[UPDATE 2: ST’s links now fixed, providing access to the very good ST2 projects page.]
[UPDATE: The link is still busted, but here’s the project list. On page A-13 there’s the S. King projects that will be traded off vs. Highline Community College.]
The biggest casualty from Sound Transit’s collapsing revenue projection was South King County, as sales tax receipts fell much more quickly there than elsewhere, crushing reserves that were smaller than some other subareas. Other corridors are suffering a little delay, but in the South there is very real talk about not building light rail as far as planned. The details would be hashed out by a $2.5m study, the first phase of which is now complete.
As Deputy CEO Celia Kupersmith reports in the most recent CEO corner:
The first phase of that study found that:
- Not all South Corridor projects are affordable by 2023.
- If Link extends from Sea-Tac Airport only to South 200th Street, (instead of South 272nd) all the other non-light rail projects are affordable in the 2023 timeframe.
- Extending Link from the Airport to Highline Community College is affordable by 2023 if a few other projects are postponed beyond 2023.
- The southernmost extension of Link all the way to South 272nd Street remains unaffordable by 2023.
- The entire ST2 re-aligned program in Pierce County remains affordable by 2023.
The Board took no action on Thursday. Decisions on final design and construction are not needed for a year or more…
Recall that the three new South Link stops were to be S. 200th St., Highline Community College, and S. 272nd St. The first is basically a done deal, the second is in question, and the third now appears out of reach.
I’d link to some maps and the “other projects” in South King, but since the redesign the ST2 projects webpage is badly broken. But mainly, it’s improvements to Sounder stations, like extended platforms and a complete Tukwila station.
87 Replies to “Tradeoffs in South King”
South King situation probably not helped by things like this:
The lesson I draw is that little outside help is available for South King projects because there is no mass lobby for said projects. The legislature gets lots of calls from Seattle to fund Seattle transit projects.
But if we lobbied our legislators to come up with some help for South Link, it might fare better.
I have my doubts about the utility of modernizing Tukwila Sounder Station. It needs relocation to somewhere on the grid more than it needs renovation.
That said, I’d say Kent-Des-Moines Station ought to be a higher priority, as getting it built will create the opportunity to significantly reduce operating costs on many of the South King and Pierce express routes, should ST decide to not keep all the one-seat rides. It would also enable Metro to create an off-peak express connector route from Auburn and Kent, via Kent-Des-Moines Rd.
If Neither ST nor Metro are interested in using Link as a transit spine for bus route connections (and the set-up at UW Station suggests they are not), then the value of Kent-Des-Moines Station is significantly reduced.
ST is very, very much in favor of Metro encouraging transfers. It’s mostly Metro dragging their feet on that — the RV being the best example.
The situation at UW station was a tradeoff between the large number of people going to UW and the much smaller number of people expecting to transfer to Link. Lots of parties were involved in that decision — it wasn’t just ST’s — and the decision was made to make the minority of Link transfers walk further so that the majority of people going to UW and UWMC got there quicker.
But that decision only applied to eastside commuters. As far as I know, Metro isn’t going to reroute the 7x’s to provide a one-seat ride between downtown and UWMC, or between northeast Seattle and UWMC.
And you know who comes out the losers from having more one-seat rides from the eastside downtown and less-frequent service between the eastside and campus. If I were an eastside commuter to UWMC, I’d choose the much greater frequency over the couple extra minutes of time on the bus.
Metro has not yet contemplated in detail what the bus network will look like after University Link. That process is a couple of years in the future. Their planners seem to be mostly occupied with RapidRide at the moment.
Response 2 to Bruce: But is ST in favor of ST encouraging transfers?
Sound Transit is very much in favor of anything that gets bums on seats.
As I’ve said before, almost every complaint about transit service in Seattle can be traced back to either a lack of money or an excess of politics at the King County level. Their planners seem very well aware of the possibilities with Link, but their planners don’t get to do what they want most of the time.
Is King County really the entity standing in the way of combining the 577 and 594 off-peak into a frequent BRT line? or possibly even folding the 577/578/594 all together into frequent service to 200th St Station off-peak?
Is King County really the entity that decided to keep running the 545 after UW Station opens instead of folding service into the 540 (and potentially saving a good chunk of money on operating costs)?
Ah, I didn’t understand the gist of your last question.
I had no idea about those specific decisions and I have no insight into them. That said, there has to be a significant time advantage to the transfer before you can force commuters out of their one seat rides. Given that the 545 is scheduled for less than 15 minutes between the current Montlake Freeway Station and 4th & University, I would say that would not be possible, even if you built the bus bays you want at UW station. I suspect the same is true for your other example
You as a bus nerd may want more frequency and more span of service, even if it means slightly slower trips and transferring, but the vast majority of bus riders just want to get to work as fast and conveniently as possible. The overwhelming majority of Eastide, Federal Way and Tacoma residents are going to be commuters with cars, and that’s not about to change. Those people mostly don’t care about frequent service into the evening and on the weekends.
How can this community help in encouraging Metro and the County Council to configure bus routes to maximize Link’s usage? Obviously letters and phone calls but are there more organized actions that can be taken?
If anything, I’d think the 545 service hours would be folded into the 542, not the 540. After the bridge the 542 and 545 have nearly identical routing, the only exceptions being the afternoon diversion of the 545 to Overlake TC and the segment from Redmond Transit Center to Bear Creek P&R. The 540 goes to Kirkland.
Doh! Sorry I mixed up the 540 and 542.
In response to Charles, riders on the various SR 520 routes should start asking for interlining to UW Station, the sooner the better.
The more urgent decision is the alignment of the lanes across the Montlake Cut. WSDOT is mostly following Metro’s and ST’s advice on this, gearing the HOV lanes toward Pacific instead of the outer lanes toward UW Station. Fortunately, the city bought us a little time by delaying the decision to build a second bascule bridge.
The final routing decision won’t be taken up by Metro or ST until a couple years before UW Station opens. Still, if the HOV lanes are already pointed toward Pacific, convincing Metro or ST to have any buses serve UW Station will be a really tough sell.
Route 545 is toast once LINK makes it to Redmond anyways.
That won’t happen until sometime in the late 2020’s, though.
Tcmetro: not necessarily. Travel time on the 545 will be faster than Link (36 minutes vs 45-ish minutes), so it’s the same situation as Federal Way and Tacoma. It would depend on ST making a policy change such as dropping non-peak express buses when Link is 10-20 slower between those points. There’s a lot of time between now and then so it’s certainly possible that ST (and Metro) might make this change.
The Tukwila Sounder station *should have been where one would connect to the Link to SeaTac Airport. We screwed that one up badly.
Are you suggesting that the permanent Sounder Station be south of Boeing Field, or maybe Allentown (and thereby also serving South Base)?
Where else could the Tukwila station go, without building a detour track for it?
Just not building something isn’t a screwup. It’s something you can do later. Just like Graham Street.
I’m gonna again voice my support for terminating plans to extend Link to Tacoma, and instead put money into South Sounder and an east-west Link line from Renton to Burien via Tukwila Sounder Station, Southcenter Mall, and TIBS. We should be promoting infill development, not encouraging the continued sprawl down I-5.
The money we thought we’d be able to collect from South Sounder just doesn’t exist. We estimated there would be more wealth in the region than there turned out to be, through no fault of the residents. South King residents aren’t going to get everything they voted for. South King residents can take that opportunity to invest their money smarter, and get a better transportation system sooner.
Er, “collect from South King.”
I wonder how much operating costs are covered by the South Sounder. The trains departing King are continually full, or near to it. Plus, the return trips north now have more passengers than ever.
I’m not fully convinced that your proposal to stop sprawl by not extending Clunk(Link) all the way to Tacoma is a good one. The traffic is so bad on I-5 currently, so why the beef with extending a mass-transit system except for possibly the cost, that I can understand.
Because we can get better bang for our buck in the north end of the South King subarea. Since we’re not going to be building the system on the schedule we planned, but we’re still forecasting large regional growth, we need to realign our short- and mid-term priorities.
We all know that South Link to Tacoma can’t be time-competitive with ST Express. And of course that shouldn’t be our goal. But Sounder could be made time- or cost-competitive, because it largely serves the same use patterns.
Once we’ve built or committed to building frequent
light rail(really… we’re building elevated subway) in the north end of South King, then we should consider whether it’s feasible to recommit to extending Link to Tacoma. But until round-the-clock demand exists, or it makes more sense to create it in Federal Way than in Renton, we’re best off serving that area with express buses.
How can Sounder be made time- or cost-competitive with express buses?
Through capital improvements and only competing when the time is right. There’s no point for Sounder trying to compete with ST Express at 1:30 in the afternoon.
But with Link, the entire line is in service all day. It’s much cheaper to run an empty bus than an empty Link train.
By capital improvements, are you saying there is a plan to shave 15 minutes off Sounder’s travel time?
Aside from the Point Defiance project? No, I don’t know of or have any concrete plans. But we don’t have a concrete plan for sending light rail to Tacoma either. My point is that instead of pursuing that aim any further, we should concentrate on improving Sounder so that it’s time- or cost-competitive with ST Express for a useful portion of the day. The capital and operational costs of doing so will be much less than extending Link to Federal Way or Tacoma, we will start reaping the rewards sooner (as regional growth continues to stress the capacity of I-5), and we can focus true densification on the north end of South King County for the time being, where it’s closer to existing and planned densification and therefore more likely to reap the proximity benefits.
Making Sounder service all-day will be quite expensive. For one thing ST will have to buy a pair of tracks between Seattle and Tacoma.
Heavy rail trains are also much more expensive to operate, there are more crew on a sounder train than on a Link train, maintenance is more expensive, fuel costs are higher, and labor is under an entirely different cost structure, there are also the FRA rules to contend with. There is a reason Sounder has one of the highest costs per boarding of any ST service even with the trains being full.
Chris, my exact point is that Sounder shouldn’t be all day. We should make capital improvements to the line to make it cost- or time-competitive (or best, both) during peak hours.
The problem with running Link to Tacoma is that you really do need to run the line all day, and then, in the absence of densification, you face the same problem you do if you ran Sounder all day.
Link doesn’t make sense without density. Where does density make more sense: Federal Way or Renton? Keeping in mind that density benefits from proximity to more density, encouraging infill development in Renton is a much better bang-for-buck proposal than encouraging it in Federal Way.
While Sounder to Tacoma is not particularly time competitive with Express Buses, for the number of people it transports during commute times, it is efficient. Sounder is however very competitive to Kent and Auburn. I would favor all day service to those stations via Sounder and I think ST should see about getting that access. I also still think a Boeing Access Road intermodal station would be a good thing despite the technical challenges to building it.
I think it’s possible to oppose extending South Link without also opposing Link in Tacoma. I think Link in Tacoma should be extended throughout the city, perhaps with an extension to Lakewood eventually. I just don’t see the value in connecting to Link in King County over other priorities (like beefing up Sounder.) Really, Sounder should connect the urban centers and Link should feed suburbs into those centers. Eventually I can see some overlap of Seattle and Tacoma light rail in South King (probably at Seatac) but I don’t really see the value of a one-seat ride from Tacoma to Seattle. That’s what Sounder is for.
Similarly, Link in Everett should feed from Lynnwood to downtown Everett and I don’t really see the value in a one-seat ride from Everett to Seattle. That’s what Sounder is for. After getting North Link to Everett it would make sense to start Link from downtown Everett rather than just extending North Link. Is it even feasible to run a hypothetical train all the way from Everett to Seattle, or even the whole way from Everett to Tacoma?
Only if Sounder can run in the midday.
Everett isn’t really urban enough to support being its own hub for a transit system.
Since we’re already building to South 200th, if we’re not going to cancel that I support building to Highline CC.
I hope you don’t mean expanding Tacoma Link, which is more of a streetcar, but rather building an actual urban rail system for Tacoma.
Do remember that Link is going to Lynnwood TC in ST2. For ST3 it makes sense to continue all the way to Everett as it is relatively close at that point. Besides Link is time competitive during peak with point-to-point express busses between Snohomish County and Downtown Seattle at least as far as Ash Way P&R. As a result ridership will be fairly strong at least that far. It doesn’t hurt that most of the area between Everett and Seattle is somewhat more built-up than between Sea Tac and Tacoma.
North Sounder is crippled by being built along the waterfront and by having only a couple of peak trains a day. Even if demand was there getting more trains on North Sounder would be difficult as it is a very busy freight corridor with no room to add additional tracks.
Forcing transit riders in Snohomish County on to Sounder is a good way to turn them into SOV drivers.
In addition to what Chris said, North Link also doesn’t have it’s version of a slow street running segment like Rainier Valley. Going through the tunnel means a trip from Seattle to Everett will take maybe 50 minutes on Light Rail, versus a trip from Seattle to Tacoma which will be more like 65 or 70 minutes.
Burien to Renton light rail or all-day Sounder service is simply money the South sub-area simply doesn’t have. As such things go extending Link to Redondo/Star Lake from Sea-Tac is fairly cheap, about $600-$700 million per station. You aren’t going to buy a lot of E/W rail for that nor are you going to be able to fund many of the improvements that would be required to add more trains per day to South Sounder.
There is also the political aspect to consider, Pierce County isn’t going to be happy if they are the sub-area without Link on the long-range plan.
Still it is worth looking at the trade-off of either Sounder improvements or building E/W light rail between Burien and Renton vs. building Link between S. 200th and Tacoma.
One error I see many make is to only consider travel times between endpoints rather than looking at Link as a network connecting all nodes. Sure South Link may not make sense vs. an express bus from Star Lake to Downtown Seattle, but perhaps it does for the student traveling between Star Lake and the UW or Rainier Valley and Highline CC.
They don’t have the money for Redondo/Star Lake either. That’s what this post is about.
I would like to see a source for this, bearing in mind that Renton is in the East King Subarea. South King would only be responsible for the portion of the line from Burien to Tukwila.
Pierce County doesn’t pay into improvements in South King County. If they want Link, they’ll have to pay for it. And would Pierce County prefer to focus on connecting itself with frequent regional service towards Seattle, or on express service to Seattle and frequent service within Pierce County, centered around Tacoma?
The biggest error transit planners in this area make is thinking of the region in terms of nodes. We need to think in terms of corridors. Part of the aim of a frequent high-capacity transit network is to encourage responsible land use, which necessarily shifts away from a node-based network.
We can’t trip over ourselves trying to offer a fast one-seat ride to everyone in the Puget Sound region.
@kyle, I agree that one seat rides shouldn’t be a priority but we do have real employment centers in Everett, Bellevue, Renton and Kent Valley as well as Pierce County. People need to be able to go between these places and if you have to take a milk run on the train, they are going to stay in their cars. Each of the transit agencies need to plan to feed Link and to provide frequent and convenient service between Link stations. Average speeds on link need to be increased and I don’t want to see the “experiment” in at grade travel done in Rainier Valley repeated elsewhere. If the train is going to be at grade, it needs to be completely in its own Right of Way with no risk of interference with motor vehicles.
The sprawl is already all there along the I-5 corridor, not just between Seattle and Tacoma but really all the way down to Dupont. Link would encourage lots of Vancouver-suburb-like densification (such as Federal Way’s plan for eventual skyscrapers, and other long-term plans for mixed use development along Highway 99), not sprawl. Plus it would provide a valuable alternative to driving on traffic-clogged I-5, which will stay very congested even after Link opens.
I think it actually would be quite time competitive with ST Express, as for most of the time the 590 series is scheduled at around 50 minutes, and up to 58 or so during peak times, between Tacoma Dome and 4th & Union. Link could probably do the trip in a little less than an hour, given that from Westlake to SeaTac it’s 36 minutes but from SeaTac to the Tacoma Dome the route would be entirely grade separated with way, way less stops. So at peak times it would be about the same, and off-peak, when there’s not nearly as much demand, it would be just a few minutes more.
But more than that, it offers so much better connectivity than buses can while still being relatively fast. Riders from all over Seattle, South King County, and Tacoma could get between all of those areas at all times of day at high frequencies in about the same or less time than they can on transit today.
The Federal Way skyscraper idea fell through. Not to say there won’t be others, but why shoot for an island of densification dozens of miles away, when we still have plenty of upzoning to do in our own backyard?
The 590 makes zero stops between Tacoma and Seattle. Are you proposing we construct a direct, zero-stop Link route, bypassing Beacon Hill and the Rainier Valley? The point of high-capacity transit isn’t to compete with express service, it’s to strike a balance that carries large numbers of people in the same direction at a reasonable pace.
Other modes like express buses and commuter rail are much better at the point-to-point express job. Of those two, express buses scale down much more effectively, while commuter rail scales up more effectively.
Then you’re paying to run empty trains from Seattle to Federal Way (assuming density does arise) or Tacoma. This is expensive, and increases headways for the entire rest of the line.
These two ideals are at odds with each other. You can’t have fast point-to-point service but also serve riders from all over, because that requires stops. Yes, grade separation is nice, but realistically speaking it is not faster than an express bus in the HOV lanes—our trains top out at 55mph.
LRT is not the mode to build to Tacoma. Not yet, anyway. Let’s work on getting the Seattle/Bellevue area and its surrounding communities dense enough to absorb our predicted population growth. For the foreseeable future, we can serve Federal Way and Pierce County residents better with other modes.
I’m saying that it could be under an hour from Tacoma to Seattle with stops as ST has planned, in Fife, South Federal Way, Federal Way TC, Redondo/Star Lake, Highline CC, and S. 200th. So, connectivity and speed. And while a lot of densification can happen in Seattle, in order to really turn our country around from auto dependence, we need densification throughout our metropolitan areas. Skyscrapers in Federal Way would replace parking lots and strip malls with sustainable development, and I’m guessing a lot of the people who would live there would also work in South King County anyways.
I used to support a Burien-Southcenter-Renton Link line in the future, possibly as a part of a grand circle line (downtown-West Seattle-Renton-Bellevue-Bothell-Northgate-ballard-downtown). But I’ve changed my mind, for the following reasons:
1. Despite linking several destinations, this corridor doesn’t follow major travel desire lines. The best current approximation of this line is the West Seattle-Renton leg of the ST 560 bus, which ST cut back to hourly evening/weekends due to low demand.
2. Rapid Ride F is slated to replace the 140 local bus in this corridor, which may provide sufficient capacity, combined with the 560, for the 30-year horizon.
3. More effective at serving actual transit demand in South County would be another north-south line serving Renton, and possibly Kent. This line could branch off Central Link south of RBS, and bee-line down the wide MLK straight into downtown Renton. Extensions could connect to the IKEA district, Valley Medical Center or Kent.
But South Link should be built to at least Redondo first.
What would you say to throwing in a RapidRide Line G, as part of a promised Service Improvement Plan, connecting RBS to Renton to Bailo-land? And simultaneously dumping the 101, at least off-peak?
I’d hate to see the ballot item have no promise of service improvements, as that has not been a winning strategy elsewhere.
BTW, what part of the county do you live in?
“I’m gonna again voice my support for terminating plans to extend Link to Tacoma, and instead put money into South Sounder and an east-west Link line from Renton to Burien via Tukwila Sounder Station, Southcenter Mall, and TIBS. We should be promoting infill development, not encouraging the continued sprawl down I-5.”
Instead of extending Link south to Tacoma, would it perhaps make more sense to extend Tacoma Link north toward Federal Way, and maybe one day, Sea-Tac? I don’t know the area well enough to comment on it, I’m just throwing the idea out there.
Of the 3.9 Bil (and counting) shortfall of revenue through 2023, it’s true that S.King will make up .85 Bil of that.
But look at N. King (.6 Bil) or E.King (1.09 Bil)
There’s lots of teeth knashing to be had for all the sub areas, not just S. King.
ST Web page “badly broken”? That’s a severe understatement!
I clicked on the “15-year plan map” in order to refresh myself on the proposed stations’ proximity to I-5.
Eric, the problem in so king is revenue have fallen at greater pace than other areas thus the gap is larger. also so king has higher proportional operating costs than other sub districts as they pay for their st buses and a portion of sounder and link operations.
Since we’ve been talking about poor station area planning, anyone care to tackle Midway in Kent and Des Moines? ?
Is it slow to post today or just not working for me?
Fine, I’ll just give the link here to the Envisioning Midway plan: http://www.envisionmidway.com/default.aspx
Thanks for the link, Stephen.
For developers, it is a chicken-and-egg problem. More development fully utilizing the property around the future station would help justify building the station. However, until the decision is made to build the station, the developers will likely prefer to be chicken.
Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame developers not wanting to go there. The area is awful, the only amenity is the college. The highwayS are huge barriers, buildings are run down, there’s lots of marshland, and the old dumps preclude development on them. However, I would have expected them to push for higher density uses and the biggest bang for their buck. They didn’t. It was all very odd. But then, the city councils never wanted any of this.
So what does anyone think of terminating Link just south of Hwy 516? Both 99 and I-5 are pretty close to each other, Highline CC is across the street, and it could serve as the main interceptor station for everything from the south (Tacoma, FW, Auburn). HOV flyover ramps could make the forced transfer to Link palatable, and get a lot of buses off the road into Seattle.
There’s a huge ass old land fill and some other vacant properties in that area. I’m not sure if they still make a bunch of methane there anymore.
Except that would be a LONG trip. A 25 minute bus trip, 10 minute transfer, and then a 40 minute Link trip. Not much better than existing buses from the southern nether regions to to Sea. Why not force people onto the Sounder in Tacoma at that point?
Terminating Link at that point would be okay for the short term, but not as good as a one-seat Link ride all the way from downtown Tacoma to downtown Seattle 20 hours a day, 365 days a week, with 10-minute headway or better most of that time.
I don’t think the question is whether to build the various South Link stations, but when.
And if the travel time of Link is not competitive with express buses, I betcha the SODO bypass will get built.
So I’m not really sure why we should be extending link in South King much at all. People in that exact corridor already have relatively fast, frequent service with RapidRide. Sure it’s not ideal but it’s way better than most bus service. And we won’t be truncating any of the I-5 express bus routes to the Link, so it’s not going to get commuters from Tacoma to Seattle. I would prefer investing in light rail in other areas.
As for improving the Tukwila station, is it just be or is it in a really terrible location? I’ve never seen it in person, but on google maps it looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere. Plus, to get rapid ride F there the bus has to make an additional left and right turn. I think instead of investing in the current location they should move it somewhere where there is actually development. Unless of course there are plans for high-density TOD within a half-mile radius of the station, in which case I take back what I said.
I obviously agree with most of your assessment. Take a trip on Sounder and see the beautiful wilderness preserve that surrounds Tukwila Sounder Station.
But I disagree with the RapidRide math. RapidRide Line A is roughly 45 minutes end-to-end. Link should take less than half that time to cover the same distance, with many more riders not having a transfer penalty for each station that opens.
When Link reaches Tacoma, sure it will be slower than an express bus. But with better frequency, the average wait+travel time will go down, and Link will serve many destinations in between.
Plus, Link will encourage development along Highway 99 rather than in the Green River flood zone. It just boggle my mind how much we are building in that flood plain that should have been kept as farmland.
RapidRide =/= BRT =/= LRT.
I think the question is not whether RapidRide is BRT or LRT, but what’s more cost-effective in terms of ridership and land-use changes.
And by that I mean, the choice between extending Link south vs improving Sounder and putting the rest of the money in the bank for Burien-Renton.
But what kind of bang will we get for the buck on Sounder improvements? More large surface parking lots? More comfort improvements?
If ST has the opportunity to move Tukwila Sounder Station to a better location, I’d say jump on it! But short of that, the only Sounder improvement on the list that I like is more service.
Seatac was did station planning years ago, but I think they scrapped the town centre plan a year ago. Disappointing. Station planning here: http://www.ci.seatac.wa.us/index.aspx?page=157 The details of the city centre plan are here: http://www.ci.seatac.wa.us/index.aspx?page=158
The projects website still works. You just have to replace “www” with “projects”. Doesn’t always work though.
I’m still confused about the costs of light rail in the PNW.
Alright, I let it go that we “had to” build tunnels and underground stations through Rainier Valley (strange that a “valley” needs underground stations…but, spilled milk, ok).
But this section of track along 99 is completely flat right? And we’re utilizing what seems like existing bus transit centers, aren’t we?
So why can’t this section be brought in for San Diego prices or average prices of $35 million a mile? It should be done already!
One again demonstrating your unique understanding of Link.
I don’t think there’s a need to be so dismissive. The link costs per mile are mystifying to me too and I suspect to many others. Why bother supporting something that takes a decade to build and is ridiculously expensive per mile? Especially when it’s not clear why that’s the case?
The main reason that many of us often sound dismissive of John Bailo’s comments is that they’re often based on incorrect facts. In this case, for example, he asserts by implication that there are multiple tunnels and underground stations in Rainier Valley, when in fact there are none. He’s also asserted that East Hill in Kent is the densest place in Puget Sound, and that Seattle is “rapidly depopulating”, both of which a simple Census search will disprove. I’m not interested in debating someone who demonstrates a consistent unwillingness to accept facts.
I agree with you; it’s always reasonable to ask whether a project is worth the money. In this particular case (South King), I happen to think it isn’t; this area simply isn’t dense enough to need the level of service that Link provides.
But that doesn’t always mean that I would reject an expensive project — I think that U-Link and North Link are highly worthwhile, even though North Link is projected to cost something like $600 million per mile. The difference is that the corridor between Northgate and downtown desperately needs higher-capacity transit than it currently has, and there just isn’t any way to connect those neighborhoods to Capitol Hill without tunneling. That project will provide a huge benefit to the region’s economy and livability for decades.
My dismissal of J.B.’s comments is due to his long history of posting utterly afactual statements his bit here about “tunneling” in the Ranier Valley, an error so blatant that it is hard to bother taking anything else he says seriously.
Figures like $70mil/mile come from purely at-grade system’s like Phoenix’s. These systems are cheap to construct, but you get what you pay for; the system we are building will be superior in every way (average speed, capacity, headway, train length.) Moreover it is not out of whack with the costs of similar projects. Tunneling costs $150 million per mile, and we are building at least seven miles of tunnel from downtown to Northgate. Similarly, the Downtown tunnel cost $455 million in 1990 dollars, and that’s only a mile and a half long and included no signalling, and the rail installation was botched, requiring ST to rip the whole lot out and re-lay it for Central Link.
As to the delay in building it, I agree, this system should have been built decades ago, and I wish we could build it quicker. But tunneling is what it is (did you see the U-Link schedule I linked in our previous discussion of this?) and the EIS process is what it is, you just can’t do it overnight. To the extent that projects have been deliberately delayed, it is only because ST doesn’t have the money, due to a 15%-20% drop in revenue — something they can hardly be blamed for.
There is no mystery about the high cost per mile of Central Link. It was a deliberate choice to build the system right the first time, rather than half-ass it.
The Green Line, which is the only part of the San Diego Trolley that even remotely resembles Link, cost ~$86 million per mile in 2005.
The only tunnel “in” the Rainier Valley has one portal in one slope of that valley. It’s called Beacon Hill Station. Have you ever been anywhere near there? Even looked out at the east side of I-5?
We can do it at San Diego prices, but then it would be at-grade and slow. Better to do it at Seattle prices and make it fast and high-quality.
Hold on. The whole design and history of LINK is that it is mostly at-grade. This was part of an emerging shift in the design of light rail (used in Portland) which said that with proper signaling LRT could get the benefits of low cost + speed.
To me it seems that (in typical PNW fashion), we took something simple and cheap and found an infinite number of ways to make it expensive and cumbersome.
To build Link at $35 million/mile it would have to run at-grade in exsisting ROW with minimalist stations only capable of handling 2 cars at a time. You’d have to take the ROW from cars if you ran it in the road or share like a streetcar does. I’m not even sure you can do signal priority at $35 million/mile.
Essentially $35 million/mile is a streetcar-like cost which means streetcar-like features. Link is being built mostly with rapid transit-like features which unfortunately means rapid-transit like costs.
I was just in San Diego the other week. My hotel was half a block from an Orange/Blue line station, just north of the Gaslamp.
I certainly would not want that quality of system. It’s obvious that it was built on the cheap, and it doesn’t really go where the people are.
Their bus system, however, was fantastic. Gridded, sensible, and frequent enough.
Simple, the DOT and cities (Kent and Des Moines) don’t want to lose lanes on SR-99. That’s what was explained to me in the Envisioning Midway project with the stakeholders. The alternatives are through marsh, neighbourhoods, elevated, or a combination of these! All are expensive and fraught with opposition. Why is expensive? NIMBYism, the state giving a middle finger, and the cities worrying about their main road ($$$). It’s likely to be elevated from what I understand. Yes, it COULD be done cheaper, but people in Kent and Des Moines don’t seem concerned with that at all. I was mortified by the visioning process of the area.
It is not necessarily cheaper to build light rail at grade, over the long haul.
First, the speed limit would drop from 55 mph to 30 mph, reducing competitiveness with express buses.
That speed drop would add time to each train run, thereby increasing the operating cost of each train run.
Between lost revenue and increased operating costs, at-grade could end up being more expensive.
“We should be promoting infill development, not encouraging the continued sprawl down I-5.”
what is sprawl down i-5?? lookign at google earth, south of the airport, there really isnt anywhere to sprawl to any great degree…its all in city limits,
with a great deal of houses right up to the interestate.
a few slivers of green but not much. where would i5 sprawl to??
Those houses are the sprawl.
For months now, have been noticing very large numbers of people riding LINK, especially young families with children, who tell me they live in Auburn. Tukwila and Sea-Tac are their new parking lots of choice for game day or museum day or just a trip downtown.
Whatever the occasion for the trip, parents tell me the kids are always more excited about their train-ride than whatever they’re going downtown for. So yeah, people in the South End use their cars- what choice have they got right now? But they’re only driving as far as necessary to get the train.
And the children tell the real story: ten years or so ’til they’re eighteen, and then eighty years of votes for electric rail. Good thing streetcar history used to include funeral cars. For certain negative commentators here…this is one rail trip you’re not going to be able to avoid taking!
Even in the short term, ST could cut a decent amount from the South King operating budget.
For starters, do we really need the #560? Every time I’ve been on it, ridership was negligible. Getting between the airport and Renton, it gets stuck in traffic and can take a long time between those two stops. It doesn’t do anything that isn’t duplicative with other routes.
Does weekend ridership really justify separate 577 and 594 service? Wouldn’t it be more efficient (in filling up seats) to run 20-minute-headway service on a single route with a stop in Federal Way? And then make the 578 just run between Puyallp and Federal Way, timed for the transfer to the 577/594 combined route.
And to save Pierce some money, have only the 574 or 594 (pick one) go all the way to Lakewood on weekends, since the two routes are not interlined with even headway. Plus, since every route that serves Tacoma Dome Station also serves Commerce St, skip the Tacoma Dome on weekends. If I missed a route that only serves Tacoma Dome Station, please point it out.
Similar math could be applied to midday and evening runs on these routes.
Increase connectivity. Decrease headway. Save some money. What’s not to like?
And one more suggestion: Close Starlake P&R and Kent-Des-Moines P&R on weekends, since anyone wanting to park for free and get to the airport will find plenty of space at Federal Way TC. This will shave up to five minutes’ travel time off the 574 each way. (Does ST plan to have its parking be free in perpetuity?)
Prioritize the Link stations, and build the nice-to-do projects as the money is freed up.
Those who got their segments completed earlier will get more, not too unlike Social Security come to think about it. For Central Link, there were some cutbacks, but with this larger shortfall, each subsequent segment will get shaved back. In the northernmost end, I suspect we’ll see an I-5 alignment with the 4 planned stations, the southernmost one with abysmal bus connections, the southernmost two having inadequate additional parking planned, making for kiss-and-ride types of facilities that appeal to weekday commuters. But, ST will have met their goal of extending regional transit, that’s the threshold they seem to see themselves as needing to pass.
What do you propose they do instead?
Casually denouncing an agency’s efforts in the face of a dramatic revenue shortfall without offering a viable alternative is cheap, unconstructive and uninteresting.
A common refrain in the comments above is the South King County is too unpopulated for Link. Facts, however, show that to be a weak argument, probably made due to unfamiliarity with the area. South King has a population of about 700,000 compared to about 500,000 on the eastside. Renton, Kent and Federal Way each are nearing 100,000 people, while the only city on the eastside that large is Bellevue, and no cities between Seattle and Everett have anywhere near 100,000 people. Check out the King County population density map I posted on Build the City. The densest areas in South county are strung along highway 99, where Link will be built.
One factor against South Link is that proportionately fewer south county residents commute to downtown Seattle, and proportionately more residents commute to low density industrial/office parks in the valley.
However, an important factor in favor of South Link is that existing Metro transit ridership in the south area is significantly higher than in the east area. This may be due to lower average incomes and higher transit dependency. Which should bode well for all-day, two-way demand throughout the corridor.
“One factor against South Link is that proportionately fewer south county residents commute to downtown Seattle, and proportionately more residents commute to low density industrial/office parks in the valley.”
Right. Transit ridership — certainly choice commuter ridership — has more to do with employer density, of which Bellevue and Seattle have gobs, and South King according to you does not. In fact, that land-use pattern of low-density residential commuting in all directions to low-density employers is basically incompatible with high-capacity transit, and probably where cars are near their best.
Rail scales up well and scales down terribly. To get the riders, you can either build an urban Metro system, such as Link basically is between the I.D. and Northgate, or build a Denver-style freeway-running electric commuter rail with big P&Rs. Or you could do what we’ll probably do anyway, and extend our hybrid system down to Highline as money permits, and try to muddle through with a medium size P&R and some hope of inspiring land-use changes.
The best option seems to be extending Link to Highline CC; with a future option for Federal Way and Tacoma. Highline stn is good for the college, east-west buses, and potential TOD on the underused parcels near Kent-Des Moines Road. There are a lot of deteriorating underused parcels all along 99 which could be turned into TOD, and that could become the place for south King to absorb growth. Even if some parcels are lost to big-box stores and parking lots, there are still a lot of parcels left. And NIMBYs would object less to density along a highway.
Tie these extensions to promises by the cities for density at KDM Road, along 99, and Federal Way center. If they want the rail, they have to create at least some pedestrian destinations.
South of Federal Way is a really different beast; it’s where the premanufactured-house companies and other large-lot companies are. I’m not sure we’re that desperate for housing that we need to plant new neighborhoods in Fife. But without those, Link would have to make few stops in the area, and it depends on Pierce paying the construction bill. I can see arguments both ways for extending Link to Tacoma, but in the end what matters is whether Pierce really, really wants it enough to pay for it.
No matter whether Link is extended or not, the 574 needs to be raised to 10-minute frequency and stop directly at a Link station (whether SeaTac or further south). Then the 594 and 57x can be deleted off-peak. Everett-Lynnwood (or Everett-Northgate) needs the same thing.
The main purpose of extending Link to Highline or Federal Way is not to make Tacoma-Seattle trips two decades away rather than three; it’s to serve the intermediate cities.
Sounder is really a way of coping with the present, while Link is building for the future. (A future of 10-minute trains and walkable neighborhoods, with RapidRide filling in between Link stations.) Modest investments at Sounder stations make sense; that would leverage our existing investment in Sounder. But Sounder should not be improved at the expense of Link, because Link is the future. Link runs more frequently than Sounder ever will, and its cost per boarding is less and will further shrink as the network is built out.
As for a Burien-Renton line, Southcenter and Burien are practically promised it because they were bypassed by the first line. So no matter whether it’s the most time-effective to transfer at TIB or not, those cities will push heavily for a line and I doubt ST can ignore them. Burien built a town center to attract rail.
Perhaps what south King most needs is more local buses to the regional routes (Link, 101, 120, 150, 577). Maybe ST3 could subsidize some RapidRide routes that Metro would run. That would be similar to other “contributions” ST makes for the First Hill streetcar, P&Rs, etc.
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