This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Curious statement from Councilman Tom Rasmussen:

“I think we should eventually have something like [light rail to Ballard and West Seattle], but it seems premature to me, when we haven’t even built light rail to the University District, to start building it to West Seattle and Crown Hill.”

Surely the councilman knows that designing and planning a rail line takes years.  The chances that we’ll “start building” light rail before University Link (currently under construction!) opens in 2016 are approximately nil.  It makes perfect sense to start planning a line to Ballard and/or West Seattle, which will require years of study, financing planning, and at least one public vote (the Monorail had what… five public votes?).

Rasmussen’s other objection is that “typically, light rail is something that occurs regionally rather than city by city.” Of course, as Catowner has pointed out on this blog, Ballard-West Seattle is relatively low on Sound Transit’s priority list.  Why?  Sound Transit is a regional agency, with a mandate to connect regional employment centers.  If it so happens to connect one Seattel neighborhood to another, well, that’s kismet.  If we’re going to ever have rail transit that works to connect neighborhoods inside the city of Seattle, it’s going to have to be a city — or at best, county (i.e. Metro) — project.*

*That is, unless and until we merge ST with Metro, Pierce Transit, and Community Transit.

6 Replies to “It Takes Time to Build Transit”

  1. Even at the county level, King County has a larger population outside of Seattle than inside. As a low-funded government agency they’ll always try to serve the most people with the least amount of money – translation: diesel buses on freeways. We aren’t on their radar because even if they could afford new projects, we are outvoted.

    I’d love to expand SDOT’s new found streetcar expertise to light rail. The projects aren’t too far different, and the big change would be in station building and path seperation.

  2. Of course, I think that subarea equity may basically require Ballard-West Seattle light rail to be part of ST3. We have now funded all of Central and East Link in the North King subarea, so ST3 will have to include another major capital expenditure in Seattle/Shoreline. The next one on the list in the city has to be West Seattle-Ballard. Of course, even if ST3 is big, Seattle may have to supplement it with its own levy to allow a completely grade-separated line from Ballard to Downtown to West Seattle.

  3. Part of the problem here is McGinn’s obvious lack of sincerity, and what Rasmussen was pushing back against was giving McGinn a big chunk of money to spend on a ‘study’ that could easily devolve into one of McGinn’s polling mechanisms.

    Ths council has already approved the Central Line streetcar as part of the amelioration for the Alaskan Way tunnel. Engineering and design for this line would be moving forward right now if Nickels was still mayor.

    Actually, I think there are two other reasons ST has no direct West Seattle-Downtown link planned for rail- the large cost of a new bridge for rail, and the desire to keep ridership high on the MLK line to the airport.

  4. It wasn’t a big chunk of money, it was $800,000 of Bridging the Gap revenue. If you look at page 13 “Cumulative Levy Spending Breakout (2007 – 2009)” in the 2009 report at you can see that transit has been the lowest priority. The requirement is “No more than 15% of revenue” but actual spending has been 8% (and I have to add that some of the transit money has gone to projects like Spokane St Viaduct and Mercer Corridor that in my opinion are of questionable utility to transit). The 2009 total program budget was $299.6 million, so the $800,000 for transit planning would be a drop in the bucket (around .003%).

  5. Any LR expansion undertaken by the city needs to focus on long term connectivity. A bunch of spur lines don’t make for a coherent and easy to use system IMO.

    For instance I’d like to see Ballard LR connect to Brooklyn, not DT, to form the first leg of an eventual Ballard, Brooklyn, 520, Bellevue, Issaquah line.

  6. Josh, maybe I should be a little more explicit- people don’t trust McGinn. And when you don’t trust someone, the amount you’re ready to bet against your judgment becomes smaller.

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