Trains on the west-side alignment would run through a greenbelt that would replace the 112th condos. (click to enlarge)

Last Friday, I explained a potential dilemma between advocates of a 112th Ave west-side alignment for East Link (Option 2), and those of a retained cut on the east-side (Option 4).  Some construed my post to mean a Surrey Downs vs. Bellevue Club showdown, which I did not intend to be the case.  On Monday, I spoke with Betina Finley, an early B3 supporter who ran an unsuccessful city council campaign last year, who clarified some of the rationale behind the Bellevue Club’s letter and subsequent petition.

Though the Club has supported B7 in the past, I was told that Bill Thurston, club president, has recognized the wisdom in moving forward on B2M.  Unlike Thurston’s rational disposition, Surrey Downs still wants any and every train as far away from them as possible.  While they are more partial to the east-side retained cut, the prevailing sentiment has still largely been “B7 or bust” as evident by a puzzling new pro-B7 campaign.  More below the jump.

In addition to the Bellevue Club’s petition and other support from east-side businesses, another group has signed on to a letter favoring a west-side alignment.  Interestingly enough, it just so happens that this group is the bulk of the very 46 residences that would be displaced by the line, a collection of condo-owners that would rather move than have the trench in their neighborhood.  These homeowners are willing to be displaced and compensated at market-value by Sound Transit.  This would explain why the west-side running option was so popular at the workshop survey.

With minimal setbacks between Main Street & NE 2nd on the west-side of 112th, trains going to the 2nd street tunnel would have to curve to the center or east due to the lack of property for right-of-way north of Main Street. (click to enlarge)

Unlike the Option 4 trench, the Option 2 west-side running alignment would only be compatible with a Main Street tunnel portal, as opposed to the cheaper and shorter 2nd Street tunnel.  Entering the tunnel at 2nd Street would require the trains to move away from the 112th west-side alignment to either the east or center of the street, resulting in a kind of “S” curve.  The turns would be due to avoiding the buildings that are built right up to the sidewalk north of the 112th condos.  I’ve provided a graphic to the right that explains why this is.  Touring 112th via Google Streetview is also helpful.

Despite using the more expensive Main Street tunnel, the entire Option 2 segment would actually incur a greater savings than Option 4, by avoiding the expenses associated with a costly trench.  Supporters of the west-side alignment have also pointed to the benefits of a new greenbelt buffer that would replace the condos, essentially an extension of the Surrey Downs Park that exists there today.  Ironically, the alignment would bring trains right up to Surrey Downs doorstep.  But for a group that has resorted to wild nonsense and desperate attempts to bring back B7, many have grown weary at the obstructionism and just don’t care anymore.

The real issue, of course, is getting the ST Board to recognize these interests.  What would be most problematic for the Bellevue Club is a misjudged perception by ST that there is a “holier than thou” attitude carried by the rhetoric of preserving tennis courts, patios, and anything deemed “luxury.”  While I don’t agree that this is the right approach for the Club, emphasizing the commitment of the 112th condo owners to be bought out might make for a more convincing argument for the west-side alignment.  At any rate, whatever information the Board has will largely shape the decision to pick a preferred option.

Tomorrow, the Sound Transit Capital Committee will meet at Union Station to address the 112th Avenue options and likely make a recommendation to the ST Board to inform a preferred option vote next week.  Public testimony will be taken at both meetings.  While there is likely to be a lot of B7 noise present, expect rational-minded residents and stakeholders to testify as well.

By the way, if you have interest in seeing Link serve the South Bellevue Park and Ride, there is an Open House tonight at Bellevue City Hall to address that segment of East Link.  Unlike last week’s workshop, the meeting will not be interactive and will likely be an open table kind of format.

85 Replies to “The Push for East Link on the Westside of 112th Ave”

  1. It seems kind of backwards to tear down relatively dense condos and replace them with a greenbelt.

    1. Yeah. My question is how much ROW does link need here? 30ft? It seams the real issue is with access, not so much the width of the roadway needed.

      How about ST does a center alignment and buy those condos. They can get the extra ROW they need and then sell the properties for a profit.

      1. Lots. There’s no indication that Bellevue can even come up with the money for *this* tunnel.

      2. Can vs Will. Bellevue can come up with the money. The question is if the city council has the will.

    2. I’m okay with this option. I don’t think this is the right kind of density we want. A greenbelt for an upzone east of 112th wouldn’t be a bad trade-off.

    3. If you look at those condos, they really aren’t that dense. They are more like squished single family housing units with plenty of driveway and room for parked cars – See here. A little further south on 112th though you’ll see that several Surrey Downs single family homes will probably need to come out as well. Given that they are on 112th, they were already subject to significant road noise.

      The greenspace buffer should help with noise complaints although I’m not sure about potential crossings. Is there any way to do crossings without excessive bell and/or horn noise? The B7 crowd is certain to focus on that.

      Given the number of brand new empty condos in downtown Bellevue, which are much “hipper”, walkable, and with better transit connections, I’m betting at least a few of these condo owners will jump at the opportunity to swap out their car-dependent condos and sell a few cars. This option is sounding better and better – I really love the fact that there is a sizable group willing to be displaced. Call them BIMYs = Build IN my yard! I like it.

      As a cyclist I do have concerns, especially since I bike through that area. That said, it’s hardly a bike-able mecca – hopefully ST can improve things as they are building. Even if they make it worse for cyclists on 112th there are better choices. 108th or 114th are both calmer but have either a hill or a slightly longer ride – Nothing to get into a tizzy about.

      1. Except it won’t be there back yard if they sell. More like BIYOY, Build In Your Own Yard. Or build it and they will leave.

      2. Obviously, and yes some of it may be motivated by the fear of the trains further degrading the livability of the area. That said, 112th is hardly a pleasant backdrop and those condos are heavily car-dependent.

        Lets not forget, B7 proponents would be perfectly happy to shove the train into the back yard of over 100 (200?) condo owners over on 118th where the trains would be *much* faster and *much* louder than on 112th. Somebody has to sacrifice – We can argue about which effected owners have the crappier property which should be impacted or leveled but these folks have offered to voluntarily sell out.

      3. You make this is sound like a bad thing!

        r on 118th where the trains would be *much* faster

        Here’s an idea for B7. Follow the BNSF ROW but instead of coming up 116th where the tracks used to cross 405 stay on the original alignment crossing the south bound lanes. Include a bike/ped path that would reconnect the trail running from Renton to Woodinville. Run Link up the median to SE 8th. Since that’s an underpass it would be relatively easy to cross back to 118th Ave SE. Put a station on Lake Washington Blvd SE somewhere along hotel row with a pedestrian overpass to about where the Lexus dealer is (I think they’re still there) to provide access to future Willburton development and provide inexpensive P&R capacity.

      4. “You make this is sound like a bad thing!”

        In the context of noise impacts, yes, it is a bad thing. The trains on B2 will be traveling slower but it’s a shorter track with more riders, more direct access to downtown Bellevue, and more connecting bus routes.

      5. According to the DEIS B2 is 2.1 miles and B7 is 2.6 miles. The claim, even though B2 has two stops and B7 only one is that segment travel time for both options is 5 minutes. Depending on how long you allow for stops that puts average speed for B2 at 29-33.4 mph and 34.4-36 mph for B7. We agree the trains will be going “much faster” on B7. More like 50mph which puts segment time at less than 3 minutes. And of course these calculations assume that the trains will never ever be delayed by traffic with B2.

      6. The reason the travel times are identical is that the greater distance B7 has to cover is made up by the extra station in B2 (S. Bell P&R). Sure, it can probably go 50mph along the BNSF ROW, but that’s not really relevant to the total segment travel time. The average speed you show is.

        If you speed up B2 to an average of 36mph (over 2.1 miles) to badly simulate removing the extra station, it comes out to a segment travel time of 210 seconds, or 50 seconds faster than B7 @ 36mph covering 2.6 miles. That sounds about right for a station dwell time (20 sec) plus acceleration/deceleration (30 sec combined).

        Over the segment lengths, the difference between B2 @ 30 and B7 @ 50 mph is only a minute (literally, it is 240 vs 180 seconds), but I don’t think B7 can average anywhere close to 50mph. 40 maybe. If you think B7 can average 50mph, I’d challenge you to specify why exactly you’d be able to go that fast. You have to slow down to cross the slough (vertical curve) and slow down even more to turn onto the BNSF ROW (horizontal curve), so that kills your average speed right there. Plus you would probably max out at 50mph or so along the BNSF ROW, and max speed is not the same as average speed. At a 40mph average speed over the length of B7, you get 225 seconds, or only a 15 second advantage over B2 @ 30mph. So ST’s claim of identical segment travel times seems reasonable on its face.

      7. I’ve said it before, if we are going with the likes of B7, then let’s take it to Factoria with a station and north along Richards Road and back out under the big trestle.

    4. Well, it’s not being pushed by environmentalists, is it? :-)

      It sounds more like property owners trying to get ST to pay them as much as possible to buy out their properties instead of fears of reduced property values and a harder time selling in the future because a light rail line is running right by their homes.

      1. Well, the “buyout” part is being pushed by homeowners, but I’m not sure where the greenbelt idea comes from.

      2. I was wondering the same thing. It’s going to cost upwards of $15 million or more to buy the homes. Then you’ve got the cost of demolition and landscaping. ST is just going to eat the cost and give Bellevue a park extension? If the area around say the Beacon Hill station are any example this just ain’t going to happen. What about the people under the line in Tukwila. ST bought them a few new windows and an air conditioner. I think they’re going to be pretty PO’d if Bellevue homes, not required for ROW are bought lock stock and barrel. To date ST hasn’t even been willing to buy out property they are taking ROW from and would literally be in the shadow of the tracks.

    5. I was going to suggest that this was a problem of extreme stop spacing — that people along the route but more than a mile from a station will perceive a negative quality-of-life impact with no concurrent benefits.

      But… lo and behold… the map told me that these condos are all less than 1/2-mile from the SE 8th station, giving their occupants one of the quickest rides to either Seattle or Microsoft from anywhere in the entire region (including most parts of Seattle proper).

      Now it really does seem stupid to reduce the residential density of that strip to zero!

      1. Well, hmm. It leaves room for a nice large station on the west side of the tracks at SE 8th. The ‘greenbelt’ may be nice further north…. but right around the station I’d imagine it would make the most sense to do a dense overbuild (leaving the tracks covered at ground level in the end).

  2. A rough estimate of ‘rail’ transit construction is that tunneling is about twice as much to install than elevated construction and elevated construction can be up to ten times more to install than at grade installation.

    Base cost of on-street construction (2 tracks + electrical overhead only) is about $10 million/mile to install, the rest of the costs are made up of the extra engineering required.

    In North America, transit engineers are known for ‘over-engineering’ or gold plating a project with needless add ons, driving the the construction cost well past $50 million/mile!

    http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/is-lrt-becoming-the-new-light-metro/

    The bonus with on-street construction, is that it attracts more ridership than subway or transit in tunnels. The transit customer wants his/hers transit on the surface, handy to use, not in deep subways.

    As well, putting light rail in a tunnel or on an elevated RoW, makes it a metro and not light-rail!

    Make the new LRT part of the Greenbelt buffer with lawned RoW’s.

    http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/more-on-lawned-rights-of-ways-lrt-making-transit-corridors-green/

    Let’s try to keep the Light (light in costs) in light rail!

    http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2008/12/23/trams-on-the-cheap/

    http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2008/12/26/trams-on-the-cheap-part-2/

    1. Thanks for the cost info.

      However I don’t really like trains at grade competing with street traffic. I think it has the same effect as a highway in cutting a neighborhood in two. In the case in Bellevue, there are some areas where running at grade won’t be much of an impact but others, I think it could.

      I think for this solution, a cut and cover for that portion might be a good alternative but I also think the land should be redeveloped rather than just green spaced.

      If Sound Transit is realistically going to buy these people out it is probably better to do it now at today’s prices rather than in 2-3 years. It also gives the affected people an opportunity to buy something else at “reasonable” prices before a market recovery.

    2. “Let’s try to keep the Light (light in costs) in light rail!”

      No, let’s put the “metro” in light rail. We already have local service in the form of buses. What we need is frequent express service, so that one can get from Rainier Beach to UW in under an hour (compared to the 8+48), or Roosevelt to Lynnwood (compared to the 48+358+Swift, or 66+346+Swift). It has to be fast so it’s competitive with cars, and that means wide stop spacing and grade separation. MLK was a compromise because ST wasn’t willing/able to pay for elevated or underground.

      Subways can be deep or shallow; notice the shallowness of Westlake Station or the U-bahn in Duesseldorf, which is just one story down.

      Light metro is not cheap, but you can’t have rapid transit or get the majority of people out of cars without it or heavy metro.

    3. I read the first link and it’s totally bogus. The Vancouver Skytrain is a huge success:

      1) High ridership and TOD construction in New Westminster and Surrey, and less so in eastern Vancouver.

      2) High ridership to Metrotown, a suburban shopping mall with lots of TOD around it.

      3) High ridership to the two sports stadiums at Stadium station.

      4) High ridership by visitors arriving at the train/bus station.

      5) Downtown Vancouverites regularly ride Skytrain to Broadway and Victoria stations for restaurants and shows. Meeting people at the stations is a social event, with a small crowd waiting at Broadway station for somebody to arrive. It takes twice as long to get from downtown to Broadway, Main St, or Commercial Drive by bus than by train. It takes as long to get from UBC to Metrotown by bus as it does from downtown to Metrotown by Skytrain (twice the distance).

      6) During TransLink’s strike a few years ago, all the buses were canceled but Skytrain kept running. The bars downtown and on Commercial Drive (Victoria station) struggled because much of their clientele came by transit, and many who still did come left just before the last Skytrain run.

      7) The new Canada Line is at capacity after less than a year. So what if people were forced onto the train because their bus routes were truncated? If it improves travel time, it’s a net improvement, and isn’t that what transit should be doing?

      In a comment, the author writes: “In Europe, no transit system is funded unless a modal shift from car to tram is in evidence.”

      It is extremely difficult to get people out of their cars in the US. If we judged a transit project by how many drivers it converted, we’d never build any transit projects. The purpose of transit is to give people an alternative to cars, and to bypass the car traffic. Even if only existing transit riders use it, it’s still a benefit to the city, and to commerce, and to visitors.

      “SkyTrain has been rejected by transit planners in North America and Europe and is only built in private deals when the Canadian government provides the funding! Why?”

      Because SkyTrain is a proprietary technology with only one vendor, so you’re captive to their future prices, service, and viability. SkyTrain tracks are incompatible with streets so the like must be fully grade separated. Light rail technology is generic and available from several vendors. The tracks are compatible with automobiles, giving the flexibility of on-street or off-street alignment according to local conditions. The same arguments were made against the monorail, that all monorail technologies were proprietary and the system must be grade separated, which both added to the cost.

      (BTW, I did support the monorail precisely because it had to be grade separated. I was afraid we’d get an anemic light rail like Portland’s or the SLUT because of the incessant pressure to “Cut the costs!” I’m glad Link turned out to be light metro. That provides a real chance to make a transit-oriented city like Vancouver in the future.)

      1. Actually, the SkyTrain light-metro system has not been as great as a success as many would have us think. The total cost to date of Vancouver’s three metro lines is over $8 billion, yet there has been no discernible modal shift from car to transit. In fact auto use and gas consumption is increasing in Vancouver.

        80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first take a bus (in other words forced to transfer to the light-metro), which just is not good transit. Also the SkyTrain metro system is fed by $1.00 a day U-Pass UBC and SFU students, which means the metro must be heavily subsidized, in fact SkyTrain’s annual subsidy is over $230 million annually!

        There is no evidence what soever that Vancouver residents “regularly take SkyTrain to restaurants and shows”, in fact ridership is poor at night and the operating authority is reducing frequencies in the late evenings.

        http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/debunking-the-skytrain-myth-rail-for-the-valley-answers-the-ubc-skytrain-lobby/

        When Vancouver’s bus union went on strike some years ago, SkyTrain’s employees belonged to a different union and therefore did not strike.

        The new Canada Line (not compatible with SkyTrain) has increased journey times for many former bus customers who are now forced to transfer from bus to metro and many former one transfer journey, is now a time consuming 2 transfer journey. At night, with greatly reduce bus services, it may take up to 90 minutes to make journey that is only 30 minutes by car!

        Much of the SkyTrain lobby’s claims for Vancouver’s light-metro mirror the same claims by Seattle’s mono rail lobby! Lots of rhetoric but little fact.

        Gerald Fox, Portland’s transit expert shredded the SkyTrain business case for the proposed Evergreen Line and if it wasn’t for backroom deals, political intrigue, and pork barrel politics, SkyTrain would never had been built in Vancouver.

        http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2008/12/26/can-translinks-business-cases-be-trusted/

      2. I certainly don’t over-hype SkyTrain around here… but some of your points simply don’t make sense, either.

        Where is it a 90 minutes transit trip for commuters that would only be 30 minutes by car? Especially at rush hour, when the Canada Line certainly beats cars into the city centre?

        Why is a transfer from a bus not “good transit”? There may be issues with forced transfers, but you can’t look at all transfer as “forced,” either. When I’m up in Richmond with my family, we can either make a 15-20 minutes walk, or we can first hop on the bus route just two blocks away. That bus route takes us directly to the station on a 15-minute frequency.

        And I remember the strike a few (several?) years ago, when SkyTrain kept running precisely because it did NOT require employees to run. Automated/Driverless trains kept going, and fare enforcement was non-existent.

      3. SkyTrain operated during the bus strike because it employees belonged to a different union, simple as that. SkyTrain has more employees than Calgary’s C-Train LRT, yet Calgary’s light rail system carries more people.

        Now, maybe you understand why SkyTrain has been a commercial failure!

      4. Vancouver Skytrain + Canada Line = 353,500 per day
        Calgary C-Train = 266,100 per day

        So you’re factual premise is wrong.

        [Yes, I do know that Calgary is a much smaller city, so C-Train’s ridership numbers are pretty impressive. On the other hand, the tininess of the city means that C-Train has to traverse a much smaller street-running downtown segment than it would in a big city — it only takes 3-5 minutes to cross. But even in a slightly larger city — like Portland — the slow slog across downtown becomes quite a burden on the entire system and its ability to connect riders from disparate areas.]

      5. [I can’t believe I made the “you’re”/”your” typo. That’s truly embarrassing! Sorry, everyone!]

      6. I believe Calgary is seriously looking at grade separating the dowtown segment of C-Train at some point in the future.

      7. Calgary is planning a tunnel in the City Centre but they will also retain the on-street/mall portion of their line. Calgary’s LRT is carrying almost 14,000 pphpd in the peak and the tunnel would be used for ‘through’ services.

    4. Zweisystem and Mike Orr,

      You are both clinging to the dichotomous extremes of your respective arguments. A system built as either of you advocate would be inconvenient for most and ineffective for all. As I have reminded Seattle Transit Blog before, there are 115 years and hundreds of cities worth of effective precedent — I dare you (Zwei) to name me a big city with only cheap-and-un-rapid LRT where it is truly effective, and I dare you (Mike) to name a place with ubiquitous 2-mile stop spacings where the rail system provides much use to its citizens.

      A few point-by-counterpoints:

      “The transit customer wants his/hers transit on the surface, handy to use, not in deep subways.”

      C’mon, Zwei, really? Ask anyone from Philadelphia, Toronto, San Francisco, or Boston — all cities with both the form of light rail you advocate and real subways — which work better, and you will be laughed at for even asking the question. Yet your counterexample isn’t entirely wrong:

      “In North America, transit engineers are known for ‘over-engineering’ or gold plating a project with needless add ons…”

      That’s why newer full metros become so expensive while becoming less convenient to use. Gigantic multi-level stations where getting from the surface to the platform adds 4 minutes to your journey! They’re also so expensive to build that they reinforce the ill-advised urge of those like Mike Orr to build them few and far-between. But this is not an inherent disadvantage to grade-separated systems, just a really bad trend in the design of those systems. The limitations of “inexpensive” forms of streetcar are both inherent and permanent.

      But, Mike…

      “It has to be fast so it’s competitive with cars, and that means wide stop spacing…”

      We’ve had this debate before, so I won’t rehash every detail. The biggest mistake of new rail construction on this continent is the race to compete on end-to-end speed while ignoring the need to create a sense of being able to go anywhere, even (and perhaps especially) on impulse. Wide stop spacing reduces the walk-shed at both ends, which reduces the impulse-trip walk-shed exponentially.

      You love to cite “local service in the form of buses.” But there’s a huge difference between a 2 or 3 mile perpendicular bus trip from your starting point to the rail line (Vancouver, Chicago) — which seems logical to the end user in that the additional transit mode greatly expands the reach of the rail — and a partially parallel “last mile” bus trip that better stop placement would have allowed you to walk! Especially since the latter form (less grid-like) is more likely to involve slow, unreliable, and infrequent buses that completely negate any time savings you may have incurred from the wide-stopped rail. In a place where the buses themselves are as unpleasant (dirty, poorly maintained, full of the odorous and the deranged) as Metro’s are, and forcing that transfer will turn off all of your rail system’s potential riders.

      Zwei, it’s silly to put Link and Skytrain in the same category and call them both “bad” “light metro” examples. Skytrain’s platforms are much easier to access than the DSTT’s or Mt. Baker Station’s. Its stop spacing is (with a couple unfortunate exceptions) in the 3/4-mile to 1-mile range. Bus connections make far more sense, and are far more frequent, than Link’s. And Vancouver’s full grade separation allows it to run at frequencies much higher that Link can (or, thanks to its poor planning and resultant low demand, needs), making it far less problematic to miss a train on the way to the platform than it is in Seattle. To wit, Skytrain ridership dwarfs Link!

      And lastly, Zwei, the problem with the “good, cheap LRT” counterexamples in your link are that they’re not all that good! Far from the miles of new on-street rights-of-way through major urban areas that you imply, “cheap” LRT in both Europe and North America has tended to involve highway running or abandoned freight railways (see Portland and Calgary and Manchester, UK). This model yields less-than-ideal routing outside the city center plus slow-as-molasses street-running within the city center. It’s kind of the worst of both worlds! And while all of those cities have healthy transit usage, the model has not been successful enough to create a paradigm shift — they remain in essence car cities with a transit adjunct.

      But Mike, who insists that rail in the Puget Sound need be regional first at the cost of any urban functionality: Please, I beg of you… try to name me one transit system on earth where regional rail actually works without a good urban rail counterpart. Sydney? Zürich? Oslo? The commuter rails in these places act more like metros within the city limits than Link ever intends to. And two of those cities have extensive trolley networks that work in concert with the commuter rail (Sydney doesn’t; guess which is still the car city!) The Link regional-first model just doesn’t have a precedent (and has pretty low ridership estimates), because it doesn’t work any more than Zwei’s opposite swing of the pendulum!

      1. Isn’t interesting that European transit planners design new ‘rail systems as tram or (LRT), that operate on-street for the convenience of the transit customer!

        It is the transit customer that is paramount; a lesson ignored in North America.

        Public transit in the 21st century is a product and if the product is not consumer friendly, the consumer will not use it. This is the prime lesson that North American transit planners have forgotten.

        Transit should be customer friendly, which by dismal ridership numbers on Seattle’s first light rail/metro system indicates it definitely not.

        Try Karlsrhue Germany and their famed two system or ‘zwei’ system LRT, the template for economical 21st century ‘rail’ transit.

        Seattle’s transit planners would do a lot better than mimicking Vancouver’s light metro and actually plan for what works!

        http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/08/04/tramtrain-line-alicante-tram-train-spain/

      2. [sigh]

        Zwei, you didn’t engage with — and don’t seem to have actually read — a single word I wrote! That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the thoughtfulness of your arguments or the reasonableness of your positions.

        Okay, let’s “try” the “famed” Karlsrhue. Firstly, it’s a tiny city: 291,000, with no metropolitan area to speak of — just a handful of satellite towns, industrial nodes, and economically symbiotic hinterlands. The old railway lines that the tram-trains share reach many of those nodes, but pass through some 100% rural areas to do so — hardly a model for a major metropolitan area. And just like Portland, Calgary, and Manchester (which you ignored above), the urban sections are the slowest possible form of street-running, which may be an acceptable compromise in a tiny hamlet like Karlsrhue but is no model for a major urban center.

        Vancouver Skytrain, which you imply has such limited reach, carries more people per day than live in Karlsrhue. So what, exactly, was your point?

        You need to stop sounding like an obsessively knee-jerk one-solution advocate and start reasoning with nuance, with facts, and with precedent.

        Again, I ask you to name me a big city with only cheap, less-than-rapid LRT and no real metro, where it is truly effective, comprehensive, efficient, and actually used!

      3. Quote: “Again, I ask you to name me a big city with only cheap, less-than-rapid LRT and no real metro, where it is truly effective, comprehensive, efficient, and actually used!”

        Another misleading statement.

        Let’s see:

        Melbourne, Innsbruck, Calgary (carries 270,000 passengers a day or more than what SkyTrain carries!), Nantes, Grenoble, Strasbourg, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hanover, Cologne, Karlshrue, Stuttgart, Florence, Basel, Zürich just to name a few.

        According to the LRTA web site, as of 2006 – there are 146 metro systems; 12 under construction and 7 planned. There are 420 LRT/tram systems; 32 under construction and 24 planned. The numbers have increased.

        http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/skytrain-eight-myths-and-the-facts-oh-what-tangled-webs-we-weave-when-we-first-practice-to-deceive/

      4. I must remind the SkyTrain/metro lobby once again, subways are only built on transit routes that have the ridership (15,000 pphpd+) to justify construction of the metro. Large ridership numbers need longer trains and longer trains need grade separation. It is simple as that.

        Nowhere in Seattle or Vancouver is there a transit route that has ridership over 15,000 pphpd (the new Seattle Link LRT carries 25,000 a day!) that demands a heavy rail metro.

        You can build a metro anywhere to may wish, but you must be prepared to subsidies it – the fewer the passengers, the higher the subsidy – higher subsidies means higher taxes. Simple transit 101.

        http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/why-we-build-with-lrt/

      5. Okay, now I know you’re not actually reading anything I say, because I’ve already addressed your Calgary straw man twice — both the imperfectness of Calgary’s routing and your mistaken numbers. Here are the numbers again:

        Vancouver Skytrain + Canada Line = 353,500 per day
        Calgary C-Train = 266,100 per day

        Melbourne may be the only example that comes close to illustrating your point. It’s tram network is exceedingly well-developed and allows a great deal of flexibility throughout the urban area. But you know what else Melbourne has? A high-frequency RER-like system that operates very much as an urban subway within city limits (in fact with more urban subway-like spacing than RER or BART). It’s not just a nice complement to the trams; its an essential one.

        Zürich, I already addressed — thanks for paying attention! The commuter rail there acts more like a subway than many subways!

        Innsbruck, Calgary, Nantes, Grenoble, Strasbourg, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hanover, Cologne, Karlshrue, Stuttgart, Florence, Basel: tiny, small, small, tiny, small, small, Frankfurt has an extensive U-Bahn!, much of Hanover’s atadtbahn is underground!, ditto for Cologne!, tiny, small, small and historic, and postage stamp!

        I’m presuming that “Railforthevalley” is you, since it has the same one-track-minded, slightly paranoid, poorly reasoned, often-bordering-on-illiterate writing style that you have expressed here. I don’t actually know your part of Vancouver, so for all I know a trolley would actually be much more useful in connecting the residences and commercial areas where you live. I’m not an absolutist, and I never argue the one-size-fits-all sort of solution like you do.

        But I can tell you one thing: if your hypothetical “trolleyforthevalley” didn’t already have Skytrain to connect with, that would be one long, long, long and SLOW trolley trip all the way downtown!!

      6. D.P., thanks for saying everything I wanted to say, but didn’t have time to. I love how Zwei brings up Paris’s tram line 3 as an example of successful street-running light rail, but fails to mention that it connects to no fewer than 7 Metro stations and 2 RER stations. Paris’s trams and buses would not function so well without the Metro and RER backbone that provides the bulk of Paris’s transit. Likewise with Zurich’s wonderful tram system, Zurich’s transit mode share didn’t really take off until the implementation of the S-Bahn in the early 90’s to provide medium- and long-distance transit trips. It’s all about context, not absolutes.

      7. Ditto, Zed. I’m not quite sure why I’ve expended so much time engaging Zwei’s fits of incoherence and misfires of logic.

        That said, I’ve compulsively responded to his latest salvo (6 comments down), as well as continuing my more civil discussion with Mike Orr, who takes the opposite extreme from Zwei (11 comments down), if you’re curious…

      8. The Vancouver, SkyTrain Expo Line and the Calgary C-Train LRT are both about the same length. The Expo Line carries about 200,000 a day or about 60,000 to 70,000 fewer passengers a day than Calgary’s C-Train at a 60% higher cost! Apples on apples comparison.

      9. Zwei, the C-Train covers Calgary’s urban area to roughly the same extent as the Expo Line, Millenium Line, and Canada line combined.

        That’s a real apples-to-apples comparison.

        You insist on arbitrarily dissecting portions of urban space in a way that no urban transit user would ever do. It just reinforces how fallacious your arguments are!

      10. …Oh course, apples-to-apples also involves measuring the percentage share of all trips (and not just high commute) in each city that take place on any form of transit.

        I don’t have those numbers at my fingertips, but I’d be absolutely shocked if Vancouver didn’t waste Calgary by that metric.

      11. “Isn’t interesting that European transit planners design new ‘rail systems as tram or (LRT), that operate on-street for the convenience of the transit customer!”

        It’s because they already *have* the necessary off-street transit in those cities. You don’t see them using trams as *replacements* for metros where the population density is high enough to demand metro. You don’t see them using trams as *replacements* for grade-separated intercity/commuter rail where that is needed. You see them using it in *addition*.

        One of the problems is that people are acting as if local and express service are somehow in conflict. YOU NEED BOTH.

      12. Mike, in Europe, metro’s are only built on routes that have the the ridership (15,000 pphpd or more) to sustain them. LRT/tram has out built metro by over 20 to 1!

      13. I call bullshit on this statement. Major European cities — from Madrid to Naples to Paris — even those with quite comprehensive subway systems already, are constantly expanding and improving them with added, extended, enhanced, real rapid transit. Light rail may be adjunct on the outskirts, but it is never the core of the plan — unless the city in question is small, broke, or misguided.

      14. Quote: “Major European cities — from Madrid to Naples to Paris — even those with quite comprehensive subway systems already, are constantly expanding and improving them with added, extended, enhanced, real rapid transit. Light rail may be adjunct on the outskirts, but it is never the core of the plan — unless the city in question is small, broke, or misguided.”

        This is a breathtakingly false comment. In fact it is light rail that has continually expanded, where metro schemes are few and far between. France has been building new light rail/tram schemes at a dizzying pace and Spain has been no slouch either with building new light rail lines.

        http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/tramway-line-3-in-paris-lets-have-a-look/

        What is mistaken is that in Europe, metro is built to cater to transit routes which carry more than 15,000 to 20,000 pphpd, which indeed limits their scope to the most busiest transit lines in major cities.

        http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/strasbourg-beautiful-city-beautiful-trams/

        Subways are expensive, both to build and maintain and prudent transit planners are trying to reduce the cost of ‘rail’ transit, to make it affordable for even cities with populations of 200,000 or less!

        http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/the-high-cost-of-subway-construction-compared-to-lrt/

        Let us not forget, any transit system is as fast as it is designed to be. Speed comes at a cost, higher commercial speeds means fewer stations per route mile. Fewer stations means less ridership.

        http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/the-charleroi-pre-metro-the-metro-that-was-built-and-they-didnt-come-a-short-history-on-failed-transit-planning/

      15. 1st link:

        Paris? Really? You’re going to point to a three suplemental tramways built on the outskirts of a city with the densest network of subways per mile in the world to suggest that cities would be wise to dispense with the notion of core subway lines?

        2nd link:

        Strasbourg is beautiful, and small. With a small population, contained in a pretty tight area. Like nearly every one of your misguided examples. Next!

        3rd statement:

        Great. I don’t live in a city with less than 200,000 people. Neither do you. The next time I visit a city of less than 200,000, I look forward to riding their appropriately-scaled transit. But when Seattle gets permanently stuck with a Ballard-Fremont-Westlake streetcar, we’ll all see just how inappropriate it is in a big-city context!

        4th link:

        Charleroi choked on its own industrial-era economy before the pre-metro was even done being built. The economy killed the transit system, not the other way around! Do you actually know anything?

      16. I would like to remind everyone, even though the City of Karlshrue has a population of 295,000, it operates in a very heavily populated region of Germany. With a regional population of over 2 million, there are 3 cities with stand alone LRT/tram systems and the Karlshrue LRT/tram/tramtrain system is over 400 km in length, with the longest line over 210 km. (130.5 miles) long.

        The problem in Seattle, as in Vancouver, is that valuable tax money is squandered on a few hugely expensive ‘showcase’ metro lines and not on a network that will actually attract ridership! Truncated, over engineered light rail lines may keep engineers happy, but are not good transit and definitely do little to attract the all important motorist from the car.

        As for Charleroi, the new light-metro (pre-metro in Belgium) was so conceived to rejuvenate the then rural tramway’s, but the transit authorities ran out of money, leaving great portions of the metro/subway system unused! If the tramway’s were just refurbished, they would have been still operating today. And yes, I do know something, because yes I actually talk and correspond with the people who actually build and operate transit systems.

        The whole basis for building transit cheaply is that:

        1) You get a lot more ‘rail’ transit or a bigger bang for your buck.
        2) The taxpayer will be more willing to fund cheaper LRT extensions.

        Also to remind everyone, in the real world LRT/tram and metro are two transit modes built to solve two different transit problems, LRT/tram is not and I repeat, is not a poor-man’s metro. It is not an either I situation. Large conurbations have metros because they have transit routes that demand a metro solution.

        Paris has metros, yes, but they are also creating an over 100 km. light rail/tram network that will eventually penetrate directly to the centre of Paris! The Paris metro area has a population of well over 12 million or a greater population of Washington, Idaho and Oregon combined! Of course they have metro’s because they have the population that provides the ridership, that justifies the investment, but the very same people who plan for metro are also planning for and building light rail.

        Instead of squandering billions of dollars on needless tunnels, the money should be better spent on extending LRT to create the network that will provide a viable alternative to the car.

        It ain’t rocket science folks.

      17. Zwei,

        You do know that reading other websites run by those who share your bias, and corresponding with unnamed transit designers (selected to share your bias) is not the same as doing real research, right? It’s kind of right-wing legislators doing their “due diligence” by watching Fox News.

        Of course there are no absolutes — I am having a simultaneous discussion with Mike Orr in which I’m defending the need for local-spaced urban segments rather the outer-regional-connectivity-first model, and I myself have bemoaned the building of giant stations at the expense of building more stations. But sadly, Zwei, your poor sense of urban scale and your poorer grasp of reality are leading to some deeply problematic conclusions.

        If you’d bothered to read anything about Karlshrue (other than about its much-ballyhooed transit innovations) — or if you’d even looked at a map — you’d know that it is very much a stand-alone entity, with no metropolitan area to speak of outside of the pop. 295,000 urban center, and connected to the other (also relatively small) Baden-Württemberg cities only through miles and miles of hinterland (no Rhine-Ruhr conurbation here!)

        When you’re dealing with such a small urban area, trams and spoke-like tram trains might make sense. But did you know that none of the frequent-running lines stretch more than 6 miles from the city center (which would put them all well within Seattle city limits)? Did you know that some of the hinterland lines whose lengths make you all atwitter only run hourly (which makes them resemble the passenger rail services to British countryside towns more than any kind of rapid transit)?

        But let’s address your greatest fallacy — the mid-sized south-German model (Frankfurt, Köln, Stuttgart, Hanover) that you so gleefully misinterpret to bolster your anti-rapid-transit hypothesis. I shall now disabuse you of your delusions:

        1. “The German model shows we don’t need expensive tunneling or rapid-transit features” — Actually, the four cities cited (all except Frankfurt are much smaller than Seattle or Vancouver) made extensive tunneling the centerpiece of their U-Stadtbahn concepts. Each city has multiple lines underground and multiple segments of tunneling on each line, often scattered throughout the city (not just in city centers). The concept is hardly new — Boston started consolidating its streetcars underground in 1897 — but in your own examples it is done far more extensively and expensively (!) than you seem willing to admit. (Cities that have done without tunneling are invariably smaller than Stuttgart, which is to say microscopic compared to us.)

        2. “The German model built hundreds of miles of brand-new light rail on the cheap” — Actually, extensive use was made of tramways that had existed since the 19th century and had been expanded and refurbished after the war.

        3. “The German model saved money by re-purposing corridors” — You can’t both claim that money was saved by reusing pre-existing corridors and maintaining street-running and claim that hundreds of miles of rail were built from scratch with money saved. In fact, I don’t doubt that the Germans spent plenty of money and energy “rapidizing” the often-segregated street lines (to which you object). But the fact remains that what sets these Stadtbahns apart from the tram networks they replaced/absorbed is the tunneling (to which you object)!

        4. “The German model is all about street-running” See 1 and 3. As the systems have been improved and expanded, lane-sharing has been avoided as much as possible. Frankfurt (again, the only city our size) has hardly any on-street running, largely because their wider, longer, higher-floored, multi-car, high-capacity, almost-indistinguishable-from-heavy-rail trains wouldn’t work so well sharing the street. Sure, there are grade crossings. Chicago has some grade crossings too — your cherished example just isn’t what you believe it to be!

        (On Charleroi, meanwhile, you’re just plain wrong. The “ran out of money” because government funding was cut. Funding was cut because ridership expectations were low. Ridership expectations were low because many of the industries on which Charleroi was build — and on which passenger-movement patterns were premised — died a classic rust-belt death. In many cases, the money had already been spent — right-of-way and stations and rails and escalators and all, before being abandoned — had the economy not crashed so completely, of course they would have made good on this investment by actually opening the thing.)

        I’m all about rail transit covering more ground — not sheer length, as I said to Mike, but providing more useful coverage in places where it stands a chance of replacing cars and buses. But your prized examples that you claim are not “metro-light” usually are metro-light, and just as expensive to build as the systems you bemoan here. The difference is that European governments have been willing to spend the money to get service that is both comprehensive and good! Until the U.S. and Canada figure out how to do that (hint: it involves being okay with spending billions on transit, and not being okay with spending billions on road infrastructure, or oil subsidies, or politically expedient and generally regressive tax breaks), we’re going to have the either/or predicament that I’ve now spent the last 3 days here debating.

      18. dp wrote:
        “3rd statement:

        Great. I don’t live in a city with less than 200,000 people. Neither do you. The next time I visit a city of less than 200,000, I look forward to riding their appropriately-scaled transit”

        Absolutely!

        Living in Ithaca, NY, we’re beginning to get to the point where we need streetcars or trolleybuses. We also need an intercity train station….

        You people are in Seattle. You probably could use trams for, say, distributor service in Tacoma. And oh look! Tacoma Link! You also need a Metro. Thankfully Central Link is being built as a light metro.

      19. “I dare you (Mike) to name a place with ubiquitous 2-mile stop spacings where the rail system provides much use to its citizens.”

        Moscow and St Petersburg. The stops are two miles apart outside the inner-city ring, and that allows you to reach all parts of the metropolis in an hour. When I was in St Pete, a station broke down and I asked a local the way to the next station. We walked to it and it took 45 minutes, so that’s how I know the distance. The Russian metros are heavily used, often with thirty people outside a station waiting at a station for somebody to arrive. It’s considered the fastest way to get around town, like in New York. Real estate values are highest around metro stations because everyone wants to live there. (And most stations have a market around them, some bigger, some smaller, so you can pick up groceries and things on the way home.)

        I do support Link’s stop spacing. 1-2 miles is ideal for Seattle. I’m willing to support infill stations at Graham and 133rd because I don’t think they’ll add much to travel time. But not stations every ten blocks.

        I never said wide stop spacing was the only form of transit needed. It’s just the form that’s most conspicuously absent in US cities, and it’s one of the main reasons people won’t take transit, because there’s no all-day rapid transit to the area they’re going to. The spontaneous trips you mentioned, and the planned trips to events and to visit people. I go to events at Edmonds CC, Kent ShoWare center, Highline CC, Tacoma 6th Ave, and Everett, and although I take transit, it’s impossible to get friends to take transit because it takes an hour or longer each direction. (And for Tacoma and Everett, I have to get a ride back because the buses stop running.)

        Link should make good time to Lynnwood and Bellevue and eventually Everett. But unfortunately there’s no rapid transit planned for Tacoma. The 594 takes 50 minutes to Tacoma Dome, Sounder takes 60, and Link will probably take 60 too. A car can do it in 30 when there’s no traffic. So Tacoma is kind of being left out of the metropolis.

        Improved local and limited-stop service all over the region is also important. Oakland has a bus parallel to BART for the in-between stops. Duesseldorf-Dortmund has a U-bahn and S-bahn on the same route, the U-bahn making more stops.

      20. We might have to agree to disagree on a few points, but I’m glad that you argue reasonably (our friend Zwei, not so much).

        Our sprawling American metropolises will never permit spontaneous transit trips from far-flung suburb to far-flung suburb. We don’t have the small English satellite towns on extant rail lines; we have hundreds of square miles of infill development. You could build a bullet train that takes you from Tacoma to Lynnwood in 10 minutes, stopping only in Seattle, but as long as people need disparate, infrequent, and unpleasant bus service to reach it, you will never see spontaneous trips on it. (BTW, while it would be nice if you could make your transit trips to Edmonds, Everett, and Kent without consulting dozens of schedules, you are still headed out for pre-planned, time-specific events, and are not really providing an example of spontaneous transit usage as seen in cities with spontaneous transit usage!)

        On the other hand, a city can have its transit — especially its rail transit — built to allow for spontaneity. In fact, this is absolutely vital if you want people to make the permanent primary modal switch to transit.

        Re: Oakland: Public transit simply is not the East Bay’s movement mode of choice. That BART functions only as a regional commuter rail outside of SF, and forces reliance on hideous AC Transit, is not coincidental!

        Re: Tacoma: I’m sorry, but Tacoma is 30 miles away — it isn’t in the metropolis!! It’s part of the conurbation, the built continuum, and the Metropolitan Statistical Area for census purposes, but it is, in fact, distinct and distant from the primary regional center (“metropolis,” by definition). My point is that there should be no expectation of a “rapid transit” ride over such a distance, especially if it comes at the expense of any other use for the system.

        I’m in favor of building Link through to Tacoma, but I expect that intermediate trips will be its primary use. Why not make it actually useful for those trips? If you want express service — the commuter rail already exists! It should be all-day, and speed should be improved. But one shouldn’t build a new 30-mile line and design it only to duplicate what Sounder does (long-distance, low-spontaneity trips)!

        Again, no precedent exists for what you suggest — long-distance rapid interurban with no local system to feed into — and for good reason!

        Re: Moscow: Moscow’s inner-urban ring (a circular subway line, for those who don’t know) is about four miles across — imagine that subway line stretching from Interbay, under Queen Anne and Gas Works Park, through Montlake, Madison Valley, Madrona, Mt. Baker, and outer SoDo. Within the ring, 10 lines criss-cross with 1/2-mile stop spacing; you should never been further than 8 or 9 minutes walk from a stop. Most lines continue at 3/4-mile stop spacing for a couple stops beyond the ring, then increase to 1 or 1-and-1/4 mile for the rest of their journey as needed. Only 2 lines ever increase to 2-mile spacings — and the only one that reaches Tacoma distances has a 1/2-mile-spacing route running parallel for half its journey.

        But most importantly, all of the Moscow lines feed into an existing, dense, highly flexible urban network — missing from your conception of high-stop-spacing Link — which was exactly my point!!

      21. Just for the sake of thoroughness…

        Never been to Saint Petersburg (always wanted to). From looking at a map, it seems the coverage isn’t as thorough as Moscow’s. 1-mile spacing or slightly closer seems to be the standard, though there are more than a few places where it leeches over to mile+ spacing (more so than Moscow).

        Still, 2 miles is exceedingly rare (looks like you were probably walking to a stop on line 3). And if its anything like Prague, where I lived for a while, people think nothing of combining a metro and tram trip only because the tram network is frequent, good, and because the two work well together — none of which are the case with Metro (or the First Hill streetcar with its expected low frequencies) — and only because the subway is just comprehensive enough that trams aren’t needed for 100% of trips — again, not so with your advocated long-stop-spacing Link model.

      22. OK, if the average stop spacing is closer to 1 mile (outside the inner city), that makes it closer to Link. As others have pointed out, Europe has successful rail systems in cities smaller than Pugetopolis/Seattle. In smaller cities in Germany the most popular is a downtown tunnel for the existing streetcars, creating a insta-subway (U-Stadtbahn in Germany). But every conurbation (with Pugetopols/PNW certainly is) also has commuter trains to the satellite towns, and these also make a few stops in the city, accidentally providing extra-high-speed transit between a few points in the city.

        I had forgotten about the Russian elektrichkas (commuter trains). The metro runs to the city boundaries and sometimes a little beyond, but when you have a city of 8 million and no limits to annexation, that’s equivalent to Seattle plus urbanized King County, if not parts of Snohomish and Pierce. The elektrichkas go beyond that, to Mount Vernon, Olympia, etc, providing all-day transit for the mass of carless people. They extend a hundred miles, sharing tracks with the mainline trains, and I’ve heard you can take a chain of them all the way from Moscow to St Pete (8-10 hours on the mainline — there is a high-speed train now but there wasn’t when I was there).

        The issue is not the technology but the service. Link is partway between a European metro and a European commuter train. That helps fill the biggest gap in Pugetopolis’ network. Of course, narrow-stop service is needed parallel to it and perpendicular to it.

        True Seattle-Tacoma express service (30 minutes) is not in the cards, just as San Francisco-San Jose (60 minutes) was neglected for decades. BART and Caltrain never did it, although I hear Caltrain Baby Bullets now do it a few times a day.

        A successful metropolis functions as a single unit, with higher-speed transit between all parts and to major destinations, and lower-speed transit within the parts. The cities and suburbs have to work together rather than being enemies. Suburban downtowns need to become urban villages, and connected to the same higher-speed transit network Seattle has. We can’t fit 3.4 million people in the Seattle city limits (plus another million coming up), and many of them just hate the city. Tacoma is part of Pugetopolis. If there will never be Seattle-Tacoma transit better than 60 minutes, that’s a loss, but it’s certainly not the highest priority. Commerce and people’s happiness flourishes when reasonable-speed transit is available to anywhere at any time: for work, shopping, visiting people, and recreation.

        Obviously there are limits. There’s a limit to the taxes people are willing and able to pay. King County will have to designate “transit corridors” as Snohomish County is doing, and focus transit improvements on those areas. That gives people certainty where they should move to if they want better transit over the next decade. An urban transit boundary will be needed and in some sense exists; and Auburn, Maple Valley and Sammamish may find themselves outside it.

        But another thing Europe has is transit to all the recreational spots. Snoqualmie Falls and North Bend need weekend service so that people can get to the falls, mountain trails, and Twin Peaks (North Bend) without driving. It doesn’t have to be fast, and hourly may suffice, but it has to be there, and run till at least 7pm so people don’t get stuck out there.

      23. Shhh… don’t tell Zwei that “in smaller cities in Germany the most popular [model] is a downtown tunnel for the existing streetcars, creating a insta-subway.” He honestly seems to believe that those German networks were created on-the-cheap from nothing in the last 20 years. He truly is an idiot difficult to engage in discussion.

        Mike, I agree with 99% of what you say. Regional and local transit need to complement one another. Suburbs shouldn’t be politically (or implied-ideologically) pitted against cities. Recreational destinations should be as easy to reach without a car as employment centers. And transit corridors should be encouraged with quality transit.

        But your first sentence — “if the average stop spacing [in Moscow and Peterburg] is closer to 1 mile (outside the inner city), that makes it closer to Link” — shows why our urban transit disagreement perpetuates. The Russian centers maintain closer stop spacing through more than a dozen square miles of residential inner city; Link drops to 1-mile spacing the moment it leaves the Central Business District, and will continue to do so with North and East Links.

        So where the closer-spaced urban rail elsewhere covers enough area to be multi-purpose, in Seattle it is limited by a single purpose — trips to and from the office/commercial district; transfers required to go anywhere else. (Again, this will continue to be the case for those whose starting points/destinations are far from the single exalted Capitol Hill/U-District/Roosevelt stops.)

        Using Metro exclusively for the last 4 years has yielded so many assaults on my sanity that I have absolutely zero confidence in Metro ever becoming a reasonable, reliable, pleasant local-service adjunct to the rail that we build. So it is a huge problem for said rail to be built in a way that fails to hit more than a couple of nodes in the entire city — to make it so that even those willing to walk to rail (Bostonians and New Yorkers avoid the bus as much as possible) don’t have the walk+rail option.

        Continue to build Link as regional-at-the-expense-of-city, and you are just begging the 80-90% of city (proper) residents who currently drive to continue driving!

      24. We’ve certainly wound up pretty far from 112th Ave! ;-)

        Seriously, though, the unifying thread that runs through my every compulsive response is the insistence that sub-par solutions are not solutions at all.

        Take it from someone who has lived in cities all his life, and has never owned a car: getting around Seattle is hard! Hard and frequently unpleasant. It makes you miss events and appointments, or not want to attend them in the first place. It shrinks your city.

        When “solutions” are proffered that all personal experience and all worldwide precedent demonstrates will not make getting around any less hard, I can’t simply go along with them.

        Zweisystem wants to return us to the Interurban age. He doesn’t seem to realize that the Interurbans only worked because they only had 19th-century levels of traffic to compete with.

        Mike Orr thinks we need regional interconnectivity (agree!) before we need pedestrian-scale urban interconnectivity (disagree!!). Link has given us the first leg of that, and it’s ridership numbers are not all that impressive. Many have pointed out that bus-to-Link requires such a long time spent on the bus anyway that the total time savings is nil. And yet here we go with two more legs whose total ridership fails to keep up with even 1/3 of the region’s total predicted growth (discounting those already here). That’s indefensible planing!

        What’s the most successful transit development in recent United States history? In 30 years, Washington D.C. went from having essentially no worthwhile public transit to having — depending on how it’s measured — the 2nd or 3rd highest transit ridership and mode-share in the country! This in spite of its sprawling suburbs and its perceived pedestrian safety limitations in the city. Washington’s Metro provided plenty of regional/commuter connectivity, but it didn’t skimp on urban service. Do you think it would have been so successful if they’d just put one subway stop in the entire Northwest and told everyone to take a bus to/from it (see: Capitol Hill)?

        Link planning is bad. The streetcar and the RapidRide plans — each with a laughable frequency for anything called a “core” solution. Neither will make getting around this city any less hard. Why not scream it from the hilltops now, instead of after we’re stuck with it?

      25. We’ve certainly wound up pretty far from 112th Ave! ;-)

        Seriously, though, the unifying thread that runs through my every compulsive response is the insistence that sub-par solutions are not solutions at all.

        Take it from someone who has lived in cities all his life, and has never owned a car: getting around Seattle is hard! Hard and frequently unpleasant. It makes you miss events and appointments, or not want to attend them in the first place. It shrinks your city.

        When “solutions” are proffered that all personal experience and all worldwide precedent demonstrates will not make getting around any less hard, I can’t simply go along with them.

        Zweisystem wants to return us to the Interurban age. He doesn’t seem to realize that the Interurbans only worked because they only had 19th-century levels of traffic to compete with.

        Mike Orr thinks we need regional interconnectivity (agree!) before we need pedestrian-scale urban interconnectivity (disagree!!). Link has given us the first leg of that, and it’s ridership numbers are not impressive! Many on this forum have pointed out that bus-to-Link requires such a long time spent on the bus anyway that the total time savings is nil. And yet here we go with two more legs whose highest ridership forecasts fail to keep up with even 1/3 of the region’s predicted growth (discounting those already here). That’s indefensible planing!

        What’s the most successful transit development in recent United States history? In 30 years, Washington D.C. went from having essentially no worthwhile public transit to having — depending on how it’s measured — the 2nd or 3rd highest transit ridership and mode-share in the country! This in spite of its sprawling suburbs and its perceived pedestrian safety limitations in the city. Washington’s Metro provides plenty of regional/commuter connectivity, but it doesn’t skimp on urban service. Do you think it would have been so successful if they’d just put one subway stop in the entire Northwest and told everyone to take a bus to/from it (see: Link’s Capitol Hill station)?

        Link planning is bad! The streetcar and the RapidRide plans — each with a laughable frequency for anything called a “core” solution — are bad! Neither will make getting around this city any less hard. Why not scream it from the hilltops now, instead of after we’re stuck with it?

      26. “So where the closer-spaced urban rail elsewhere covers enough area to be multi-purpose, in Seattle it is limited by a single purpose — trips to and from the office/commercial district; transfers required to go anywhere else. (Again, this will continue to be the case for those whose starting points/destinations are far from the single exalted Capitol Hill/U-District/Roosevelt stops.)”

        You’re not looking at how many possibilities that open up for somebody who lives at any of the ST2 Link. Currently, you can only get that level of service if you live in the U-district, Capitol Hill, or downtown. I want that level of service, so I live in those places. I suffer bus 30 for work, but I’m grateful I don’t work in Lynnwood or Kirkland or NE 20th Street. My commute is 60 minutes (2 buses). With ST2 Link, and transfering to the 30 at Brooklyn, I could live at any station from Lynnwood to Othello to Bellevue within a 70-minute commute. From any of those stations, you can shop at Northgate, go to Whole Foods or Greenlake at Roosevelt, visit relatives on the Eastside, go to the airport or stadiums, go to the library or gym downtown, attend two farmers’ markets (University and Columbia City), and catch a bus in Lynnwood to events around there, or go to Costco (1 mile walk/bus from SODO, or a future Aurora Village bus from Shoreline station). That covers 95% of my trips, and a large number of people have similar needs.

        Of course, you’ll have to live near a station, but it’s always that way. If you doubled the number of stations, it would remind me of buses 66 and 358 that I want to get away from. And if we had frequent neighborhoods circulators like in Russia (every 5 minutes) or Jersey City (every 10-15 minutes), the distance from stations would not be so much an issue. Circulators that meet the train at two points are especially useful, because both halves of the route would be close to a station.

      27. I’m certainly not opposed to Link reaching the suburbs and connecting the reason. But if you don’t see a problem with 99% of “60 minute” urban trips remaining 60-minute trips once ST2 is complete… then I’m sorry, you are just wrong.

        Most trips in this city involve 4 or 5 miles of longitudinal movement and a mile or two of latitudinal movement. 60-minute trips are obscene. Spending billions without putting a dent in those trips is criminal.

        Mike, it doesn’t sound as if you’ve ever lived in a city where truly spontaneous and intuitive transit travel is a possibility, and thus you have no conception of it. You keeps citing the sort of shopping trip, recreational pursuit, or Eastside family excursion (I’m guessing that one includes getting picked up from Bellevue in a car) around which your day is structured.

        More than half of my trips will continue to see a bus on both ends of rail. As you pointed out, transfers will happen at choke-points like Brooklyn, to routes as infrequent and unreliable as the 30. This won’t make my life any easier, and it might present an equally significant deterrent to the suburban commuters that you have just whisked so quickly in from the outer reaches of the region!

        In the city I wish to see, a new friend could invite me for dinner in some nondescript part of North Seattle, and I could walk out the door and get there with 1 bus + 1 train + a healthy-but-not-excessive walk. No stacks of paper. No 47 calls to OneBusAway. No leaving a 60-90 window when an automobile could take me there in 15 minutes.

        If I have a meeting, an appointment, or just want to run a quick errand (as opposed to a major shopping excursion) somewhere that apparently wasn’t “key” enough for Link, I don’t want to have to plan my whole day around it anymore.

        And I’d like to be able to try a new restaurant that’s within the urban continuum but somehow didn’t meet Link’s definition of an important node without expecting to take 90 minutes to get home (presently a frequent occurrence that Link promises not to fix).

        Basically, I want the multi-billion-dollar project I’m paying for to do something more than slightly reduce rush-hour traffic. I want it to contribute, in some way, to giving me the same flexibility a car-owner has in this own city!

        When you speak of “choosing” to live by a station, I fear that you’ve drunk the Seattle-development kool-aid that envisions dense new development around transit but forgets everything and everyone that already exists. Which tacitly encourages the rest of the city/region to keep driving for the 90% of trips for which driving will still be preferable. This is reflected in their less-than-stellar ridership projections. And this guarantees that the rest of the city will never see the critical mass of ridership necessary to actually improve service elsewhere.

        I wrack my brain trying to think of a city that operates a rail system so hostile to medium-length urban movement as Link plans to be. Minneapolis, maybe? Phoenix? Such transit cities, those! Meanwhile, the world is filled cities where rail+walk is the default way to get around.

        My mind keeps coming back to Chicago, the city that invented urban sprawl. Unlike in Boston or New York, it is very rare that a trip in Chicago can be accomplished using only rail. But with stops at most major boulevards — not just “important” intersections — and frequent, reliable, straight-running buses providing perpendicular transfers, the city is covered thoroughly and reliably. I try to imagine if there were just a single, say, Wicker Park stop, with a clusterdoodle of bus transfers backed up at the Damen/North intersection. It would work so poorly! And that’s what Link gives us!

        It’s laughable to claim that doubling the number of stations (within city limits) on a signal-prioritized and/or grade-separated transit line would make it resemble the 66. At most, you’re talking about 3-5 extra minutes, in exchange for which you might stand a chance at covering the entire urban area in a useful and reliable way, and actually putting a dent in the auto-as-default paradigm.

      28. “Reason” = “region.” I’ve made some exceedingly strange typos on this here thread!

      29. “But if you don’t see a problem with 99% of “60 minute” urban trips remaining 60-minute trips once ST2 is complete… then I’m sorry, you are just wrong.”

        If I don’t move, my commute time will be cut in half to 30 minutes. What I’m saying is that there will be a dozen stations within a 30-60 minute commute circle. And if you worked the opposite direction in Wallingford (like my friend’s barber shop), the same would be true.

        “Mike, it doesn’t sound as if you’ve ever lived in a city where truly spontaneous and intuitive transit travel is a possibility, and thus you have no conception of it.”

        I’ve seen how it works in NYC, London, Russia, Germany, etc. That’s what I want here. (And I also think some of those systems have too closely spaced stops or need express tracks.)

        “You keeps citing the sort of shopping trip, recreational pursuit”

        I’m listing the trips people make besides work.

        “or Eastside family excursion (I’m guessing that one includes getting picked up from Bellevue in a car)”

        Transfer to 230 or 253. I’ve encouraged them to live near a bus stop, and they do.

      30. [Not wanting to repeat my overarching point ad nauseum — I think you mostly get what I’m saying, even if you continue to see it differently — so I’ll follow your lead in responding to pull-quotes.]

        “I’ve seen how it works in NYC, London, Russia, Germany, etc. That’s what I want here.”

        Seeing as a tourist and using as a local really are two different things. As a local, you have a much greater need for wide swaths of coverage. (And what you advocate is far more analogous to Minneapolis, Denver, and the East Bay than anything those cities have!)

        “And I also think some of those systems have too closely spaced stops or need express tracks.”

        Those intermediate stops are useless to you as a tourist, but have a lot of value for those who use it every day. (And remember that the express tracks in New York are serving trains travelling 20-30 miles, 7-10 in Manhattan alone; New York operates on an geographic scale incomparable to Seattle. Plus, they’re not express in their outer reaches like Link is, and there’s always a local rail complement in denser areas, which Seattle lacks.)

        “I’m listing the trips people make besides work.”

        But do you see the distinction I’m drawing? Major shopping trip to Northgate = plan your whole day around it. Family visit to the Eastside = plan your whole day around it. Go to Eastlake for fun = plan your whole day around it. That’s really different from meeting someone for coffee, seeing a doctor, getting dinner out, or seeing a movie — all things which should be doable spontaneously, presently aren’t, and still won’t be thanks to Link’s limited coverage!

        “Transfer to 230 or 253.”

        Perfect example! Please explain to me why 3-4 minutes travel time on Link (the difference between reasonable and excessive stop spacing) matters in the slightest if you’re transferring to a 1/2-hourly-or-less bus? Especially with buses required on both ends, as will be required!

        “If I don’t move, my commute time will be cut in half to 30 minutes.”

        You’re lucky, then. Those outside of Link’s limited coverage area will see no change, even if their new commute route involves the train.

        “What I’m saying is that there will be a dozen stations within a 30-60 minute commute circle.”

        And what I’m saying is that having 20 stations would have put a lot more people — and a lot more trips — in a 34-64 minute commute circle, which would have been infinitely more valuable!!

        [Again, sorry for repeating myself so much. I just don’t see why you’re defending this unwise trade-off. I’ve lived in places where transit works for all trips and all purposes. I’ve also lived in Seattle. The difference couldn’t be more stark!]

      31. In all of those other cities that you’ve lived in, was every single type of transit trip provided by one single rail line?

        You both have valid arguments, but one rail line can’t be all things to all people. Successful transit systems are systems, with multiple layers served by multiple modes. You’re both pulling on this toy so hard that you’re going to rip it in two.

        Cross-city trips don’t work well on the Paris Metro, so they built the RER, and circumfrential trips are impossible, so they’re building light rail. Cross-city trips in DC don’t work well on Metrorail, so they’re building streetcars. The Bay Area has BART and Muni. Chicago has Metra and the El. Berlin has U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and great buses.

        You’re both right, Seattle needs better urban transit, and the metro areas needs better regional connections. Sound Transit, however, is a regional transit agency. SDOT and Metro are responsible for transit within the city. RTA planners saw the need for additional light rail stations within the city. The original plan, the one approved by voters, included 2 stations on Capitol Hill, a station on First Hill, a station at 15th and Pacific and a station at Graham Street. The city should have stepped up and saved these stations from the chopping block to improve urban mobility, but they didn’t. The political sausage-making machine and anti-tax zealotry took over and left them on the cutting room floor.

        And it’s not really fair to compare Seattle, who’s just beginning to build rail transit, to systems in cities that were started up to a 150 years ago. Seattle was still a Podunk frontier town when Boston and New York finished building the bulk of their subway lines. Both of which were built by private industry, by the way. If in 50 years Seattle doesn’t have a more comprehensive system I’ll be dismayed, but until then I’ll enjoy my 6 minute ride from work to the U-District.

      32. DP, I think you’re underestimating the market for neighborhood-express trips. Every day, a larger number of people ride the 71/72/73 express than the 70, 43, and 49. I submit that they would ride a UW-Northgate express if one existed. And also UW-Ballard, Ballard-Northgate, UW-Columbia City, etc. That would be much faster and more pleasant than taking the 48, 75, or 44 even if you had to transfer to another bus. (And we both agree that neighborhood locals should run every 5-15 minutes, not every 30 minutes, to make transfers easier.) In NYC, people take the express trains if they can, and transfer to a local for the very ends of their trip. That’s what Link and similar trains/buses can do here.

        Everywhere I’ve been, the majority of riders are going between major stops (Link stations), to a major stop, or from a major stop. The largest number of boardings are at major transfer points. Transit fans move close to major stops if they can, and try to choose destinations at major stops (whether choosing a job or a grocery store). Let’s work with them rather than against them.

      33. There are two big differences between NYC and here.

        First, both the express and local trains run *super* frequently. On the Lexington Ave line, for most of the day, there are over 20 express trains an hour and 10 locals per hour. (It’s interesting to note that late night, almost all trains switch to local.)

        Second, the local trains are still trains. And not only that, but transfers are often no more complicated than going to the other side of a center platform (or sometimes, just getting off and waiting for a different train).

        Now, NYC is a bit of a special case, in that they have a 4-track subway system. With any reasonable headways, having express and local trains on the same track isn’t very useful, since the expresses can’t pass the locals. So what stop spacing do these cities pick? Express or local?

        Boston, green line: 66 stations, 26 miles. Average stop spacing: .4 mi.
        Boston, red line: 22 stations, 21 miles. And a lot of those stations are in the suburbs, where the stop spacing is much longer.

        DC, total: Excluding the suburban stations, there are 43 stations in 37 miles.

        Montreal, total: 68 stations in 43 miles.

        Toronto, total: About 74 stations in about 44 miles.

        Seattle, DSTT: 4 stations in 1.3 miles.

        Now, let’s compare:

        Seattle, Link from ID to Airport: 10 stations in 14.2 miles.

        Seattle, University Link: 2 stations in 3.15 miles.

        Seattle, North Link: 3 stations in 4.3 miles.

        Seattle, Link from Northgate to Airport (when completed): 18 stations in 23 miles.

        Hmm… :)

        Finally, note that the DC Metro, which has the second-highest ridership in North America, opened in 1976 — hardly 150 years ago.

      34. As far as your comment about the 70-series buses: I’m not sure that’s a meaningful comparison.

        Just by the schedule, the 70 takes almost half an hour to get from 45th to downtown; the 73X takes 15 minutes. In practice, both of them might take longer depending on traffic. In contrast, the expected time from Brooklyn to Westlake is 8 minutes.

        If you assume that each infill station along U-Link would add 90 seconds, then three stations (one at the bottom of the hill and two between Cap Hill and UW stations) would increase the time by under 5 minutes — still shorter than the 73X today — in exchange for saving a lot of people a lot of bus trips.

        In other words, the “local” train would still be faster than the “express” bus.

      35. “Finally, note that the DC Metro, which has the second-highest ridership in North America, opened in 1976 — hardly 150 years ago.”

        That’s why I said up to 150 years ago. Only 5 miles opened in 1976, the full extent of the original system wasn’t completed until 2001, 32 years after construction started. It also helps that the Feds paid for about 90% of the construction costs of the entire system, DC didn’t have to beg for money on a line-by-line basis like we do. We could have had a system similar to DC’s, but the city turned the money down and it went to Atlanta to pay for MARTA instead.

      36. Wow, I’m amazed this thread is still attracting attention!

        Thank you Aleks… I felt like I’d begun arguing in circles, recycling different permutations of the same points. Thanks for coming at it from a new and perhaps more evocative angle, unencumbered by my flustered fingers!

        Thanks as well for your average-stop-spacing comparison figures. Most potent is the way it debunks the claim that newer systems (D.C., Toronto) have Link-like spacing as a reality of latter-day development patterns, politics, or construction costs.

        It’s also worth noting that Boston’s Red Line, despite two late-20th-century extensions, never even visits the suburbs in the northwest — no one considers Cambridge and Somerville suburbs — and despite a gigantic Dorchester-to-Quincy gap that skews the spacing figure upwards, most would hesitate to call Quincy or downtown Braintree suburbs either.

        You also implicitly debunked the idea that “express-to-local” transfers, as seen elsewhere and advanced by Mike and others, would be facilitated by anything being operated, built, or planned in Seattle.

        First Hill Streetcar? Look forward to frequencies that will render it irrelevant! NotSoRapidRide? Today I noticed that 3rd & West Mercer in Lower Queen Anne will be a “stop” rather than a “station;” that’s all we need to know about how fast the thing will run! And Metro’s local buses will never improve if run by an agency that refuses to take simple and obvious steps such as getting rid of paper transfers (despite the bonus of reducing freeloaders and putting drivers in a less precarious enforcement position)!

        That said, Zed is 100% correct that one rail line can’t serve every purpose. Much of what he wrote was equally reasonable, especially that the city should have “stepped up” and taken bold action to save the urban-transit facet of Link, rather than resorting to its habitual inadequate baby-steps approach to urban progress. I wish it would learn from its mistakes.

        The biggest danger here is paradigmatic momentum — that because we have “light commuter rail” (as I’ve started to refer to Link) in ST1 and ST2, “light commuter rail” will be the presumed model replicated in ST3 and ST4. All the talk of a potentially disastrous Ballard streetcar suggests that we’re already at that point! In-city trips will be deemed unworthy of rapid transit; rapid transit will remain intercity only; places like Ballard will be screwed forever.

        Unlike D.C., with its commuter/urban-subway combo, we’ll still lack urban rail 30 years on!!

        (FWIW, Zed, my only major disagreement with your posts regard the D.C. streetcar project. It’s disingenuous to claim that the D.C. Metro’s failure to provide transit across the city proper is responsible for the streetcar proposals. The streetcar is for cross-town transit in the Seattle-#8-bus sense; Metro is great for crossing the city in the Columbia-City-to-Ballard-and-any-points-between sense.)

  3. “…this group is the bulk of the very 46 residences that would be displaced by the line, a collection of condo-owners that would rather move than have the trench in their neighborhood.” This is a pretty important distinction. What is your evidence/source of this information?

    1. I have a copy of the letter, where the undersigned includes not only the Bellevue Club, Red Lion, Hilton, etc., but also two condo ownership groups that represent those homes. I’m declining to post it yet due to privacy concerns.

      1. No need to post it, but how many of the 46 residences are represented by those two condo ownership groups?

      2. From what I understand, two of the residences are single-family homes from Surrey Downs, so noise will be made about that. But, I have 80% and 90%, respectively, for the groups. It’s only because the numbers are that high that I’m making a big deal about this.

    2. It’s also literally the talk among everyone working on 112th. I’ve actually been directly involved with meeting some of the people working on this and so these aren’t just rumors flying around.

  4. OK, Help me here — where did the West running 112th, connecting to 2nd Street Tunnel come from? Whose drawing is that? That wasn’t in anyone’s proposal. To have three surface cross-overs on 112th is insane.

    Do you want to provide transportation to the people, or just punish drivers? Make up your mind.

    And when did being a city council candidate — that lost — make someone an authority on Light Rail? Why don’t you just donate to her campaign?

    1. Try reading before jumping to conclusions, it’s explained in the post.

      “Unlike the Option 4 trench, the Option 2 west-side running alignment would only be compatible with a Main Street tunnel portal, as opposed to the cheaper and shorter 2nd Street tunnel. “

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