Road is quite far South of the West Seattle Junction and more in line with White Center.

        For Ballard you’d have the problem that grade separation would be required to keep travel times to the U-District reasonable and the neighborhoods along the way aren’t going to be too keen on an elevated line. At that point you’ve spent what the downtown tunnel would have cost.

      19. U-Link is 3 miles, $2B and adds two stations. Not sure how many stations you’d need for a Ballard West Seattle tunnel. I would guess more than two but less than the DSTT. With all the utility relocation, challenging soils conditions and the fact that it would likely be below sea level I can’t see it coming in any less than U-Link in today’s dollars. The SR 99 tunnel was something like $2B and that was a single bore tunnel. Though smaller I’d guess a double bore tunnel for rail still costs more. Aquiring land for the stations downtown I’d expect would add a lot to the cost. I may well be wrong about this but my impression is that it gets wildly more expensive to procure any ROW or property the closer you get to the center of downtown.

        I’m not sure West Seattle to the Stadium District saves you anything as far as the requirement for a high level bridge. I don’t know if Boeing Access Road would be feasible but my thought was by going far enough south you’d avoid the shipping which requires the high level bridge. It would be more round about but might offset that with an increased ridership by serving more neighborhoods, allowing an express routing from points Tukwila south and cheaper ROW acquisition.

        Same thing with not crossing the ship canal. Grade separation would be hard. Not sure if you could follow the water which would minimize cross traffic and keep the line relatively flat. At first glance I thought Oran’s map from a few weeks ago looked promising.

      20. Chris, a little bit on car tabs from the PI:

        Vehicle licensing fee: Estimated to raise $38 million over 5 years and would start in 2011 if approved by the City Council. State law limits the city’s authority at $20, although it could go as high as $100 if approved by public vote.

        So yes if you could get the limit maxed out you’d pull in $30M from what was “left over” from that $20 earmarked for the tunnel. But car tabs haven’t been a real winner with the voters; at least not the flat fee flavor. A value based excise tax might be an easier sell but I think there’s some issues with current State law which would have to be addressed.

      21. Bernie,
        I was ballparking $500-$600 million per mile for tunneling. Roughly 2-3 miles for the Downtown/Belltown/Uptown segment depending on the exact route and number of stations (I’m guessing 4-6 underground, again depending on alignment). Remember this is going to be built more like the DSTT and less like U Link. There won’t be deep cut&cover stations, and there will be no need for the I-5 underpining. The 99 tunnel is a whole different animal, remember the 99 tunnel if built will be the largest bored tunnel ever. Link tunnels are of a more standard size. I’m pretty sure the per/mile cost of 2 link size tunnels is quite a bit less than the per/mile cost of the big bore proposed for 99. I’m expecting stations will be built like they were for the DSTT which means construction will largely be in the street ROW, you don’t have to tear down entire blocks to build underground stations. Besides that simply wouldn’t be practical where there are large and/or historic buildings.

        In addition I’m guessing there would be an underground station at the Ballard terminus and a tunnel from there under the ship canal. I’m also guessing an underground station and very short tunnel in the W. Seattle Junction area. The rest of the line would be a mix of elevated and separated at-grade (like the ID to SODO segment of Central Link)

        A high-level crossing of the Duwamish isn’t going to be all that expensive, at least as compared to a downtown tunnel. I’m guessing it could be done for around $250 million. You’d spend more on the track miles trying to get to the South Boeing Field area than you would on a proper bridge near Spokane Street.

        I assume either the Ballard or Fremont bridge would be used for crossing if either a tunnel under the ship canal or a high-level bridge proves too expensive or impractical.

      22. So the TBD pulls in a bit more from the license fees than I thought. If car tabs were being used to build Link they might actually go over well with voters. Remember in Seattle we rarely meet a tax we don’t like. ;-)

        I agree building more rail would be a lot easier with new taxing authority from the legislature.

      23. Tunneling costs seem to be a big unknown even when you know ;-) I have no idea how to compare costs for two smaller tunnels vs one “mega tunnel”. But our politicians assured us the AWV deep bore tunnel was viable because of “new technology” which made it way cheaper than any of the alternatives they’d previously made public := TBMs are pretty much custom built. I don’t know what the feet per day rate is on a large vs small diameter is. They’re run with a minimal crew so I suspect cost is closely coupled with speed. Central Link used one machine they turned around to dig in the opposite direction. That would drag out your build schedule and increase labor cost. The small tunneling machines for the Brightwater Project have proven to be a major pain in the ass.

        I really don’t remember much about the construction of the DSTT. Don’t know what sort of street disruptions and such it caused. It’s certainly proved it’s worth. I’m pretty sure ST got a great deal paying Seattle for the ROW vs having to dig the tunnel today.

        One big concern remains and that is where can you route another tunnel once the viaduct deep bore tunnel is in place? Second is how tightly can you couple connections between the DSTT and a new structure. I think there’s a benefit to maximizing usage of the DSTT which is pretty much perfectly located for transit in downtown and were not anywhere close to the density of people you experience in the London Tube.

        I’m really not familiar with West Seattle. One thought I had which seems to perhaps bear consideration is that a large amount of the density is south of the peak of the hill you ascend after crossing the West Seattle Bridge. Picking up extra riders by going south on what I’d expect to be cheaper ROW plus the lack of a high level bridge might make if feasible. The “express” connection following Marginal Way also offers a tangible benefit if Link becomes more “commuter rail” for those living in Burien and points south.

        I’m pretty sure a car tab tax to fund light rail would pass in Seattle. But I expect a $80 increase might even raise a few eyebrows in the emerald green city. How much was the monorail tax? Or was that an excise tax that was value based? My guess is that anything approaching that level would pass. Much more than that and you’d have a long session of Seattle Process on your hands.

      24. SMP tax was 1.4%, or $140 for $10000 in value:
        http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002885738_monotax24m.html

        The tunnels under downtown are not parallel. Remember the deep bore is inked in from 1st Ave S to Aurora at Thomas–that crosses the DSTT but should be possible because it’s deeper. If you look at the geography including depth there are a lot of other options–maybe elevated through SoDo and then under 5th, then come out in north Belltown/Lower Queen Anne. Of course it’s all a matter of the money.

      25. Wow. If Seattle was willing to tax $140 on a $10k car to build more monorail I expect there would be virtual no opposition to a flat $80 increase in tabs to fund light rail. Shoot, the City Council had the option of rolling it back to a flat $30 fee and voted no. And as we’ve seen with the First Hill Streetcar and the deep bore viaduct replacement Seattle doesn’t even need engineering or a finance plan to approve new taxes. I sure hope it works out more like the DSTT than the SMP.

      26. McGinn may not have supported rail initially, depending on when you define “initially,” but he clearly was a public rail supporter by 2007 when he was opposing the roads initiative.

        Was rail a big part of his campaign in the primary? No, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t support rail. It could as easily mean he didn’t think it was as effective a primary campaign issue as the viaduct.

        Elections are won on contrasts, not agreements — how effective would it be to campaign against Nickels by supporting the same projects he did?

        As an aside, being a rail/bicycle commuter myself, I have some hope that a more cycling-aware mayor of Seattle would not allow a repetition of the errors that made SLUT so much more hazardous to non-motorists than it needed to be. But I wouldn’t expect that to be mentioned in the campaign, it’s not something that would attract many new supporters, and it could antagonize those streetcar proponents who showed their contempt for non-motorized safety in the SLUT debate.

    3. That simply doesn’t track with the observation of others — like myself — who have known and worked with McGinn long before he decided to run for Mayor.

      Unlike his opponent, McGinn has well-documented support and public statements for better transit, ST light rail, TOD, and the like.

      His plans and statements aren’t the sudden results of polling. Maybe the polling gave him confidence to campaign so strongly on the anti-tunnel issue in the primary, or to push the Link study and vote post-primary… but they’re definitely not new ideas out of his mouth.

  4. I’m so not looking forward to more years of debate on the tunnel issue but will probably hold my nose and vote for McGinn anyway. If I thought McGinn would concede gracefully on the tunnel if he doesn’t get quick traction, I’d feel better (and less tempted to vote for Nickels as a write-in candidate!).

  5. I definitely agree with this post. The only thing is, if the new Westside Link ballot measure is all or almost all at-grade, I don’t think I will support it. Link is our rapid transit system, so it needs to be rapid.

    1. Alex,

      Your position is pretty irrational and self-defeating. There is insufficient density in the Ballard-West Seattle corridor to support a light metro level of service and station spacing. Link, with the exception of the service on MLK, is more BART-like than Max-like, even if it does use 4 foot eight and a half gauge and overhead.

      Do you really believe that the people who live along 15th and California are going to sit still for the two block diameter cluster of 15 story buildings around the widely separated stations that will be necessary to provide the ridership for a light metro level of service? Any candidate for Seattle mayor who proposed that would not only not be elected, he or she would probably be banned from ever entering the City Limits again.

      What is needed in the West Seattle-Ballard corridor is a low-floor, easy entry tram system. It needs to travel somewhat faster than the Paris D3 with stations perhaps every four blocks except through SODO and along 15th West, but similar equipment is appropriate. At grade is completely adequate and even preferable for the system, but it does need to have its own right of way. It can be in BAT curb lanes or in center running with island stations, but general traffic should be excluded except for transient passage during turns.

      KS is making a tram for Hiroshima which is all low floor, even the operator cabs. I have no idea how they make bogies which can keep gauge for the powered trucks, but apparently they’ve succeeded. The Hiroshima cars have a top speed of 40 mph which might be a little slow for B-WS service, but not by much. Traffic on 15th West travels about that fast, and it takes about two minutes to travel from the Ballard Bridge to the curve at the Magnolia Bridge intersection. If the tram had stops at four places in that distance it would mean a transit time of about six minutes over that stretch.

      By the way, there is simply no way to serve Lower Queen Anne without a tunnel or elevated structure. There is insufficient streetscape for dedicated lanes and mixed traffic would be chaos. Imagine the trams inching through the traffic along Mercer Way and down Queen Anne during an important weekend. Oy-vey!

      1. I thought 100% low-floor trams were common in Europe? I like them more than our split floor LRVs which are 80% low-floor.

      2. “Do you really believe that the people who live along 15th and California are going to sit still for the two block diameter cluster of 15 story buildings around the widely separated stations that will be necessary to provide the ridership for a light metro level of service? Any candidate for Seattle mayor who proposed that would not only not be elected, he or she would probably be banned from ever entering the City Limits again.”
        Hm, maybe that’s why Greg Nickels lost. I seem to remember that that was the general monorail plan.
        But seriously, it has to be underground from Lower Queen Anne all the way through Downtown because otherwise it will be way too slow for anyone from the Ballard or West Seattle who’s going to the opposite end of downtown to ride it. It has to be on its own right of way next to the West Seattle Bridge. It shouldn’t have many stops in SODO or Interbay (this we agree on). It has to have some way of getting across the Ship Canal and I think it should go underground under the Ship Canal to Downtown Ballard because Downtown Ballard is really very dense and doesn’t have room for traffic-separated tracks, and a tunnel under the Ship Canal might turn out to be the same price as whatever huge kind of bridge would be necessary for it to not have to stop for passing boats. I suppose it could be at-grade along Fauntleroy after its dedicated ROW along the West Seattle Freeway, but it then should go into a short tunnel to the Junction because that area is also very dense.
        Which part of this route should have four-block spacing? The only places where that would be possible would be the .6 miles from the West Seattle Freeway to the Junction and the less than .5 miles from the Ship Canal to Downtown Ballard, and I don’t really see the point in putting stops that close there.

      3. “There is insufficient streetscape for dedicated lanes and mixed traffic would be chaos”

        This is what you’ll always find if you look at current traffic numbers. But if you take away traffic lanes open to solo drivers (again, as has been done in downtown Portland, Denver, Dallas, etc.) and instead figure the number of people you’ll find that there is plenty of room.

    2. Building largely at-grade may be the only way it gets built at all. Remember any additional lines aren’t going to be trunks like Central/U/North/East Link and aren’t likely to have anywhere near the ridership of U/North Link.

    3. If something actually gets on the ballot I would suggest supporting it. This whole “needs to be perfect” thing is for when you go to get married, not when you go to vote.

      If you scrap the “plan” everybody has been daydreaming, and think “what next?”, this whole thing gets a lot easier. From W Seattle to Sodo you need some very fast running, which you can have because you don’t need many, or even any, stations. Equipment that runs as tram service in W Seattle can also run at 60 mph over the Duwamish and industrial district.

      North of downtown the city already owns a level dedicated ROW from the SLUT, up Westlake N to the Fremont Bridge, and out to SPU on the south side of the Canal. Doesn’t get much easier than that. And don’t think SPU has never thought about converting those playing fields to something more *developed*.

      I really wonder if you don’t want to connect Ballard to the U of W instead of downtown. At the very least some studies should be done about who actually goes where.

      In general, the concept of crosstown connectors has been as absent in the transit daydreaming as it has been in the road development in Seattle. It was a headache then and has the potential to be a headache in the future.

      1. CatOwner,

        If you go to Ballard via East and North QA rather than 15th W, it seems you’d want to go via Dexter rather than Westlake. From around Highland north almost to the south end of the Fremont Bridge the two streets are rather steeply divided. Most of the development in the corridor is along Dexter and the streets at its level, not Westlake.

        The problem with redeveloping Westlake is that there are a large number of lake-related businesses on the east side of the street, and they really can’t move. Some might sell to a high enough offer but it would mean they simply go out of business. The bluff on the west side is fairly close to the street for most of the way, so if development does fill in the few areas with sufficient space on the west side that don’t already have offices, sky bridges to 8th North could provide access from the upper floors for people wanting to ride a Dexter tramline. The necessary elevators would already exist within the buildings. Pedestrian access might need to be negotiated with the owners of the buildings along 8th North to land the sky bridges.

        Putting the tram along Westlake would isolate it from all the existing development along Dexter, though, at least for the return trip, because people would be reluctant to climb three stories of stairs every day. Notice that Metro a few years ago swapped the bus routes on Dexter and Westlake in order to put the service where the riders are.

        However, I think McGinn’s proposal specifically identifies a 15th Avenue West routing because of the large and quickly growing employment cluster along Elliott West.

        Speaking of that corridor, if it is chosen, the northbound track along Elliott should run between the buildings and the main line tracks of BN and the southbound track in the southbound curb lane. There is an almost never-used storage track right next to the buildings with a space a bit wider than another track separating it from the main line. This would remove the necessity to cross wide and fast Elliott for the northbound riders. There are enough street ROW’s to provide station access to Elliott at many points.

        I made a post last night that asserted that Lower QA could not be served at grade. I think I may have found a way to do it, albeit with a little bit of elevated structure to avoid crossing Elliott/Western at grade. That would be too much of a traffic disruption.

        If parking were removed from one side of each Harrison, Thomas, 2nd North, Warren North, Eagle Street and Warren Place to provide a dedicated tramway, an almost entirely at-grade service could be routed through LQA without a traffic and service catastrophe. The cars would continue south on First Avenue to a one way couplet on Lenora and Blanchard taking them over to a dedicated transit way on Third Avenue. Or they could continue south on First Avenue if dedicated lanes can be provide for them.

        The tracks would be elevated over Elliott West/Western and the grade separation would also provide the “cross-over” for left hand running necessitated by the use of the storage track. The northbound track on Harrison would rise up between Third and Fourth West (or drop down into a tunnel if preferred), cross over Elliott and use the plaza on “West Harrison” to access the railroad ROW. It would thereby cross over the southbound track in the Elliott curb lane.

        Immediately south of Harrison that southbound track would rise up to turn into Thomas, which is rising east from Eliott. The elevated structure would come down between Third and Second West.

        The problem with this idea is the existence of many attractive trees along both streets.

      2. Yeah, I’ve heard all that about Westlake (lived there for 15 years) but the fact remains that the city owns flat level ROW as described.

        The big problem is crossing the ship canal. It’s either a high level bridge, or a tunnel, or the delays with an opening span. This pretty much puts you in the street for the crossing, as building a new opening span wouldn’t make much sense.

        If you didn’t want to just take over Elliot W, it would seem to me that there is a lot of low-value development west of Elliot, certainly enough for two tracks. If this becomes a stopping train that tries to pick up passengers every few blocks, you might as well just use buses. Again, I would be inclined to build a waterfront line that would go to Pier 91 and then out to Fisherman’s Terminal, but not across the canal. This could pick up Interbay workers, the cruise ships, the waterside development, present and potential, between the grain elevators and Pier 70, and down past the ferry depot to Pioneer Square.

        And this, in a nutshell, is why I’m “lukewarm” about the big plan. I’m just not real convinced Seattleites are ready to bond themselves for $4 billion to build from W Seattle to Ballard, or that they should be.

      3. If something actually gets on the ballot I would suggest supporting it. This whole “needs to be perfect” thing is for when you go to get married, not when you go to vote.

        What Catowner said.

        This conjecture is fun, but the point of the study it to settle the issue of what the tradeoffs are.

      4. What I want to know is the travel time from downtown to Ballard. 10-15 minutes sounds good, and a well-built surface line like MLK could probably achieve that. But the SLUT takes piss-poor forever because it stops every two blocks and at every light. Extending the SLUT to Ballard would probably end up in a 20-30 minute trip. I’d hope that if we build something, we can at least make it faster than the exisiting buses.

        Also, I realize there’s no money, but increasing the SLUT’s frequency to 5 minutes would increase its ridership. I can walk half the line in the 15 minutes between trains.

        “Notice that Metro a few years ago swapped the bus routes on Dexter and Westlake in order to put the service where the riders are.”

        Er, I’m happier to be on a Westlake bus than a Dexter bus. What it did was speed up the 17 and slow down the 26/28. I don’t know which is better because it’s a tradeoff, but it makes Fremont an undesirable place to live or visit because of the Dexter buses. The 5 helps somewhat because it goes on Aurora, but the hill between 34th and 42nd makes that not a great choice either.

  6. I wouldn’t complain about a twenty-minute streetcar trip Downtown from Ballard, especially with a shorter headway than the present half hour on the Route 17.

    I also wouldn’t assume that a streetcar extension to Ballard would have to have all the faults and limitations of the South Lake Union Trolley. Any extension of that line is going to require some upgrades.

    If we’re going to spend money on the extension, we should be able to give the streetcars enough lane reservation and signal priority to get speed above the 17- which seems to hit every single red light on Westlake.

    A carline along Westlake could also cross the “Mercer Mess” with one signal-pre-empt. Inbound buses are routinely stuck on Ninth. It may not be fair to buses, but priority is easier to get for streetcars. Because buses can get around obstacles, policy is that they have to.

    The Route 17 runs literally to my door. Many nights, however, I’ll ride the SLUT-(maybe they ought to put a “wrap” like a net stocking around it?) to Whole Foods, a more comfortable place to wait for the 17 than anywhere Downtown.

    Every time I get off the streetcar, I wish I could just ride to Ballard. Nothing against the 17, but a streetcar ride is a better way to finish a long, hard day.

    Mark Dublin

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