Federal Way’s city council has passed a resolution urging Sound Transit to build light rail all the way to the city rather than curtailing the line due to budgetary constraints brought on by the recession. Federal Way representatives will be at a Sound Transit board meeting later today to discuss the resolution.

Portion of the resolution passed by Federal Way.

Light rail to Federal Way was part of the Sound Transit 2 plan,  which was approved by voters in 2008 before the full impacts of the recession on tax receipts was known. According to Sound Transit’s interim CEO, the agency cannot afford to build light rail to Federal Way unless all other South King County projects are canceled and, even then, rail will be come more than a decade behind the schedule outlined in ST2.

Federal Way’s resolution says the city is “reviewing legal options,” and suggests the agency could curtail costs by changing the alignment or borrowing money from Pierce County, both unlikely to change the fundamentals. It also asks Sound Transit to consider entirely eliminating sub-area equity which ensures that money raised in a particular community (i.e. South King County) says in that community. Since South King has been particularly hard hit by the recession, it is facing the deepest cuts of any sub-area. Repealing the policy is a remote possibility that would likely be opposed by cities like Seattle and Bellevue who would only stand to lose money now and in the future to less urban cities.

My personal thoughts on this resolution and the rhetoric are complex. Federal Way is fighting hard for light rail and in a way the resolution brought a smile to my face. This moment may turn people against ST on the margins (claims of “broken promises”), but it to me shows that cities may be lobbying the state for ST3 funding authority sooner than later. I wonder if my read is too optimistic.

We’ll see how far the rhetoric against ST from Federal Way goes. In my view, the city has a right to be disappointed and upset, but their remedies aren’t realistic and a lawsuit would not be helpful nor would it prevail. Right now, this is looks like posturing and political pressure that’s perhaps healthy.

92 Replies to “Federal Way “Reviewing Legal Options” for ST2”

  1. The cities of SeaTac, Kent, and Federal Way have spent a huge wad on improving Hwy99 with utilities, paving, medians and sidewalks, including outside BRT lanes.
    In the 90’s, I and others pushed for center running LRT down Hwy99, with ‘flyovers’ at selected intersections where traffic volumes and topography dictated grade separation. The rest of the way was exclusive running at grade. Stations were incorporated in the elevated sections, like the one at 320th, which joined both the mall and businesses west of 99 on nearly level walkways.
    Those same cities balked at giving up their precious suicide lanes (center left turns) as businesses would be ‘ruined’.
    Had Federal Way embraced center running, at grade LRT, they could have both now, instead of maybe getting their elevated line to the FWTC in 2040 or beyond.

    1. Although LRT to FWTC was not even remotely part of ST2 (heck, FW barely was at all), I agree that LRT down 99 is better than LRT down I-5. While I-5 might be somewhat faster, the line will be longer and stops will take longer as the train will have to loop into town and then back to the interstate. It will allow for less stops, and require more and longer elevated sections.

      But money aside, LRT down I-5 basically gives up on any kind of commercial development in Federal Way, which is the wrong direction in my opinion. Already the MLK corridor is seeing a lot of economic boosts from Central Link going past and stopping in front of its shops and residences. By saying we can have South Link go via I-5 instead is to say we don’t care about downtown or 99 businesses.

      The irony is that Mayor Priest name-dropped cities like Boston and Chicago when he complained that ST wasn’t meeting regional goals. But those mass transit systems are *not* simply commuter-centric; they are more holistic and diverse: errands, shopping, entertainment, etc. Yet FW’s city government continues to support 1960’s suburban freeway dependency over modern, vibrant in-town transit. I say pick one — and let it not be the status quo, please!

      1. Nobody has proposed putting south Link on I-5. ST2 calls for it to be on 99. The only issue is whether it would be elevated (as in ST2) or surface (as on MLK). Maybe ST has studied the cost of putting south Link on I-5, but we have no reason to believe it would be cheaper than 99.

        The north corridor (Northgate-Lynnwood) is presumed to be I-5 so that’s a different case. But ST2 did not commit to a freeway alignment and it’s very possible that Aurora will come out as the same price as I-5, which would make a move to Aurora likely. (I don’t think the claims of the Mountlake Terrace TC supports would be able to match the claims of the Aurora TOD supporters.)

        South of Federal Way (Federal Way-Tacoma) there has not even been an alignment proposal, just speculative ideas. So it could just as likely be on I-5 or 99 or something else.

  2. I feel bad for Federal Way but the fact is they are getting the service that they paid for. It isn’t the service they were promised, but with revenues down they haven’t paid for the higher level of service. The only way to get light rail is to deprive other areas of the services those areas paid for. They should look into raising local tax rates so that the collected amount matches the original projections, though I suspect that isn’t allowed somehow. I also think they would see this as an extra tax even though the amount paid by taxpayers would be the same as originally intended.

    1. I agree fully. I hope Federal Way and others don’t use this as a way to demonize Sound Transit, although that is already happening. A widely-distributed graphic is needed to show South King how many miles of light rail they have paid for versus what was projected. If they would like to somehow pay more money into the pot, or give up other services, they can get rail sooner.

      1. Not to mention the bus and commuter rail services serving South King – of which Federal Way has had Sound Transit bus service since 1999.

    2. The fact is we are getting nothing we paid for. FW has already delivered $12 million and will deliver $240 million over the life of the ST2 bonds. So no, FW is not “getting the service they paid for.” We are getting zilch.

      Lower tax revenues comes from lower sales, but this tends to result in lower prices. ST hasn’t explained why the two don’t balance out here. Given the economic condition of the construction industry in this state, it’s hard to imagine there is no contractor willing to accept a major transit project for a lowball figure.

      Also thanks to subarea equity, ST evaluates subarea revenues as a whole. That means everything from Burien to Pacific is counted as one. Never mind that Federal Way is the largest city in that subarea and also the highest gross income ($1.6B) — therefore almost certainly the biggest source of ST2 funds in the subarea.

      We’re gonna get nothing. But other cities will get station improvements and extra garages!

      Did I mention ST recently cut one of our commuter bus routes (565)? It was painfully slow, but at least it existed. So IMO we’re net negative under ST2. All that for $240M!

      1. Federal Way, Kent and Renton are the big three. According to city-data.com Federal Way has a few hundred more people than Kent but the aggregate household income is $2.2 billion vs $1.8 billion for Federal Way. Renton has 20,000 less people but a slightly higher aggregate household income. The striking difference is daytime population change due to commuting:

        Renton: +22,049 (+44.1%)
        Kent: +15,946 (+20.1%)
        Federal Way: -11,812 (-14.2%)

        There’s no “there” there.

      2. A 30% collapse in sales tax revenue doesn’t result in a 30% reduced cost in concrete, steel, oil and everything else that goes in to building and running rail and busses. It’s fatuous to suggest such a thing. Construction costs have gone down — a bit. That’s why ST is trying to scrape together the money to advance the construction of S 200th St, so they can bit it out when it’s cheap.

        Your subarea will get everything it has paid for — rail to Highline and an bunch of busses and Sounder extensions. There is no conspiracy, no incompetence, no malfeasance at work here. Only the reality that revenues have collapsed and the the money that was supposed to be there, ain’t.

      3. Your Federal Way politicians have failed you, and are now trying to shift the blame. While North King County electeds have been flying back and forth to get large federal grants, south King County politicians like Rob McKenna have tried to undercut transit with gimmicks like “sub-area equity.”

        Did Skip Priest lift a finger in the legislature to get some state money for transit in Federal Way?

  3. How did Federal Way vote on I-1053, I-1098, and the soda tax repeal? Just curious. But I hope everybody notices the really great thing here: some governmental body that is not Seattle’s is on record as being the first to demand an end to “subarea equity.” For that alone, many thanks, Federal Way.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I was curious too, and the results weren’t great:

      66% Yes on 1053 (tax increase supermajority)
      65% No on 1098 (high earners income tax)
      64% Yes on 1107 (restore sales tax exemption for soda & candy)

      This doesn’t count the Lakeland (“East Federal Way”) area though I don’t expect it was much better.

      (Yet on partisan races FW almost always votes Democratic. It’s a strange duck.)

  4. I share John’s instinct to not hate on Federal Way for wanting light rail, but the $12m they’ve paid in taxes so far isn’t just for light rail, it’s also for express bus service like the 574, 577, and 578. It’s also been spent on Sounder.

    Of course, Sounder isn’t very useful to your average Federal Way resident, but the nature of the beast is that everyone’s paying taxes to enhance particular corridors. To complain that Federal Way proper is paying taxes that are benefiting other South King cities is the worst kind of sub-regionalism, an absurd provincialism that directly contradicts the idea that ST should look at repealing sub-area equity.

    1. Why is it OK for “Federal Way proper” to fund Auburn’s Sounder but not OK for other Sound communities to fund Federal Way’s light rail?

      1. South King communities paid for Central Link and Airport Link. They are paying for South Link extensions. That is Federal Way’s light rail. There just ain’t enough money to get to Federal Way.

      2. Really, now. Federal Way is getting gold-plated service from ST: an armada of peak-hour express buses downtown, a stop on the 578, a fancy parking garage, and an express line to the airport, providing one of the few convenient connections to Link in South King County.

        If you run the math, I bet you’ll find that most of South King County is subsidizing Federal Way’s transit service (and ST-specific transit service), not the other way around.

    2. When I lived in Fremont, I was wondering what specific benefit I received from voting for Sound Transit. It was NONE. My bus routes were all Metro. Now, I live in Shoreline, kind of close to I-5 and N. 145th. What Sound Transit benefit do I receive currently? Practically none because of my work schedule. I don’t get off work (around Seattle Center) until after 11pm and the Metro routes from Northgate TC end around 10pm. The Sound Transit route I could take leaves downtown before I get off work and I wouldn’t get to it in time anyway. But, I still willingly voted for all Sound Transit projects because I know deep down that they benefit the region as a whole. And, I hope that when North Link gets built(at least to Northgate), that Metro will find a way to continue route #347 until at least midnight each night.

      Until then, I will drive my car to a place where I can catch #5 or #358.

  5. The only legitimate suggestion by federal way is to take money from pierce county, as light rail that doesn’t get to federal way doesn’t get to tacoma. Otherwise, they’re wasting their time.

    1. It would only be legitimate if you don’t live in Pierce County. Why couldn’t Tacoma use their rail funds on expanding Tacoma Link.

      1. They absolutely could. But seeing as if link doesn’t make it to Federal Way, it wont make it to Tacoma, it might actually help Pierce county to build out Central Link to Federal way.

        Everyone on the board who isn’t from Pierce county should recuse themselves from that decision, and let the Pierce county reps make that decision.

        Taking money from subareas that wouldn’t benefit from Federal Way Link at all is a terrible idea.

      2. I don’t see why a light rail line from Tacoma to Federal Way is at all comparable to a light rail line from Tacoma *and* Federal Way to Seattle, Eastside, and Snoho.

        Unless they extend Tacoma Link to S 200th St. :)

      3. It took so much less time for the two railroad companies to reach each other in Promontory, Utah. But I do like the idea of a “Golden Spike” plan, with that golden spike being struck somewhere in Federal Way. Otherwise, the Pierce County subarea will find ways to fritter away the money, on find-something-to-do-with-the-money projects like in-fill stations on Tacoma Link, and making Tacoma Link free since the subarea can afford it.

        To be clear, I am not advocating the use of indentured Irish and Chinese labor to reach the Golden Spike by 2023.

      4. So, what you’re saying is that instead of ST building light rail they should instead use the tax dollars as incentives to private companies to build a system that would then be operated for profit. Good idea, think there would be any takers?

    2. A bunch of Pierce’s money is committed the Sounder extension for the next few years. Moreover, given that under the current RTA tax limits, they couldn’t possibly see Link before 2040, they could be forgiven for deciding to spend the rest of their money on more busses or Tacoma Link extensions.

      Anyway, what I find egregious is not the shouting and stamping of feet, but the threat of a lawsuit, which is so transparently baseless as to make everyone involved look appallingly stupid. No court is going to override the plain language and intent of the statute, and even if they were inclined to, there’s no possible remedy a judge could order that wouldn’t be politically more toxic than the status quo.

      1. they could be forgiven for deciding to spend the rest of their money on more busses

        Oh the shame of it… spending public tax dollars earmarked for transit on buses. Those poor folk down south have no panache and need to be forgiven. Let us pray…

    3. I think light rail makes more sense as a service that’s oriented to a downtown core, even if it passes through suburbs to get there. Pierce County would be better off expanding Tacoma Link from downtown Tacoma rather than waiting until Central Link can extend all the way there. I do think some provision should be made for long-term conversion to a system that is fully compatible with Central Link, but Pierce County should focus on serving commutes to downtown Tacoma. Service to Federal Way would wait for when it’s the highest-ridership route left to Tacoma, or when the decision is made to connect Tacoma to Seatac Airport via light rail (with Federal Way along the way).

      The real problem is that there’s not enough money for Sound Transit projects. Part of that is the public resistance to spending too much too soon, but a big part of it is that sales tax is a bad way to pay for a long-term project because it’s very susceptible to lower revenues during recessions. What we need longer term to help Federal Way and everyone else is more money, and a better way of raising it.

      1. Tacoma Link is not realistically convertible to a Central Link extension, if that’s what you’re suggesting, although there are some small extensions that can usefully be made to Tacoma Link that are compatible with its current streetcar nature.

        In the absence of major new taxing authority for ST, there’s really no good way that Pierce can spend money to prepare for Link. They’re better off sticking it in the bank and buying more bus service with the rest.

      2. I never understood how, if TL was a proof of concept for CL, why the two lines use completely different and incompatible rail, train, and power systems. Seems like a huge screwup. CL to TL will always be a transfer, unless they tear up TL and redo it CL style.

      3. It’s not just the track and signalling, it’s the whole alignment. Running four-car trains through downtown Tacoma would be a traffic disaster, and takes Link in the wrong direction to serve its biggest suburb — Lakewood. It might well have been a proof of concept that allowed ST to get experience building a small, easy rail project, but as a future Central Link alignment, I can’t believe it was ever thought of in those terms.

      4. Tacoma Link is not “Link”, it’s a streetcar. It’s unfortunate it got branded Link because it confuses people. Extending Tacoma Link to Federal Way is ridiculous; it’s too low capacity and not suitable for a low-density area (Fife). But extending Tacoma Link to replace route 1 (6th Ave-Roy), or the north part of 1 and the south part of 3 (6th Ave-Lakewood), might be feasable. But any extension should rename it to “Tacoma Streetcar”.

      5. Hopefully if Central Link gets to Tacoma, it will have a separate track from Tacoma Link, and after stopping at Tacoma Dome, it’ll go on I-705 to downtown Tacoma.

      6. Why would Tacoma ever want to export jobs to Seattle by funding a light rail connection? Russell left even though it imposed a hefty commute penalty on most of it’s employees. Make it easy (and cheap) to commute to Seattle and what does Tacoma have to offer except cheap housing? Let’s be honest here, nobody is going to opt to buy a high priced house/condo in Seattle for the “pleasure” of spending an hour commuting to Tacoma. It’s a one way street.

      7. The train goes both ways. Tacoma draws employees from the Olympic Penninsula, south King County, Olympia/Lacey and Puyallup. So it’s not just a bedroom community. If Tacoma had better all-day connections with south King and Seattle, companies might find it less of a burden to remain in Tacoma.

        Also, the companies that have moved to Seattle have tended to be financial/banking companies. Those industries are particularly attracted to the largest cities, as are their clients and business associates. So it may not be surprising that Tacoma banks have gradually moved to Seattle. In contrast, Microsoft has been doing fine in Redmond/Bellevue. It may expand in Seattle because its employees like to work there, but it doesn’t “have” to be in downtown Seattle the way a bank or law office does. On the other hand, part of Microsoft’s ability to thrive in Redmond may be the Eastside’s closer and more widespread ties to Seattle than Tacoma has? In that case, better transit between the parts of the region may allow more companies to feel comfortable locating in Tacoma, knowing that their employees and clients will have an easier time getting to them. And for those middle-class people who will “ride a train but will not ride a bus”, voila a train.

  6. This seems like a perfect opportunity for some federal stimulus funds. It’s too bad that DC is more interested in talking about the deficit than doing anything about jobs and the economy.

    1. The problem is not that they’re more interested in talking about the deficit – its that one side wants to talk about reducing the deficit purely in terms of cuts. Reducing the deficit is probably the biggest problem facing this country, and it deserves the attention it is getting.

      One thing I’m irritated with is how stimulus dollars were spent. If a government is going to print money and deficit spend, infrastructure is one of the best long-term ways to spend that money. A huge portion should have been dedicated to infrastructure projects such as LINK. I think some politicians wanted to do that, but I think a huge portion got spent in other ways.

      recovery.gov reports that $46.3B (7.2% of total of $645.4B) was spent on infrastructure + transportation. I think that should have been 50-75%. But that is just me.

      1. Most economists disagree with you about the deficit. Reducing UNEMPLOYMENT is the biggest problem this country is facing. The deficit can be addressed by simply printing money, if necessary (won’t that cause inflation? Well, no, not right now with massive DEFLATION on the horizon).

        Agreed with you on everything else. One party cares only about cutting spending, and cutting taxes on the rich (yes, the Republicans are proposing *increasing* the deficit by cutting taxes on the rich). The other is being flimflammed into talking about the deficit, when they should be talking about (1) jobs, and (2) spending money on the RIGHT things, and (3) making the rich pay our fair share.

      2. (3) making the rich pay our fair share.

        That’s much more honest than the usual demand for “making the rich pay their fair share.

      3. The deficit can be addressed by simply printing money

        Exactly, just issue bonds and then decrease their value by printing money. It’s worked before. Should work forever, right? Oh wait, what’s happening in Europe?

      4. Maybe he’s rich.

        Could be, I would probably use an indecipherable alias too if I were Bill Gates Sr.

      5. Could be, I would probably use an indecipherable alias too if I were Bill Gates Sr.

        It’s all relative. For my part, I would happily trade WA’s sales tax for an income tax, even though it would undoubtedly mean that I would pay more.

      6. Let’s not forget the other elephant in the room, all of the spending that goes to so-called “defense”. Hack the defense budget in half and you have a lot of money to spend on other things. Infrastructure (both new construction and maintenance) should be a priority of the Federal government. Building CHSR is a much better use of Federal spending than buying yet another aircraft carrier.

      7. One thing to keep in mind when comparing US defense spending to the rest of the world is that not only do we have a large military we have a large VOLUNTEER ONLY military. One good thing about conscription is that slaves are cheap. Paying someone to do the job… not so much. And it’s not just pay, you’ve got to provide adequate housing, healthcare, etc. Not only that but as a country we believe in taking care of Vets, I’m talking healthcare, GI Bill, job placement, etc. IIRC correctly the US spends more money on pay/benefits as a percentage of spending than any other military.

        It’s not all going to evil defense contractors… like Boeing. :p

  7. Two thoughts immediately come to mind:

    1) It was communities like Federal Way who pushed for sub-area equity. Unfortunately they now have to deal with the downside of it.

    2) Federal Way is a good distance from Seattle – over 20 miles to the southern parts. Any light rail line would be too slow to compare to the existing travel times by bus, although the extra service to Kent and Tukwila might be useful. Regardless, Federal Way and points south would be better served by an S-Bahn type system.

    1. Are you assuming light rail to FW would be at-grade on city streets and have to deal with cross traffic and lights? That’s a false assumption.

      Don’t forget Link will go to more than just Seattle. FW to Redmond with a single in-station transfer. (Currently you have to get out of the tunnel and walk a block to catch a street bus.) FW to Everett too.

  8. Maybe the Mayor of FedWay should ask former ST Vice-Chair of Finance in the ’90’s and councilperson, Mary Gates (also from FedWay)how they got got it ‘so wrong’.

    1. Without former Federal Way City Councilwoman Mary Gates, Sound Transit might not exist, so show some respect. If Mary could have singlehandedly written current “subarea equity” agreement, the result would not have produced the arrangement that is now so seriously overdue for revision.

      By way of apology for my previous snide remarks about initiative votes (I’d just finished reading one too many “Reset 2011” editorials in The Seattle Times), let me stress that as a resident of Ballard whose business day can start in Federal Way and end in Lynnwood via a stop in Kirkland, best possible transit in Federal Way helps me financially, and loss of Sunday service in Lynnwood hurts.

      If nothing else comes of Federal Way’s current campaign than an equity plan that unites this region rather than divides it, my individual interests and those of Ballard owe Mary Gates’ hometown a debt of gratitude.

      Mark Dublin

  9. Wasn’t there a clause in ST2 that said, in a more complex fashion that “we will build to Federal Way assuming we can collect $x dollars, and if we can’t, we can’t build it”?

  10. I think in the long run Seattle would benefit from eliminating the sub-area equity, because as Seattle projects have greater regional impact, a sub-area-less Sound Transit would have to put more money to Seattle projects. However, what Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma projects would you want to cut to save Federal Way light rail? It wouldn’t make any sense.

  11. Hypothetical:ST2 completes East Link to Overlake and Central Link to Highline. Then subarea equity is abolished. Who wins the pissing match; Federal Way (social justice) or Redmond (ridership)? I think there’s a rosy ideal that if subarea equity goes away there is instantly an infinite pot of money to draw from.

    1. I think it’s a question of how cynical you are about Sound Transit. The nakedly political thing to do is spend as little ST3 money as possible inside Seattle, because they’ll probably vote for it anyway.

      Meanwhile, there are more dense neighborhoods that could really benefit from a rail line inside the city.

  12. Sub-area equity is simply bad policy. Why should it matter where the sales tax is collected? Transit service should be driven by residential and employment density, travel patterns, etc, not based on which areas are doing better at selling goods. If we want a true regional system, we need to end policies like subarea equity and 40/40/20. It’s reasonable that every community in the Sound Transit district should get some service out of the taxes they pay, but that can be ensured through the board structure rather than through a rigid policy.

    1. I disagree. Subarea equity is the one thing that holds this fractious regional administration together, and it means that the money spent in each region gets used in a way that benefits that region the most.

      In the absence of subarea equity, there is absolutely nothing that would prevent the suburban board members from voting as a bloc to build Link as commuter rail — straight up the I-5 express lanes and down Marginal Way — on Seattle’s dime, and then telling all the people stuck on Metro’s busses to the U-District and Capitol Hill to suck it.

      Subarea equity, in its incipience, might have been an anti-Seattle rule by Rob McKenna to prevent the Eastside paying for rail in Seattle, but it goes all ways, and it protects us too.

      1. I agree. Subarea equity is the worst policy except for all the alternatives. It makes regional transit politically possible. While I’d prefer Seattle and the denser suburbs around it to get the bulk of transit spending, the reality would more likely be what you propose: the suburbs would dictate a bad system to Seattle.

        My only complaint is that each subarea should be able to tax itself to speed up the local implementation of the regional plan. That would allow Seattle to build light rail to Belltown, Fremont, Ballard, West Seattle, and Lake City without having to wait decades for the other subareas to find equally expensive things to spend their money on. And that would also allow Federal Way to tax itself to get light rail faster.

      2. Yes, some ability for differential taxation in particular subareas would be much appreciated.

      3. Yes, ST got subarea equity right. It’s a lot more fair than Metro’s 40/40/20 rule. Subarea equity is what enabled Seattle to get a reasonably urban system (even if it’s not “urban enough” for some). And cities can already pay ST to do extra work beyond the regional bond measures.

      4. If we had an enlightened transit-and-roads department with full authority to build whatever it wanted, then we might be able to let it go and we’d end up with a network like Vancouver’s or Cologne’s. But giving an agency that authority in Puget Sound would be like asking Kemper Freeman to design your transit network. Seattle is 600,000 people in a region of 3.2 million: that’s 18% of the votes. Seattle is heavily pro-rail. Those in suburban cities aren’t quite sure. Those in the exurbs want highways, or at best park & rides. If central Link did not exist; north, east and south Link could not be built. None of the suburbs would build light rail on their own. Not only because they’re less eager about it, but also because it’s less useful if it doesn’t go to and through Seattle.

        If, in this scenario, the suburbs decided to build a big BRT system as a quasi-Link, it would be whittled down and diluted. They would not be willing to build the dedicated road lanes and grade-separation. So it would look like something maybe slightly better than the 550.

      5. None of the suburbs would build light rail on their own… it’s less useful if it doesn’t go to and through Seattle.

        More to the point, it’s useless. And if rail is shown to be useless then “that’s a bad thing”.

        If.. the suburbs decided to build a big BRT system… it would look like something maybe slightly better than the 550.

        And what’s wrong with the 550? People being left standing at the stop because the bus is full, no. More stops than light rail, is that the problem? Ah, lack of panache… there we go. People living in Seattle and working at Microsoft demand panache! Since Seattle lost the war on keeping all jobs in Seattle we must at the very least provide light rail to those right minded individuals that choose to live in Seattle and commute to evil Bellevue and Redmond. They don’t want to do it but the evil corporate machine demands it because suburbia has all the tax breaks. Of course ignoring the fact that express buses from Overlake to DT Seattle via 520 will continue to be faster and much less expensive to operate than light rail.

      6. And what’s wrong with the 550?

        It’s not grade-separated. That’s what’s wrong with it. Grade separation costs money, and whether it’s rail or road doesn’t affect the capital cost that much.

        Of course ignoring the fact that express buses from Overlake to DT Seattle via 520 will continue to be faster and much less expensive to operate than light rail.

        I do agree with you there. Overlake is a commute destination; it doesn’t have strong all-day two-way demand, and it probably never will. That calls for express buses, not high-capacity rapid transit.

        The corridor from Seattle to Bellevue, on the other hand, *is* rapidly densifying, and it’s already hard to meet capacity demands at peak. So a grade-separated corridor is suitable there.

        That said, I would be totally fine with building East Link as partially grade-separated TOD. Change the express lanes to be all-day two-way, and build some surface grade-separated corridors in Bellevue. Hell, you could even build a downtown Bellevue transit tunnel, and put all the BTC buses (including the 550) through there.

        Such a plan could potentially save a lot of money, because it would be avoiding a lot of grade separation. The bridge segment would be shared with HOVs; the Bellevue Way segment would just require some paint and signal priority. But it would still be pretty darn expensive, and it would undoubtedly be at capacity a couple of years after it was built. In contrast, East Link will have room to grow for decades. Some would call this overbuilding, but I call it foresight. :)

      7. My biggest gripe with the 550 is that it drops to half-hourly on Sundays and after 7pm.

        The main advantage of a rail line is the network effect. It simultaneously serves cross-lake commuters, intra-Eastside commuters, intra-Eastside shoppers, people going to the airport and ballgames, etc. Each of these would require separate bus routes, and there may not be enough riders to justify some of them. (E.g., Overlake shoppers going to downtown Bellevue, if as you say most Overlake ridership is Seattle commuters.) But when you combine them all into one long rail route, the large ridership of one cohort makes up for the small ridership of another throughout the day. That provides an incentive for 10-minute train frequency from end to end all day. That frequency in turn encourages more people to ride transit, and makes them choose destinations that happen to be at rail stations (when they could go to one QFC near a station or another QFC not near a station).

  13. the agency cannot afford to build light rail to Federal Way unless all other South King County projects are canceled

    I still don’t get it.

    This has to be the easiest (and presumably least expensive) sections they could hope to build. It should take a summer to build, not a decade.

    1. Doesn’t need a tunnel
    2. Relatively short
    3. At grade
    4. Existing station for major terminus

    You couldn’t ask for a faster win…meanwhile, they’re panting and puffing building a tunnel to go from downtown to the U. Dist when they should have just taken the Eastlake route and served many more customers and shown up what…three blocks away from where the tunnel would be?!

    1. Not at grade. Look at the plans.

      It perhaps should be at grade with at-grade street crossings… might make it cheaper.

  14. “Legal action” is ridiculous. No judge will say voter-approved Link is more legitimate than voter-approved Sounder or voter-approved ST Express. Likewise, no judge will strike down subarea equity.

    Federal Way’s love of Link is an ironic contrast to Bellevue’s opposition to Link. (Or at least, the Bellevue City Council’s opposition to Link.) That does give one pause. Maybe ST could reach a deal with the city council under which they’d forego their claim to their subarea’s taxes in exchange for a promise not to build light rail in Bellevue? Maybe Kemper could even add a goodwill donation. Then the money could be diverted to Federal Way, and it might even be enough to reach Tacoma (given that the south alignment is relatively cheap). Of course, the residents of Bellevue who do want light rail, as well as Eastsiders outside Bellevue, would object to their share of money being diverted to Federal Way.

    Federal Way doesn’t seem to realize it’s arguing that east south King (Auburn, Federal Way, and Renton) should be in a separate subarea. Well, that’s nice but you have to draw the lines somewhere, and it’s pretty well agreed that south King has a commonality that makes it all similar to each other and different from Seattle and the Eastside.

    1. Bellevue City Council has not opposed Link. They’ve argued for a different routing in the B segment. Stop telling lies.

      1. There actions are tantamount to obstruction which is the same thing as opposition.

      2. The current majority and their owner Kemper Freeman most certainly want to push Link as far away as possible, if not stop it outright. Vision Line anyone?

      3. The council unanimously supports C9T and has identified funding sources to help pay for it. What other City Council has offered to contribute to make up for ST’s budget shortfall? And what city has done anything close to the planning and funding to create something even close to the TOD around Link in the Bel-Red Corridor???

      4. There actions are tantamount to obstruction which is the same thing as opposition.

        So the Seattle City Council was opposed to light rail too when they pushed for changing the original alignment on Marginal Way over to the Rainer Valley. And UW, they’re the biggest haters of light rail going because of their obstructionist position fighting ST’s plan to tunnel under the physics lab. Preserve the Rainer Vista view, light rail haters! It’s amusing to see this outpouring of Bellevue envy.

      5. Bernie, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Conrad Lee and Don Davidson fought against ST2 when it was on the ballot; they are against light rail even if they are resigned to it now. Kevin Wallace and Jennifer Robertson were not politicians in 2008, so they have no on the record information about ST2. However, as a Bellevue Resident, I believe they would have been against it.

        However, it’s also not simple enough to say that Bellevue is against light rail. We voted for ST2, I think with 57% of the vote. In addition, our current council is resigned to the fact that light rail is coming, they are just trying to delay and suffocate it to death.

      6. Jennifer Robertson were not politicians in 2008, so they have no on the record information about ST2.

        Jennifer Robertson was on the planning commission before being elected to the council. As a commissioner she was on the Light Rail Best Practices Committee. So she’s been on the record since at least June 2007. Pushing for the best alignment for Bellevue is what I expect our council members to do. It’s a hard fight now that we know ST can’t deliver on any of the fancy options they laid out in the DEIS and expect the City to make up the difference.

      1. You are correct, Renton is in the East subarea, my bad. I guess Auburn is the third largest city in the South Subarea. It’s half the size of Kent or Federal Way but still has a daytime population change due to commuting of +17,167. Federal Way is truly a bedroom community. It’s hard to find cities that export workers, unprecedented in this region for a “city” of over 80,000. Especially when it is home to Weyerhaeuser’s corporate headquarters. Which, along with Federal Way’s major malls are nowhere close to where Link would have terminated (all South of 320th). Bring up South 272nd Street on Google Maps, there’s nothing there. It was a dumb idea to run Link there even when ST had money burning a hole in their pocket.

      2. Completely anecdotal, but the only people I know living in Federal Way are some Army buddies and their families. Close enough to both Lewis and Seattle and quick access to I5. I bet as you get closer and closer to post you get more and more net loss of daytime population you will see (as tons of people from outside the base work on it, but very few on the base work outside it).

      3. I bet as you get closer and closer to post you get more and more net loss of daytime population

        True, and a large number of civilians are employed by JBLM who don’t have the option of living on base. But Lakewood, with a population of nearly 60,000 has a net Daytime population change due to commuting of only -2,000 and it boarders McChord. Steilacoom (-1650, pop. 6,000), Parkland (-4,250, pop 26,000) and Spannaway (-6,643, pop. 24,000) are bedroom communities. Dupont (pop. 7,000) has a +1,566 change due to commuting (State Farm). Tumwater is also positive.

  15. There are several ways for ST to improve cash flow in South King County:

    1. Charge for parking at ST park&rides, and Federal Way TC in particular.
    2. Combine the 577 and 594 off-peak.
    3. Don’t serve all the park&rides on weekends. Just serve the main ones.
    4. Euthanize the 560.
    5. Eliminate the 578 and extend the 566 to take over service to Sumner and Puyallup.
    6. Roll the off-peak hours from the 577 and 594 into Link-frequency 574 service once 200th St Station opens.
    7. Allow the Pierce sub-area to help fund South Link construction, in exchange for later using South King funding to complete Link to Tacoma.
    8. Accept a loan from the City of Federal Way funded by a city bond issue to expedite completing South Link.
    9. Lobby the legislature to define trains as “vehicles”, so that the state can contribute some fuel-tax revenue to building Link.
    10. Convince the Port of Seattle board that spending $300 million on Link would be a better investment than spending $300 million on the DBT.

    I’d far rather have Link completed to Tacoma than any of the freeway gigaprojects. State money can do for South King County what federal money did for Central Link.

      1. I don’t disagree with most of what you said here, Z, since it is exactly what I’ve been asking for for a long time. Calling it “BRT” doesn’t make it less “silly”.

        Once 200th St Station opens, would there be any reason for the 574 to serve TIBS?

      2. I do believe most mid-size cities in King County could establish transportation benefit districts, funded by a $20 car tab. That said, I’m afraid most that would do that would do so to throw all the money into roads, Federal Way included.

        If Federal Way can’t do that, they could ask their legislators to push legislation allowing them to do so. Imagine that: Federal Way state legislators pushing legislation to enable Federal Way to get more transit funding! It’s too bad Mayor Priest didn’t take the opportunity to do that when he was a Republican state reprentative. His latest tantrum comes off as desert lizard tears.

    1. Brent, Your plans above are actually quite silly. many of the 594s ive ridden leaving TDS are 3/4 full, which adding a stop at FWTC, while making sense is not a way to attract riders. You’d more than likely have to add service to the 594 if you added a stop at FWTC to keep from having constent overcrowding conditions. Really, ST/Metro needs to implement a BRT line from Tacoma to Seattle, with a stop at FWTC. You could than roll several routes up into the service. As for the 578, Its also intended as a sounder shuttle, which is why if you did improve trunk service on the I-5 corridor, it should be shifted to serve Kent Station instead of Federal Way, and take 167 all the way to Puyallup, and or even tacoma. As for the 574, it should actually be extended to TIB, and be the “local” along i-5 serving the two park and rides. Since it has high ridership from TSA employees there isnt much point in changing this productive service.

      1. I don’t disagree with most of what you said here, Z, since it is exactly what I’ve been asking for for a long time. Calling it “BRT” doesn’t make it less “silly”.

        Once 200th St Station opens, would there be any reason for the 574 to serve TIBS?

      2. 594 and 577 may be full during rush hour, but the few times I’ve ridden them during off peak periods, the bus was mostly empty. On weekends, there is plenty of seating capacity to combine 577 and 594 into one route. Yes, the stop in Federal Way might add 7-8 minutes of travel time. But if it allows service to run every 20 minutes instead of every 30, you make up for it on wait time.

        Another cost saving measure Brent forgot to mention is to kill the 586 once U-Link opens in 2016. The only reason it’s justified existing today is that travel time from the U-district to downtown on weekday afternoons on the 71/72/73 routes takes 30-45 minutes.

      3. Although eliminating the 586 is the plan, it is not a done deal until the ST Board votes to carry through with the plan. 586 riders, for their part, may be annoyed to have to transfer to go the last three miles on a 50-mile commute. They might resist.

        Similarly, if enough riders whine to enough politicians, the 593 and 599 might not go away when South Tacoma and Lakewood Stations open. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out who would want to keep them at that point, but stranger things have happened.

        Unrest is brewing in West Seattle over cutting West Seattle off from the off-peak 560 runs. Although that cut is a done deal, the 560 might make a comeback if the right county council member happens to be appointed to the ST Board, and decides to use his position to bring home the pork.

        Newton’s First Law of Public Budgeting gives the tiebreaker to keeping low-productivity service, regardless of what is suggested in future SIPs.

      4. The real issue with I-5 is that there are too many routes, too many satalite P&R lots, and not enough coordination. John doe dosent care who’s bus shows up, they just want a bus. You could merge the 177/577 and keeping the trips the same i doubt people would notice much diffrence (well unless they got a new D60LFR). the 594 stopping at FWTC makes perfect sense, however i think that you’d need to bump the headway to every twenty minutes to accomodate the extra demand.

      5. The 177 serves Federal Way P&R, just east of the Federal Way Commons mall. It does not serve Federal Way TC. I assume Metro bases the number of runs on ridership.

        The lack of two-way service (which could be offered at little marginal cost) may be related to 40/40/20 and how the north subarea does not want to be charged for the service, since making it two-way would cause the cost to be split. 40/40/20 is starving east and south subarea employers of bus service for their employees.

      6. I’m ready to run with lobbying ST to merge the 577 and 594 off-peak, if nobody sees a downside.

        Indeed, if the downtown 577 routing were adopted in the merger, it would wipe out the time penalty for Tacoma riders stopping at Federal Way. The SODO busway crawl is a relic of Newton’s First Law of Bus Routes.

        The headway would be related to whether the 578 continues to serve Federal Way. On weekdays, the 578 and 594 could be interlined to provide rough headway of 15 minutes for buses going from Federal Way to Seattle. With the speed of the 577 routing and this good of headway, the only reason for light-rail envy would be the lack of connectivity to all the rail stops in between.

        Moreover, there has been a plan for some time to build a direct-access bus entrance to South I-5 south of Spokane St for some time. If the south ST express buses switch to routings similar to the 577’s, then that project would be moot. I’d rather see that money diverted to an earlier opening date for 200th St Station.

  16. Normally i’m pretty supportive of transit, ST/PT etc and all that they do. But this really does bring up an issue of how ST budgets their work out. In Denver with their big push a few years ago, they spent more money to build everything up front. ST seems to budget it out over x number of years, which in todays society is difficult to sell to the public. They really need to change their tune on this and start atleast the design work and find a way to build it up front. Same really goes for a lot of their projects, they need to bond up front, and pay off over time to build them. Now FW does get pretty good ST bus service (albeit metro operated it at one point in time and they got stuck with it) however, if you are sold light rail no time should be wasted in getting the project off the ground. Although i am glad to see they are being sued to bring light rail to town, vs being sued to keep it out of town.

    1. If ST built the whole ST2 line at once, backed by less-then-A-rated bonds, and then (hypothetically speaking) a recession were to hit, driving the bonds into “junk” status, we’d never be able to sell this sort of large transit capital project again, since we’d be paying off the bonds forever.

      The Monorail Board made a similar mistake: Fast build. Short time to pay off the debt. Bankrupcy. Nothing built. (Though, to be fair, the state legislature, and Ed Murray in particular, sabotaged the monorail funding by exempting new cars from the tab.)

      1. Less than A rated means, depending on flavor of B, Non-investment grade
        speculative or Highly speculative. Those bring a massively higher interest rate than AAA. One of the things ST has done right is maintain an extremely good bond rating. A big part of this is paying half the capital expense up front and financing the other half. That said, if you do finance at a high interest rate and the economy implodes then interest rates drop, you refinance the capital at a lower rate and come out smelling like a rose. That said, buying B rated bonds is speculative, issuing them for a project that you expect to lose money is desperation.

        Of course most of the up front payments have depended on federal handouts so I’m not sure how this will play out as the other Washington starts to wean it’s self from the credit-go-round. East Link for example, as I read the financial report for eastside subarea, will require close to 50% federal support to remain on schedule using this paradigm. Central Link was only possible by leveraging eastside bonding capacity.

      2. The monorail people also sabotaged their own project on thier own as well, atleast so ive been told. Of course i think if they had opened up the choice of technology to LRT or ALRT they would have had no problems getting this thing up and running.

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